Canadian marketers making headway on gender portrayal, but work remains: Kantar

Marketers are still behind the times when it comes to gender portrayal in their advertising, according to Canadian data from Kantar’s new AdReaction study, Getting Gender Right.

Scott Megginson, president of Kantar Canada’s insights division, says that the Canadian operations of multinational brands are also being undermined by relying on creative developed in the U.S.—which, generally speaking, isn’t as progressive when it comes to how women are portrayed in advertising.

There is some headway being made, however, with Megginson pointing to recent work from Canadian financial institutions featuring “strong portrayals” of women as decision-makers, as well as recent CPG advertising offering “positive and aspirational female roles.”

Kantar found that Canadian advertising on the whole tends to be gender-balanced, with 83% of Canadian advertisers targeting men and women together. But while a higher proportion of Canadian ads are more likely to feature exclusively women than men (35% versus 18%), in ads where both genders are featured, men are more likely to be depicted in a prominent role (13% male versus 6% female).

According to Kantar, the data suggests there is room to both increase female prominence in advertising and improve the portrayal of women in ads.

Canadians share household duties, but many ads fail to reflect this 

In fact, data from Kantar Consulting’s latest Canada MONITOR study suggests that advertisers who cling to stereotypes run the risk of being ignored by consumers.

According to Kantar, partners in Canadian households are more likely to feel that common household tasks—housework, finances and childcare—are shared equally, although that’s not always how they are portrayed in advertising.

“How does it come across in these times when the highlight of a woman’s day is removing a soap streak in the bathroom?” said Megginson. “Why isn’t a male partner taking care of the sick child? Portrayals like these are still prevalent in many ads.”

Analysis of Kantar’s databases shows that in Canada, ads featuring only women are almost as impactful as ads featuring only men (Index: 117 versus 123). Canada also sees more gender parity than in the U.S., where female portrayals are much less impactful than male portrayals (Index: 94 vs. 113).

“In Canada, ads featuring men do not really perform better than those featuring women. However, there is room for improvement in how women are portrayed in ads,” said Megginson. “If advertisers can crack the code on making ads more relevant to women, and make more ads that feature them, there could be an improvement in overall effectiveness from what we are seeing today.”

Laughter is the great equalizer

One way for marketers to improve their advertising with women is through humour, said Megginson.

Kantar found that humour plays a key role in ad receptivity for both genders, with 54% of females and 43% of males identifying it as a key factor in how they respond to an ad. Respondents were asked to choose from a list of several characteristics, including intrigue, providing new information, or a person or character in which they’re interested.

There is a gap in how the two genders perceive humour, however, with men identifying 59% of the more than 200 ads they viewed as either very funny or quite funny, compared with 53% of women.

Megginson attributes this to the fact there are fewer ads featuring funny women than there are men—57% of the ads studied featured women in funny roles, compared with 77% of the ads featuring men.

“The humour served to [women] has not been as effective as it could be,” said Megginson. “This is a great opportunity for Canadian creative teams to find new insights and methods to drive greater appeal.”


Chris Powell