Mad Men Making Everyone Mad
Business as usual?
Business as usual?
Super Bowl LIV is around the corner, so let’s talk about advertising / media representation and diversity…
Ah, Game Day! The time when brands pour millions into TV ads and pray that “cancel culture” won’t get them. Although prominent liberal figures have “cancelled” cancel culture (“If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.” — Obama), advertisements and media representation do have significant cultural implications.
The Geena Davis Institute conducted research on advertising across sectors and discovered that “female characters are more likely to wear revealing clothing, and are more often in the kitchen, shopping, and cleaning. In contrast, men are more likely to be driving, working, outdoors, and attending a sporting event.”
According to research, between 2008–2018, 76% of Super Bowl ads featured a male main character and twice as many male celebrities starred in Super Bowl commercials
Nevertheless, women made up 49% of the total Super Bowl audience in 2017
Plus, women drive 70–80% of consumer purchasing
And diversity might pay: research shows that brands that scored highest in diversity in ads averaged a 44% stock increase over the past two years and were 83% more likely to see a boost in their Brand Index scores. (Correlation, not causation, but still worth noting)
Last year, several brands began targeting women with more messages of empowerment. More companies are also using Super Bowl ads to promote their corporate philanthropy efforts. This is progress, and we hope to see better, more diverse representation in 2020. Nevertheless, marketing experts (two Wharton professors) noted, “They [advertisers in 2019] kind of played it safe, low key…I think the entire nation right now has a higher threshold for edginess. What’s weird and out of bounds and crazy? It’s just really different right now.”
Is it possible for have an attention-grabbing AND inclusive Super Bowl ad? We shall see this Sunday! (And feel free to let us know what you’re thinking and we’ll share some ideas in a future newsletter — reach us in the comments of our Medium / Instagram @visiblehandsmedia, or by shooting us an email reply!)
What to think about as we get inundated with more capitalism this weekend:
Stay curious about brands, even if their ads pull your heartstrings. Google’s Job Search for Veterans ad was certainly heartwarming, but let’s not forget to hold the more sinister side of the company accountable (and the news about Google and patient data just last week!)
If you work for a company — especially in a role that touches marketing or advertising — think about your target demographic and your blind spots (check out this Bloomberg article on women as a starting point). And remember that representation beyond race and gender matters: Less than 1% of ads represented a character who would identify as LGBTQ+ or someone with a disability, and 90% of ads do not include people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds
Be a conscious consumer — your consumption habits do have environmental and social impacts. “Humans’ overconsumption of resources — from the food and clothes we buy to the methods of transportation we choose — is a leading contributor to global climate change,” says University of Arizona researcher Sabrina Helm. And buying less can make you happier!
Speaking of media and sexism…as the Harvey Weinstein trial continues, witnesses from the Weinstein Co. being called to testify. A former Board observer stated, “the company “had the weakest governance” and “was the most investor-unfriendly” of any corporation he served on the board of. Directors showing bad faith through “sustained or systematic failure of a director to exercise reasonable oversight” can be sued by investors; Fordham’s Journal of Corporate and Financial Law suggests that “While this standard is also difficult to prove, the severity and particularity of Weinstein’s case may satisfy it.”
Tyler, the Creator discusses his 2020 Grammy win in this interview. “…it sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.” Here’s what the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences wants to do about its diversity problems.
A new survey shows that the book publishing industry is currently 76% white, 74% cis-women, 81% straight, and 89% non-disabled. If they are the gatekeepers, do diverse voices stand a chance?
Lastly, on a much lighter note, the past weekend marked the start of Lunar New Year — a month-long celebration in several Asian cultures. Only fitting that we end this newsletter with a recap of some ground-breaking Asian-American authors! More recent Asian-American reads I loved: Lisa Ko’s The Leavers and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Thank you for sticking with us this first week — and special shoutout to everyone who took the time to share initial feedback on this pilot test. We appreciate each of you! For those of you just joining the party, we encourage you to check out this Medium post to better understand who we are and what we’re about…see you on Monday!