Female empowerment imagery more effective than sex appeal in ads, says Facebook

Facebook IQ's latest research explores gender

Advertising that subverts gender stereotypes and empowers women leads to more effective business results, according to the latest research from Facebook IQ.

The insights offshoot of the social network surveyed 1,547 people in the US to understand how they responded to gendered imagery in advertising. The research saw Facebook perform a sentiment analysis of aggregated, anonymised US Facebook posts and compare a selection of brands that engaged in gender-positive advertising in the past year – such as by celebrating female athleticism or encouraging girls to study a STEM subject – to 'brands that were less vocal on the topic'.

It found that women were almost twice as likely to say they wanted to watch a related movie trailer after seeing an ad featuring an image of a woman dressed as a firefighter versus an image of a woman dressed in revealing clothing. There was, however, no significant difference between men's reactions to the two ads.

The survey also reported that people in the US respond 8-10% more positively to brands that engage in gender-positive advertising than to brands that do so less or not at all.

When a brand promotes gender equality in general, 48% of those surveyed said they feel more loyal towards it. When a brand promotes gender equality on Facebook in particular, 79% of women and 75% of men said they feel more positively towards it.

As such, Facebook has recommended marketers 'amp up empowerment' by sharing gender-positive imagery and considering how their brands can support women. It has also advised them to 'avoid stereotypes and sexual objectification'.

The study aligns research undertaken by the University of Illinois, which debunked the myth that sex sells, as well as the ASA's recommendation that advertising which replicates gender stereotypes be banned.

Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

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