In this guest post, DDB Sydney MD Priya Patel (pictured) discusses why DDB is supporting the launch fo shEqual, an advertising equality initiative from Women’s Health Victoria…
shEqual, which launched last week, encourages advertisers and agencies to seriously consider the work we produce and how, collectively, we can move away from tired stereotypes and sexualised representations of women.
The journey starts with getting our own houses in order. shEqual’s research draws a line between advertising and its issues with gender portrayal and our industry’s historically male-dominated roots. This has certainly improved over time with a focus across the industry in recent years on injecting more female talent, especially into leadership roles and within traditionally male-dominated creative departments.
At DDB, we’re incredibly proud of our progress with a leadership team that is 51% female and one of the only female Chief Creative Officers in the country spearheading a 65% female creative department. We know having more women, and better diversity in every aspect, means we’re more likely to truly reflect the culture we live in today, which in turn significantly improves the quality of our creative product and ultimately, its efficacy.
Again, within the advertising itself, we have made progress – with explicit or overtly sexist work quickly called out and rightly lambasted. But there is still so much work to do and a very real challenge of avoiding ‘reductionism’, where women are often depicted as sexualised, less intellectual, or only in supporting roles. We know there are huge and exciting creative opportunities to showcase female characters who are more diverse, multi-dimensional, and frankly, more interesting; to better reflect the real women of Australia.
The argument for change is both commercial and moral.
With women affecting between 70- 80% of purchase decisions, they are an audience that is impossible to ignore. Those brands that have moved beyond lazy stereotypes have seen strong commercial gains. Dove is a great example of a brand that decided to portray authentic and relatable women through its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign in 2004. Since then, its sales have gone from $2.5 billion to $4 billion. Ultimately, commercial outcomes drive business and by not reflecting the ideals and attitudes of modern women, growth is being left on the table.
If the commercial imperative isn’t enough, shEqual also highlights the correlation between negative portrayals of women in advertising and real-world violence against women by cementing negative and reductive cultural norms. International and national evidence shows that addressing gender inequality is a key step in preventing violence against women – so will your next ad campaign contribute to a culture that enables violence or one that prevents it?
Let’s create a world where everyone is viewed and treated equally, where the stories we tell reflect the reality we live in, and where we continue to drive change in this area by supporting shEqual but also by making the decision each day to consider female equality – in the next script, in the next pitch and in the next casting.
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