Every year, the topic of gender equity captures headlines during Women’s History Month. During this time, the media industry is often called out for a lack of on-screen representation. The numbers speak for themselves: women received 43% share of screen and 42% share of casting in U.S. television programming in 20211, with only 31% of measured shows having women represented at fair share. Worse, these metrics show little improvement from the year prior.
When important issues only receive attention one month out of the year, the needle doesn’t move very far. Achieving substantial advancements toward gender equity, and inclusion of all types of audiences on TV screens, will require year-round work—and marketers have an opportunity to lead the charge. By using their media influence to demand more representative programming, marketers can generate momentum to foster more impactful progress and make inclusive content the status quo, instead of a one-per-year consideration.
Marketers hold the power of influence
While brands can diversify media representation through the actors they feature in their ads, they can also pressure other media areas to be more inclusive. Media, from traditional programs to streaming services, is largely fueled by advertising revenue, which gives marketers a say in what content gets produced. Using their ad spend as leverage, marketers can demand the programs that host their brand’s advertisements to be more inclusive. If their host media disagrees, marketers can move their campaigns to other programs that are committed to furthering gender equity.
Fostering more representative content also has merits for the brands themselves. Making content more inclusive broadens the range of consumers who might identify with it, thereby increasing the audience size for a brand’s ads. That means more prospects to enter the sales pipeline. Expanding representation also creates a more active customer pool—increasing the odds that those initial engagements will drive a transaction—since consumers are more likely to engage brands that advertise in programming that represents their own identities.
Identify opportunities and allies for change
To achieve more representation in media in a way that moves audiences, marketers will need to pair their ambitions with a strategic approach. To start, brands need to understand how much progress the industries they are operating within have already made. This will help marketers shape their messaging; will their brand be one of the first to speak up on the issue, or will they be joining the conversation?
A recent Nielsen inclusive ad spend analysis2 found that marketers in the consumer packaged goods and health care industries have invested the most ad dollars in female-inclusive TV, whereas the dining industry has the most room for improvement. That said, there is considerable variation across brands within each industry. Nielsen research reveals that while the top 25% of brands by inclusive spending allocate more than 43% of their ad dollars in female-inclusive programming, the bottom 25% are investing significantly less. Still, the data is clear: all industries have ground to cover to achieve gender equity.
That said, there is considerable variation across brands within each industry. Nielsen research reveals that while the top 25% of brands by inclusive spending allocate more than 43% of their ad dollars in female-inclusive programming, the bottom 25% are investing significantly less. Still, the data is clear: all industries have ground to cover to achieve gender equity.
Marketers don’t have to pursue this mission alone. With the help of their advertising agencies, they can identify inclusive content to host their advertisements. Marketers will still need to ensure that the programs align with their brand’s other values, as this will determine whether audiences are receptive towards their ads.
Once marketers make their initial investments, they should monitor how their ads perform over time to understand if different media would be better suited for reaching the brand’s target demographic. This data can help marketers place their ad spend in mutually beneficial media spots. Armed with performance insights, marketers can also challenge competitors to match their progress—fueling momentum for more inclusive media overall.
Buzz around gender equity shouldn’t subside as April arrives. Marketers’ ad spend is valuable currency in the fight for media representation. By investing in programs that uphold inclusivity, marketers can build stronger connections with consumer audiences and foster meaningful change.
- Gracenote Inclusion Analytics
- Gracenote inclusive ad spend analysis was based on television advertising that appears in programs that have been coded in the Gracenote Inclusion Analytics database.