With 80% of all purchase decisions made by women, you’d think brands would put more energy towards better depicting women in their advertising.
Most TVCs are only 30 seconds long, so you can understand why clichès and stereotypes fill our screens: it’s story-telling shorthand. However, this is problematic when stereotypes become norms. Women in ads are often: one-dimensional, objectified, stereotyped, or inserted into the story solely to support the male character’s journey.
These are the facts, as per SeeJane.org:
• Women are 4 times more likely than men to not have a speaking role
• Women are 3 times more likely than men to be presented as a product user rather than an authority
• Women are 3.5 times more likely than men to be presented in a domestic environment (vs. at work)
• Women were 2 times more likely than men to be associated with domestic products like body care and home goods.
Brands can better connect with women and their wallets when they pass the Campaign Bechdel test. This test is an amalgamation of Bechdel and Mako Mori tests, and is tailored to the short-form storytelling mandatories of advertising by including recommendations from the research done by seejane.org. Passing the Campaign Bechdel test isn’t a guarantee of rounded female characterisation, but is indicative of at least a basic level of female agency and independence outside her value as determined by men.
Why is this important? Objectification of women and entrenched stereotypes about gender roles and norms lead to gender inequality. If you think women and men should have equal rights and opportunities, then gender equal representation in the media is one (very effective and very salient) way brands, agencies, and production companies can mirror the kind of gender equal society they want to see in the world.
One final word: Campaign Bechdel isn’t intended to rate the creativity or enjoyability of an ad. As with Baby Driver or the tv show Friends, it is possible for content to be both entertaining and problematic all at once.