Katie Couric & Top Leaders On The State of Women In Media And Ads

Katie Couric on a panel at the Girls' Lounge at Cannes.

Katie Couric talking about the state of women in media at the Girls’ Lounge at Cannes.

Americans may see as many as 4,000 advertising messages a day. Those messages matter, because they impact our perceptions of gender.
“I’ve always deeply resented the way women are often objectified and hyper sexualized in advertising, and portrayed with rigid, one dimensionality on screens big and small,” said award-winning journalist Katie Couric in the Girls’ Lounge at Cannes, where she was speaking about the state of women in media. “…I interviewed Geena Davis, who created The Institute on Gender in Media, and she told me the more hours of TV a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life. The more hours a boy watches, the more sexist his views become…the images we see shape how we see ourselves and envision our futures.”
On the flip side, advertising can be used as a force for good. Case in point: Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign increased the number of people from 19% to 76% who viewed the phrase “like a girl” as being positive.
A sea change is happening, both in the advertising industry and in our culture at large. Even before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements first began, there was #SeeHer, a movement led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), to increase the percentage of accurate portrayals of women and girls in U.S. advertising and media by 20% by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote. Here top CMOs and other leaders supporting #SeeHer share how the movement is creating measureable results and real change.
On The State Of Women In Media
“Despite the fact that women earn two-thirds of journalism degrees, the majority of our reporters, anchors and analysts, and commentators are still male. The number of women and minorities in journalism are still woefully underrepresented in the executive and managerial ranks. They need to be there as leaders, and, as George W. Bush would say, the deciders where they really have impact…one of the major reasons I took a job anchoring the CBS Evening News was that I truly understood the power that images have of a woman sitting by herself without a man at her side delivering the news and covering breaking stories with confidence and competence…I thought a woman at the helm would inspire little girls and transform little boys, maybe even some big girls and big boys.”
~Katie Couric, Award-Winning Journalist, Author and #SeeHer Board Advisor
On Seeing Progress
“The very center of the #SeeHER initiative has been the creation of the gender equality metric (GEM). We’ve now tested 40,000 ads and about 500 television shows. I can tell you that two years ago, half of all ads were portraying women and girls in a negative light and half were positive. Two years later—and mostly happening in the last six months—we’ve seen that number move to 30%, meaning 70% were positive and 30 % were negative. What I would love to see one year from now is that we get that 30% down to zero.”
~ Stephen Quinn, Chair, #SeeHer
On Being Change Agents
“We all talk about things that we want to do—we all signed pledges and make those kinds of commitments—but it truly is about the actions that we are taking. A company alone has power; collectively, we have impact.”
~ Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient
On The Power of Advertising to Be A Force For Good
“We reach five billion people on the planet every day with our ads….They embed memories that, in turn, creates bias. That makes a difference. We need to use our voice in advertising as a force for good. And that means a force for gender equality.”
~Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G
On The Business Case For Equality
“[At AT&T] we’re acutely aware of our role in shaping and making culture. We have one hundred million customers and produce 5,000 pieces of advertising a year…The GEM score very quickly proved the business case: The highest-scoring GEM ads for us drive a 17%  lift in brand recall, a 12% lift in brand consideration and an 8%  lift in brand reputation. Business case made.”
~ Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer, AT&T
Advertising leaders supporting the #SeeHer movement.

Advertising and media leaders supporting the #SeeHer movement.

On Using Ads To Impact Ideals Of Beauty
“What the [Johnson & Johnson] team did in Asia was actually take the idea of gender objectification all the way to the products that we’re launching…Clean & Clear whitening products are a big area in beauty in Asia, where people want to lighten their skin to, in theory, look more beautiful, but they’re beautiful however they look…We launched a naturally bright product and “I Am Brighter Campaign” behind it, which goes through to the advertising, but also takes a step forward in terms of how we objectify women. It’s recognizing that it’s not whitening; it’s brightening, and all women are bright so let’s hold them up high.”
~Alison Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer, Johnson & Johnson
On Giving Everyone A Voice
“You have to have women as part of that equation. We’ve already had that…and then internally we have organizations like Women of Color that serve as think tanks so that they not only support each other and are supported by the company, but are brought in for conversations around new products and also creative. This is super important because if we’re not in the room and we’re not part of the conversation, then how can we have a different conversation with our consumers?”
~Nadine McHugh, SVP Omni Media and Creative Solutions, L’Oreal
On Diverse Roles Being As Important As Reaching Numbers Goals
“We have to extend this conversation to diversity…what’s more important than just the numbers is actually representing people in roles that reflect their aspirations and not stereotypes and not roles that we pigeonhole people into.”
~Susan Canavari, Chief Brand Officer, JPMorgan Chase
On Balancing The Gender Ratio Across The Creation Process
“The only way that we’re going to be able to sustain this is…to increase representation of women at the client side, at the agency side, and at the production houses side. Because from the get-go, you’re going to have that [female] point of view in the development of the brief, in the development of the idea, and then in the development of the execution. By the time it is done, the GEM scores are by definition going to increase.”
~Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, HP
 On Making Your Company Reflect Your Consumers
“Why would you not [strive for parity] when you know that 80 percent of your consumers are women? That’s reflected now in our media plan, that’s reflected now in the entire creative development…across the entire spectrum, that’s what we have been doing… [At Mastercard] we set a goal that 80 percent of my organization has to be women no matter what, and we are already at 75 percent.”
~Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Mastercard
On Busting Stereotypes Of Men In Ads
“We also have to think about how the men are portrayed in ads. The gender portrayal on stereotypes goes both ways…yes, we have to fix how we portray women, but then we also have to fix how men are portrayed and how they treat or engage with women….Let’s unpack the stereotypes of both males and females so that advertising brings up the next generation better than we were all bought up.”
~Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Unilever
Read more articles about making an impact:
A Surprising Reason For Gender Inequality In Ads—And How To Fix It
8 Lessons from TheSkimm Founders On Building Your Dream Business—And Creating Change
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