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Published by: Kantar, 2019

Country / Region: Regional/global

AdReaction: Getting Gender Right

28 March 2019

The ‘AdReaction: Getting Gender Right’ report from Kantar delivers new insights into the role of gender in brand strategy, creative response and media targeting. These learnings aim to help marketers find a fresh equilibrium that will enable their brands to flourish in this evolving environment. The report includes analysis of consumer responses to tens of thousands of brands, campaigns and ads, as well as a global survey of marketers.

The research acknowledges gender as a sensitive topic – one that society is currently renegotiating across social, cultural, political and commercial spheres. Understanding and acceptance of gender is evolving. What once was considered in more binary terms is now increasingly being discussed as a spectrum.

Yet marketers are struggling to prevent themselves from reinforcing gendered stereotypes in their messaging. At the same time, within the marketing industry, some high profile initiatives such as Unstereotype Alliance and the Gender Equality Measure are seeking to eradicate harmful gender-based stereotypes. Marketers need to be more aware than ever that things need to change.


  • Marketers think they’re getting gender right. The vast majority are confident that their organisations are creating advertising that avoids gender stereotypes and contains balanced content. But more female marketers think the industry is missing a beat with on average 13% fewer women agreeing.
  • Meanwhile, consumers on the other side of the scale think that marketers are getting it wrong, with 76% of female consumers and 71% of male consumers believing the way they are portrayed in advertising is completely out of touch.
  • Research respondent samples show that females may be over-targeted in categories like laundry and household products and under-targeted in other areas, like automotive.
  • Sometimes progressive targeting can be as simple as challenging outdated and over-simplistic assumptions. While it is true that more women than men are primary grocery shoppers, it is strange that almost 100% of the people we talk to about baby products, laundry products and household cleaners are women.
  • Despite progress, gender portrayals in advertising remain stereotyped, with female depictions particularly skewed and delivering less impact. This simple fact has enormous consequences. When we look at the bigger picture, we understand that gender stereotyping in advertising is leading to male-skewed brands which are less likely to grow.
  • Even marketers who acknowledge gender bias may be blinded by the status quo, because they are delivering far fewer aspirational portrayals than they believe. Even advertising that is relatively successful could be more impactful if it were to eliminate hackneyed images and strive for greater balance.


  • What’s to ‘get’’?
  • Getting Gender Wrong
  • Getting Gender Targeting Right
    • Most ads are targeted at both genders
    • Marketers seem to be targeting according to stereotypes in some categories
    • In many categories, most people of both genders are decision makers
    • Some categories are starting to adopt more balanced gender targeting
    • Gender-balanced brands drive far greater brand value. However, only one in three brands achieve this balance.
  • Getting Gender Portrayals Right
    • The industry thinks their ads progressively represent women and men
    • The industry is struggling to optimize performance of ads featuring only women, or featuring both genders equally
    • Authoritative portrayals work well, but in different ways across genders
    • Brands championing gender equality should think ‘strong but not aggressive’
  • Getting Gender Response Right
    • There is very little overall difference between genders in response
    • It is the male viewers who are surprised by female players in sports ads.
    • Brands need to be aware of how they’re perceived on the gender spectrum
  • Getting Gender Placement Right
    • Gender is an important strategic media planning, targeting and optimisation variable
    • For targeting purposes, TV channels and shows can have significant gender skews
    • Gender can be used as a targeting and optimisation variable to varying extents
    • Paid media campaigns (mainly TV, digital & print) have less impact amongst women
    • Even more concerningly, the gender gap in digital effectiveness seems to be widening
    • Women think that online targeting is less reliable than men do
    • More impact from word-of-mouth and point-of-sale among women
  • Getting Gender Programmes Right
  • Recommendations
  • Methodology
    • Creative response
    • Brand equity
    • Media effectiveness
    • Consumer advertising attitudes
    • AdReaction: the art of integration
    • AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z
    • Consumer decision making
    • Marketer attitudes

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