One Day Soon, The White House. For the Meantime, Advertising

My eight year old son asked me this morning: ‘Mom, when will a girl be president?’

“Soon I hope; I mean we really should have had a female president by now.” To be honest, his question made me realise how crazy it is that we have not yet had a female president nearly 100 years after women earned the right to vote (and no matter what the Hilary detractors think of her, I cannot imagine that most of the population is not wishing that we had 'that woman' as President right now instead of the narcissistic mad man who is in there now, wreaking havoc and creating chaos at every turn).

I was at the 3 Percent Super Bowl Tweet Up in San Francisco, sponsored by Digitas, and our task was to evaluate the Super Bowl ads to see if they passed the 3% conference test: 

1) Was there a woman?

2) Did she have any significant role (did she have a line, or more)?

3) Did the ad break stereotypes? 

As thrilled as I was to see spots like Coca-Cola’s 'The Wonder of Us' with its magnificent diversity (including the use of gender neutral pronouns), for the most part there were an awful lot of ads that missed the mark. There were a number of commercials where there was not ONE woman included. And there were a ton of ads where there was a token woman with no relevant role to play.

 

No wonder our population can’t see its way to electing a female president. We barely rate an appearance in advertising. 

There’s a phrase that is often tossed around at the 3% conference: You cannot be what you cannot see. Until advertising gets on board and starts reflecting the fact that our population is made up of 50% women and women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of buying power and influence, then the general public perception will remain one where the average consumer and voter could not imagine a female president. 

Entertainment and advertising are vital to changing perceptions about how the population sees itself. And advertising needs to lead the way in reflecting the REAL population and making it normal to see women in non-stereotypical roles. We should be shown kicking ass, as women do every day. I know plenty of kick-ass women, don’t you? Women running companies and departments, women starting non-profits, women surgeons; women who are the primary breadwinners in their family, women whose intelligence and drive is staggering….and yet, by and large we do not see that in advertising. 

Why was virtually ever spokesperson in a Super Bowl ad a man? Why was Wix.com, a company selling website building tools to small businesses, being pitched by two white guys when female owners of small businesses are growing faster than men? It was remarkable being at the tweet up, where we really had to look at the advertising and evaluate this aspect of it - to take in how very rare it was to see a strong woman in a non-stereotypical lead role.

Even though my son sees me running my own company and supporting my family, until he sees that on TV - in entertainment and advertising content- I will be an aberration, not a commonplace reality. Kids love ads. They take the messaging in with enthusiasm. The stories we tell make a mark, or this industry wouldn’t exist. And if much of advertising sells aspirational lifestyle, the best versions of ourselves, do we not aspire to a diverse, united, multifaceted, multi-dimensional life? It certainly makes for more interesting stories. 

Until adland catches up with reality, perceptions will not change. And until perceptions change, we will not see a woman as President. And after nearly 100 years of having the vote, isn’t it time? 

See more of the story about Lauren Schwartz, Owner/EP at kaboom, on the Super Bowl ads and her participation in the 3 Percent Tweet Up