ABX Advisory

Insights on Advertising Effectiveness to Boost ROI and ROAS

Successfully Portraying Women in Ads in the US, UK, Germany and Japan

Posted by Angela Jeffrey on May 13, 2021 3:27:00 PM

Last month's ABX Advisory post, "Positive Portrayals of Females in Ads leads to Financial Gain," announced the major leaps forward advertisers are making in the respectful portrayal of women in advertising.  A 2019 ABX longitudinal survey showed an increase in the presence of women in ads, an increase in understanding as to what makes an ad "appropriate," and a decrease in tolerance for ads that are "inappropriate."  Even more exciting, ABX research shows it is possible to increase sales to women by 45% by depicting females properly in advertising.  Today, we will look at top ABX Gender Equality Index ads in the UK, Germany, Japan and the US to see what is working in each.

So, the 2019 results are good news for ABX and all who are working to show women in the best possible light in marketing and advertising.  As mentioned above, ABX has now measured 150,000 ads to test gender equality with thousands more being added each month, so let us see which ones scored highest over the past 12 months in four major countries. 

Top Ad for Female Gender Equality in the U.S.

Best female ad in US

Gender scores differ in each country. For example, scores in the US are a bit lower than they are in Japan or Mexico.  In the past 12 months, the highest Female Gender score in the U.S. is 121, out of almost 10,000 ads.  The OxiClean ad above (click the picture to play) is 1:30 seconds long and gives an up-close look at the life of the "first Latina to be promoted to fire captain in Hoboken, NJ," and how she uses OxiClean to keep her gear clean and smelling good. Maria Diaz radiates pride and delight about her position, and tells other women how they, too, can become firefighters. 

The ad earned an ABX Index score of 133, which is 33% over norm.  The Message was very well received (see chart below) and helped drive very high Reputation score at 196 and Action score at 153.  Within "Action" are individual CTAs, one of which is Intent to Purchase, which was strong at 164 for an ad that also pushed corporate reputation.  The key to this spot's high female gender score of 121 was casting a strong, confident and successful Hispanic female who radiates joy about her job as well as about OxyClean. Scorecard for #1 ad US

Top Ad for Female Gender Equality in the U.K.

Top female ad in UKOut of several thousand ads in the United Kingdom, this marvelous offering from Sainsbury's, which scores a 130 for Female as well as Male gender, is an enormous success with a Reputation score of 239.  This is not a "female" ad.  It is a rapid-fire black & white, with occasional shots of orange, pictorial video set to crazy, up-beat music that you must see and hear.  The purpose of the ad was to thank store colleagues for their work during the Covid virus. (Click the photo for the URL). 

What comes across, and is so well depicted here, is a joyfulness shared among all races and genders, and which simply highlights women, as part of the unit.  The spot was highly Likeable and Relevant and scored 191 in Purchase Intent.   Scorecard for top UK ad

Top Ad for Female Gender Equality in Japan

Top female ad in Japan
This impossibly cute actress, maybe the new Japanese Audrey Hepburn, appears to be a favorite in several of the top Japanese ads. In this ad for SK-11 Facial Treatment Essence Lotion, this young woman earned a Gender Equality score of 138, dominating thousands of ads in Japan.  In fact, this actress also scores extraordinarily high Gender sub-scores such as 157 in "Presented," 159 in "Respectful" and 185 in "Role Model" - which are among the highest scores ABX has seen since measuring Gender Equality.

The ad compares the facial skin of this woman over several of years, showing that the facial treatment product keeps her young.  So, the ad premise itself is very strong.  But there is no question this :15 ad is compelling just because of the joyful expressions on the model's face.  Far from the sulky, self-absorbed models usually used in skin care ads, this one appears to be clean-cut, happy, having fun and healthy - conceivably because the product worked.  The Japanese ad test respondents rewarded this ad with a high ABX Index of 129, but more importantly the Message is 150, Reputation 197, See Again 170 and Likeability 147.  The only surprise is the Action score, which is only 108, with 129 for "Recommend" and 133 for "Talk About" as the highest CTA scores.  Bottom line, the high Gender Score suggests that women who radiate joy and positivity would do very well in Japanese advertising.Scorecard  #1 ad in Japan

Top Ad for Female Gender Equality in Germany

#1 female ad in Germany

Of several thousand ads in Germany, this :20 Nivea spot for wrinkle cream and anti-aging scores among the highest spots for Gender Equality at 122. (Note: the highest scoring ad was for a celebrity, so we chose to look at this one instead).   The mature female lead plays a traditional role as a skincare actress, as does the Japanese lead above, but the key is how she is presented in that role.  The topic of female aging is always difficult, but Nivea's lead conveys nothing but joy, refreshment, and confidence as she takes care of herself.  In fact, one of the sub-scores for Gender Equality is "Role Model," for which this actress gets a very high score of 153.

ABX scores are high across this ad including Message at 139 and Reputation at 177.  More exciting, the CTA scores comprising Action are all very high including "Intent to Contact, Go to the Web, Look for, Purchase (at 176!) and Recommend.  A beautifully executed spot on a difficult subject.

Scorecard for top German ad

From the high-scoring Female Gender Equality Index scores above:

  • In the US, the top ad so far this year features a strong female of Hispanic descent who radiates confidence and delight in her work.
  • In the UK, the top ad features men and women of various races working together, laughing, and conveying joy in their work.
  • In Japan, the top ad features a uniquely charismatic female model who conveys joy and openness through facial expression. 
  • In Germany, the top female score was for a "mature" actress who, again, conveyed happiness, self-confidence and joy. 

In a nutshell, it appears that good advertising practice in the US, UK, Germany and Japan is to feature successful women, and women of color, who radiate happiness or joy rather than using models who convey self-absorption.

If you wish to learn more about the Gender Equality Index and how ABX can help you develop great advertising, see the ABX Gender Equality Index.  Or leave a comment below!


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ABX provides ad effectiveness scores from human respondents against 14 variables and in all media types. ABX Index values are a comparison of the results of an ad versus the average of all ads in the ABX database (160,000+ ads). Click for more information about definitions and methodology. 

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Topics: Personal Care, Gender Equality Measure, Global, Corporate Image, Advertising Effectiveness

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