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Advertisers Continue to Miss the Mark With Women

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While I think the Super Bowl is an excellent venue to reach both men and women, spending $2.6 million to reach only half the audience seems ridiculous to me. But that is what a lot of companies did when they created their ads for Super Bowl XLI.

I find that many men watch the big game and see the commercials, while women often watch the commercials and see the game.

Let's review. Women make 80 percent of all purchases. They buy more electronic equipment, vehicles, and home-improvement products than men do. Women hold nearly 50 percent of all jobs, and in dual income families more than 30 percent out-earn their husbands. They control considerable sums of money and spend it for a variety of products, services, investments, and household expenditures.

Nevertheless, many advertisers not only create ads that will appeal only to men but also insist on showcasing ones that will actually turn women off.

While many of my articles cite statistical data, experts, and research studies, this one is based solely on my reaction, as a woman, to the commercials I saw during the Super Bowl. My disclaimer for this article is that I am not an ad critic by profession and don't profess to be. Still, knowing what women want and like is my business. I do understand what appeals to women, what will lose the sale with women, and what is OK but not great.


I'll start with my least favorite ad series of the day. Without a doubt, it was CareerBuilder.com's. The company had one bad ad after another, appealing to a narrow segment of young men who prefer slapstick humor to any substance. The ads were noisy, stupid, and graphically displeasing to me... and I'm sure to many women viewers. When I went to the Web site, it had many job listings in which women would be interested—from nurses and HR positions to less traditional ones in automotive or sales. So why not try to reach more people? After all, it spent up to $2.6 million per ad, and ran several, all of them very similar.

Chevy ran the gamut of ads, but managed to completely alienate me with its Car Wash ad. I realize this was created by a college student, but it was the one Chevrolet selected. I'm sure men related to it, but what about the other 51 percent of the population? In it, the men partially disrobe, flock around a car full of young women, and proceeded to wash it. It ends with "Guys can't keep their hands off it."

I disliked this ad almost as much as a previous Chevy pick-up truck ad insert I saw in Texas Monthly magazine; its readership is more than 50 percent women. The print ad was created by Chevy's agency and was titled Men, Women and the Truck: A Relationship Handbook. Sounds good so far. Then you turn to the first page of stereotyping titles, like "Girls Play with Dolls. Boys Play with Trucks." On the next two pages it proclaims in bold print, "Men Are Born with the Horsepower Gene (Just as Some Women Are Born with the Shoe Gene)."

Chevy wasn't alone; both Ford and Toyota had very male-oriented commercials featuring their heavy-duty pickups displaying performance and brute strength. They need to look at their buyers. Women buy pick-ups too, even if not in the same numbers as men. They also watch Super Bowl ads.

I was also very disappointed in the Lexus commercial, because it didn't showcase people, features, or even a clever concept. Instead, it chose to focus on speed and gravity. Why?

Budweiser's ads were mostly geared to men in its primary demographic; some of the ads were clever, while others not so much. The Budweiser ad in which the male driver offers the male hitchhiker a ride just because he has Bud Lite, even though he is also carrying an ax, sends a bad message. The driver cares more for the beer than the safety of his spouse/girlfriend who keeps saying, "But he has an ax."

Yes, I understand the humor, and know that many ad critics loved this ad, but does Anheuser-Busch have to show dangerous situations with no regard for the female passenger's wishes in order to sell beer? Perhaps I'm over-thinking this ad. Or, is it that I'm a woman? And beer companies wonder why women aren't flocking to their product...

On a positive note, the Bud Dalmatian commercial was touching and enjoyed by both men and women. It was one of the best of the series this year by A-B. The slapping commercial was awful; the fast-talking preacher at the wedding, cute.

Jack-In-The Box merged its icon, with a clever commercial that deviated from the standard, but stayed within its concept. The child reading an essay about his father and misusing the word vegetarian for veterinarian added a great touch. Prudential also included its icon of the rock, but in many different, interesting ways. While neither of these are what I would consider commercials aimed at either men or women, I think both genders probably liked them. T-Mobile with its Connectile Dysfunction was very witty, and the T-Mobile conversation between the current "star" and the legend is one that will be multigenerational in appeal.

Since more women are buying computers and surfing the Internet than men, I was shocked at HP's commercial that portrayed a man on a motorcycle or similar vehicle with flames, etc. He even mentioned that "his sons could download millions of songs" as he was talking about the various features. Nowhere was there any indication that this was a product for anyone but the most macho of men. Why?

Revlon made a stab at reaching out to women with an ad featuring singer Sheryl Crow. Unfortunately, the ad was boring and I would guess didn't resonate well with either men or women.

The truth is that Super Bowl XLI advertising is behind us and the water cooler talk will fade quickly. But what about the rest of the year, and Super Bowl XLII?

Youth is a big market for several products, but it isn't the entire market. Men are an important consumer, but so are women. And boomer women have the most purchasing power, and will have it for years to come. So if advertisers are spending millions of dollars to produce and air a spot that a diverse audience will be watching, shouldn't that advertising attempt to reach that more diverse audience?

Good advertising aimed at women doesn't mean alienating men, so why should ads deliberately cut out a major portion of the buyers? It just doesn't make good business sense.


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Gerry Myers is CEO, president, and cofounder of Advisory Link (www.advisorylink-dfw.com). She is co-author of Leading the Way to Success and specializes in marketing and selling more effectively to women.

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