Super Bowl

Super Bowl Ads Included More Women, Study Says -- and Featured Them Less

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A Tide commercial from the 2018 Super Bowl.
A Tide commercial from the 2018 Super Bowl. Credit: Tide

Women were slightly easier to spot in Super Bowl ads this year but still fared notably worse than men and even lost ground by one measure.

The proportion of Super Bowl ads including women at all grew to 73 percent from 62 percent, the research firm ABX says. Men, by comparison, appeared in 88 percent of the spots, up from 86 percent.

Super Bowl ads where women played a modest role grew to 34 percent of the total from 21 percent a year ago, ABX calculates. But the percentage of ads where women played a "significant" role fell to 34 percent from 43 percent. Men were prominent in 72 percent of the ads.

Super Bowl ads portray women nearly as well as ads do overall, according to ABX, and nearly caught up to the norm this time. But it's all a far cry from answering #MeToo-inspired calls for gender equity in advertising.

The Association of National Advertisers uses ABX research to inform its Gender Equality Measure, part of the trade group's #SeeHer campaign to improve the portrayal of women in marketing. ANA members can get regular "GEM" scores on their ads. Some, such as AT&T, use them as part of the ad-approval process.

To avoid embarrassing its members and to foster participation in #SeeHer, the ANA has avoided publicly releasing most gender-equality ad ratings, except at times on the positive side.

ABX didn't call out lowlights of the Super Bowl ads in its gender study either. But it did note the most positive portrayals of women as rated by research respondents, including Toyota's "Good Odds," about Canadian Paralympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft; Coke's "The Wonder of Us"; Hyundai's "Hope Detector" and an NBC Olympics ad featuring Lindsey Vaughn.

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