Brands still need to “elevate their approach” to including women in advertising, with only 7% of women in ads featured in professional settings last year, according to new research.

In a nod to International Women’s Day, an analysis of more than 10,000 ads supported by more than $100 million of adspend in 2022 by creative data platform CreativeX has revealed that portrayals of women in domestic or family settings across ads more than doubled in 2022 – to 66% of ads featuring women compared to just 32% in 2021.

Despite women appearing more frequently in ads over the last two years, with ads featuring 34% more women than men, the analysis shows a slip in showing women in progressive or professional environments.

The 7% of ads depicting women in professional situations was supported by just 4.7% of the total adspend analysed in the research, with the proportion of ads of this type dropping by nearly two-thirds, from 16% in 2021.

These ads received 35% less ad spend than those depicting men in similar roles, while 44% of adspend behind ads featuring women was spent on portrayals in domestic and family settings.

Direction of adspend

The analysis showed that ads featuring women with “lighter” skin tones received 242% more spend than those featuring with “darker” skin tones across 2021 and 2022.

Using definitions of skintones from the Fitzpatrick Scale, CreativeX’s research found that women in general, and in particular those with darker skin tones were both underrepresented and underinvested in in terms of adspend.

Women with darker skin tones were found to feature 80% less in ads than those with lighter tones, appear 58% less frequently in professional settings and attract 30% less adspend in terms of representation.

Compared to 2021, adspend behind darker skinned women was 20% down in 2022. When looking at age differentials, the research also found that regardless of skin tones, women aged over 60 were virtually invisible in ads last year. Just 0.6% of ads in 2022 featured women in this age group, and received less than 1% of spend, despite this growing by 2.2 times compared to 2021. Ads featuring men with lighter skin tones in professional or leadership settings were up 106% in 2022 compared to 2021.

“Good intentions, but struggles with change at scale”

Anastasia Leng, Founder and CEO of CreativeX, said:”This is a historic time for women: we have our first US female VP, 27 countries with a female leader, and a record of female CEOs among the Fortune 500. Yet, we still struggle to create representative advertising.

“The industry expresses good intentions to build more representative content yet struggles to implement change at scale. We have an opportunity to drive change in an area that we as marketers can fully control: creating more representative advertising. That journey is powered by creative data, which can unlock insights from our ads that demystify the casting and storytelling choices we’re making today and help us pave a way towards making the type of content that reflects our society at large and where it’s heading.”



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