Super Bowl Advertising and How Women Are Portrayed in Media #notbuyingit

by Tinu Abayomi-Paul on February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday – a huge day for advertising

Today is the day. At 6:30 pm Eastern, the Baltimore Ravens will start beating- play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

National Equality March 8 However you feel about American football as a sport, about  digital vs tv advertising, or the future of television, it cannot be denied that The Super Bowl is a major event, nationally and in recent years, internationally.

It’s the biggest single day in advertising, and the most viewed live event of the year.

It’s usually also the top sponsored show – of the most viewed broadcasts of all time in the United States, 21 of the top 44 were Super Bowls, with 2012 bringing an estimated audience of 113 million people.

So what does all this have to do with women, and women in business in particular? It’s simple, really.

Media portrayals of women are inaccurate, in marketing and advertising specifically,  despite the massive economic power of the female consumer.

The way women are portrayed in media matters.

Why? Here’s the Cliffs Notes version.

Our media, in western civilization and particularly in the United States, shapes our culture. which frames our default thoughts as a collective about what is normal in our society. And the portrayal of women in the media, while improving, is not in line with reality.

Willingly or not, we accept the data that we absorb from the media as information. And yes, if we’re insulated against accepting what the media says blindly, by culture, limited exposure or as the result of great parenting, we will temper the input we get with logic. This would then lead to taking the initiative to compare and contrast what we see in the media, with the differing instances in life that we see around us, resulting in hopefully forming opinions of our own.

But however we combat it, the media impacts what we perceive to be normal, and what we perceive to be true. It is also simultaneously shaping that reality, making it even harder to tell if we’re seeing things how they are, how media influences us to see them, or how media has changed the way things are or were.

As an example, there are studies clearly showing how teenagers learn sexual behavior from the media. It’s not just what we consume when we’re kids, however. We’re affected by the media at all ages, not just during our crucial formative years.

According to a publication by CivilRights.org on Media Diversity [pdf]:

The way the public looks at issues – and whether or not the public is even aware of
certain issues like fair housing and voter discrimination – is directly related to the way
these issues are covered by media.

The National Organization of Women also has a fact sheet on women in the media that clearly shows that women are not being treated equally in the media, though progress has definitely been made.

Clearly if we want things that are important to women in business, such as equal pay and other types of economic justice, one of the points of correction is in the way women are portrayed in media.

The question remains then – what do we do about it? Is there something we can do to make this change accelerate?

Changing how women are portrayed in media – dollars and voices

Women are clearly a force to be reckoned with, economically. Women control a reported 85% of consumer purchases, and not just young women. Women over 50 control a net worth of $19 trillion. The media, including advertising, is slowly waking up to the fact that  alienating women is a bad idea, fiscally speaking.

If you’re thinking that a good plan for action would be to unite with other women and submit commentary on how women are portrayed in the media, you’ll be happy to learn that a team over at Miss Representation is already on it.

We talked about the Miss Representation film before, when one of our great community members, Gini Dietrich, wrote about women as part of the problem of the perception of women leaders with the film as an anchor for the discussion.

For the second year, they’re leading a national conversation on sexism and the media, with an event during the Super Bowl, using their Twitter hashtag, #NotBuyingIt. You’ll probably want to follow their Twitter account, @representpledge too. And remember to use the hashtag #MediaWeLike for the commercials and marketing you do appreciate.

To participate, sign up for the event on Facebook, and watch the Super Bowl live, commenting about the commercials on Twitter using either hashtag.

You can also see a leaderboard of the worst offenders on a special section of their site. If you’d like to address a specific advertiser, they have a list of Twitter handles of the Super Bowl Advertisers for you.

If the previous year’s record is any indication, joining with other like-minded women and men on this issue can make a difference. Last year, they reached about a million people on this one day and the#NotBuyingIt hashtag was one of Twitter’s top trends for the day. Making advertisers aware that you’re paying attention could make a difference where it counts.

Given the growing knowledge of what an economic force women are in the US. if you’re not buying it, they can’t sell it.

Flickr image courtesy of CivilRights.org

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