ANA Aims to Standardize Gender Equality in Ads

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In a bid to strengthen its #SeeHer gender-equality push, the Association of National Advertisers is making the ad-scoring system behind it available for any copy-testing service, meaning it could become a standard module in the software engines by which analytically inclined marketers evaluate ads.

At the same time, the ANA's Alliance for Family Entertainment has completed testing the 200 most-watched TV shows using its Gender Equality Measure, with an eye toward providing those ratings to advertisers that want to align their gender-conscious ads with like-minded TV buys. "The reason we're testing both advertising and media is that context matters," said Shelley Zalis, a co-developer of #SeeHer, founder and CEO of the Girls' Lounge and former CEO of research firm OTX.

The Gender Equality Measure scores ads or entertainment on how prominently they depict women, amid a larger industry conversation about gender equality in both ads and the business itself.

It might seem unusual for competing copy-testing services to adopt a common methodology like the protocol behind GEM scores, but Ms. Zalis said copy testers tend to measure the same basic things, such as effects on purchase intent or likability, even if they get their scores in different ways or call them different things.

"One thing that's very important for us is to measure what matters," Ms. Zalis said. "One of the biggest problems we've had in our industry is that we don't have accountability to measure progress."

GEM already has been run on more than 17,000 ads, creating a "robust database," said Stephen Quinn, the former Walmart chief marketing officer who chairs the Alliance for Family Entertainment.

While the ANA isn't generally releasing the results publicly, both camps are privately asking for diagnostics to help improve their scores, said Mr. Quinn, who will be meeting with media companies on the subject this week. Since those GEM scores could ultimately find their way into standards or software that govern media buys, the stakes for media are potentially huge.

The Alliance for Family Entertainment also has developed GEM "bootcamps" to help advertisers understand and improve their gender-equality scores. Georgia-Pacific, marketer of such brands as Brawny and Quilted Northern, has fared well with GEM but was still the first company to participate in a bootcamp.

The top 10 ads by GEM score from the week of March 4 show that there's no set formula. They include an ad from Procter & Gamble's Swiffer showing a little boy cutting the hair of his stuffed animals and sister, and mom cleaning up. Another two are conventional beauty ads from L'Oréal USA for L'Oréal Paris and Garnier. Amazon's Echo Dot fared well with two ads on the list featuring household vignettes with men and women. Coca-Cola made it with an ad featuring mostly male race car drivers plus Danica Patrick, while Geico appeared with arguably one of its least funny ads in years—albeit one with a man and woman getting equal face time.

See the top 10 ads here:

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