Stop treating women as accessories and recognise their purchasing power

Women play minor roles in ad campaigns in a variety of sectors from automotive to utilities, missing their decisive influence in the purchase process.

I judge. Professionally. That is to say I have now got to the stage in my career when I  am frequently invited to judge awards. And I often accept.

I willingly give up paid work to spend days viewing hundreds of entries to see what the brightest and best are doing across our industry.

It is fascinating. There is some fantastic work out there. Clever, effective campaigns devised by people who have effectively used insight to engage, influence and sell.

Alas, there is also an awful lot of dross. It is not a surprise, as we see it in marketing all the time. What is a surprise is that someone believes it might be worthy of an award.

But what I find more extraordinary, indeed depressing, are the campaigns that aren’t on the face of it terrible, but which are not founded on evidence or insight either.

More than anything else, I am staggered by the number of campaigns that don’t capitalise on the wealth of data we have on women. I should be used to it by now but I continue to be disappointed.

I want to see more car campaigns with women in the driving seat – both literally and figuratively.

It is extraordinary to me that so many advertisers and their agencies still haven’t grasped the importance of women as a target audience.

According to an often cited statistic (which I admit is of uncertain provenance), women play a dominant role in 80% of consumer purchases. They not only have huge purchasing power themselves, they also have influence over the purchasing decisions of those around them, such as partners, family and even extended family.

READ MORE: The representation of women in advertising hasn’t improved in a decade

When it comes to buying cars, utilities, financial services – well, pretty much everything – it is women who are making decisions about what the household will purchase. But you would never know this if you look at most of the campaigns for these types of products.

Based on this evidence, women aren’t interested in buying insurance or new wheels, but they are apparently obsessed with cleaning (their homes, children, clothes, themselves), cooking (though rarely actually eating), and looking and smelling good.

READ MORE: Unilever teams up with UN Women, Mars and Alibaba to wipe out gender stereotypes

A supporting role is not good enough

Yes, women feature in the creative about cars or money occasionally, but we tend to get the supporting roles or are caricatures. The woman behind the counter, the girl on the phone, the wife complaining to her husband. Very few campaigns position women as the decision-makers in a transaction. Even fewer engage women on their own terms, or treat them with the respect they deserve as consumers.

It isn’t enough to cast women in campaigns if they are just accessories. I want to see more car campaigns with women in the driving seat – both literally and figuratively. By failing to do this effectively, brands are missing out.

Just think how much more effective campaigns would be if they truly engaged the people with control of all the money. I am pretty sure sales would increase, as would the dynamic marketing duo of familiarity and favourability.

You would also be much more likely to win an award if I happen to be in the judging room.

Tanya Joseph is a consultant, chair of The Pool, and was the architect behind the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign for Sport England.