Gender equality in ad portrayals generates big purchase increases among females and has a far bigger impact than other measures of creative effectiveness on overall sales, according to a study of more than three years of ads and credit and debit-card transactions for a major U.S. retailer.
The study draws on Gender Equality Index scores, which come from consumer surveys by research firm ABX. Bottom-Line Analytics and Ignite Insights Consulting then matched the ad gender equality scores to contemporaneous credit/debit transaction data from Affinity Solutions, which reports transactions by retailer, date, time, gender, age and other demographics.
The retailer, which couldn’t be named because of a client confidentiality agreement, saw a strong 0.733 correlation (where 0 means no link and 1.0 shows a 100% relationship) between sales growth among women and high GEI scores, which are influenced by whether and how women are portrayed in ads.
Ads’ gender equality scores had almost eight times as much sales impact as did overall creative effectiveness scores from ABX during the final 52 weeks of the study, which ended last October. That’s in part because women accounted for 62% of the retailer’s sales.
Overall, in the year ended last October, the retailer’s card-measured sales to females grew 15%. “Baseline” sales that would have occurred regardless of advertising accounted for 6 percentage points of that growth, according to Bottom-Line Analytics, a marketing mix analytics firm. Long-term effect of prior media spending accounted for 4 points of growth, short-term effect of recent media spending for 0.9 points, gender equality scores (GEI) for 3.1 points, and overall creative effectiveness scores for 0.4 points.
It was common sense that gender equality scores would boost sales with women, but the size of the impact was a surprise, says Seda Pazarbasi, president of Ignite Insights Consulting and a former global marketing and strategy insights director for Coca-Cola Co.
“Now we can see the size of the impact relative to what we already thought was important,” she says. “That was amazing to me.”