068 – The female advertising revolution with Bec Brideson

Why companies find marketing to women so hard

A global economic revolution is coming.  But it’s not about technology, or innovation or the latest app.  It’s all about women.  Woman make around 70% of domestic purchasing decisions.  But advertising companies have consistently ignored this fact.  That’s because the ad industry is one of the last bastions of male domination in the corporate world.  That means there is a huge opportunity for innovative ad agencies to take advantage of.  Bec Brideson is an advertising guru and a pioneer in female targeted advertising.  She has made it her mission to help companies to get a slice of this $28 trillion consumer pie.

For decades women were in the home and men were in the business place.  That has dramatically changed but the purchasing model created during that that time still prevails.  Women have moved into the workplace but they still largely control discretionary spending in the home.  Their market impact has been compounded by the fact that many women are now independently wealthy.  Advertising has, of course, been targeting women for years.  But it’s the way they are pitching to women that is starting to change.

Everyone knows the stereotypical image of the Madison Avenue advertising agency typified by the TV show Mad Men.  It was an industry totally dominated by whiskey swilling, cigarette smoking men.  The whiskey and the cigarettes are gone but the men are not.  The industry is still largely controlled by men and when they craft supposedly gender-neutral pitches they naturally default to a male perspective.

Lessons Learned

Understand your data

This was the industry discovered when Bec first became a creative writer in the industry.  She was only one of 3% of women at the time to achieve the title of creative director.  That lack of inclusion is reflected in how women feel about ads.  91% of women feel that advertisers don’t understand them.  Only 3% of women are ever depicted as managers or CEO’s in ads.  And only 2% of women in ads are portrayed as intelligent.  When you look inside the culture of the agencies the picture is equally bleak.  Huge proportions of female ad company employees have reporter sexual harassment in the workplace.  That toxic workplace was reflected in the ads these companies were creating.

Understand gender differences

There are marked differences in the ways that products are marketed to men and women.  The most obvious example of an ad that works well on men is the average beer ad.  Beer companies sponsor or buy ad time during a sporting match.  The ads themselves depict men enjoying each other’s company while drinking their favourite ale.  Those ads are big love letters by men for men to men.  And they work.

But companies make the mistake in thinking that for other products they are speaking to a homogeneous audience.  They look at the data that suggests men and women equally make the purchasing decision for things like utilities and telephone plans.  That’s a mistake.  You have to target either men or women to be effective.  A male brain lights up in the right and left hemispheres in a vertical manner.  Women’s brains, however, tend to show a lot of cross-talk between the hemispheres.  The sexes react differently to the same information.

Understand the size of the prize

The size of the prize companies are missing out on is huge.  Marketers and business owners that need transformation have to look at their internal culture.  What lens does your business favour?  Is your business run by men while selling to women?  If so, you likely have a disconnection in your marketing plan.

Change your organization

Many organizations will say that they have women in the marketing department or in the HR department.  Often women that have come up that ladder have had to use the same male-centric lens to succeed.  Bec likes to say that she is a recovering misogynist because she had to think like a man to succeed.  When she started her own agency she liberated herself from that perspective.  She no longer created ads that treated women as stupid.  She started to create ads that appeal to women emotionally as much as intellectually.






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