Marketing to Women. Are Advertisers Still Clueless?

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When Ideopia launched in the early 90s, working women, like me, were still an oddity. We were chastised, guilt-ridden and sometimes viewed with pity because we “had” to work.

Advertisers didn’t help this perception, either. They depicted the working woman in a rumpled business suit running between pre school and the office with a briefcase in one hand, a child on her hip and towing another one by the hand.

Marketers, eager to show empathy, shot these stereotypical photos, or bought them from stock photography houses, to sell us their detergents or Calgon (Take me away!).  Reality? Hardly. Yes, we were stressed and sometimes we needed that Calgon, but we usually handled our responsibilities at home and work competently and with grace. Like other working women, those pandering ads offended me.

1980 Calgon Bath Soap Commercial “Calgon, Take Me Away!”

Although fewer than 6% of CEOs are women; and aggressive little boys are still called “leaders” while little girls are called “bossy”, advertisers are starting to get the message.

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Driven by user generated content on social media and campaigns like Dove’s “Real Beauty Campaign,” which celebrated its 10th birthday this month, Pantene’s “Labels Against Women” and “Not Sorry” campaigns are seeking a broader representation of women.

Stock Photography Gets Real

At the 2014 Cannes, the CEO of Getty images teamed up with the COO of Facebook to present a series of 2500 images called the Lean In collection. These photos show women in a diverse light. Rather than the stereotypical images, the Lean In Collection offers photos of women working in fields like robotics. They are aging gracefully and are eating real foods instead of fussy little salads.

Sales of the Lean In photos, all that were previously available from Getty, have jumped by 54% in recent months.

It’s a start. But we have a long way to go! Silicon Valley, for the most part, doesn’t get it. They still think women have nothing other than shoes and weddings on our minds. Honestly, does Microsoft even want women to buy its computers? (Since this blog post has been published, Microsoft has removed this advertisement.)

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