Research finds lower investment in ads featuring women

On International Women’s Day, research suggests appropriate representation of women in ad creative may not be enough.

Figures from omnichannel data-driven creative platform CreativeX suggest the advertising industry has little to celebrate about the representation of women in ad creative this International Women’s Day. In particular, while brands were featuring more female characters in ads, there was an under-investment in deploying those ads.

For example, 44% of women in the ads analyzed were shown in professional settings, but those ads saw almost 50% less ad spend than where characters in professional environments were male. The research was based on automated analysis of around 3,400 ads featuring over 6,400 characters (deployed 2021 and 2022 in the U.S.). The sample focused on verticals that tend to feature female characters in ads, like CPG and beauty.

Why we care. It’s clearly not enough to ask whether women are being featured in ads, whether they have a voice and whether they are represented appropriately. Tick all those boxes and the question still arises whether those ads are getting the investment, and therefore the deployment, that ads featuring men are getting.

The data reflects trends found in previous research by the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media. Male characters were seen more (56%) and heard 1.5X more (60%). CreativeX has been partnering with the Geena Davis Institute to provide media analytics at scale.

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About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.