3 Ways to Bust Bias in Advertising

by Samara Anderson

Advertising shapes conversations. On top of day-to-day operations, agencies have an added responsibility to become aware of the ripple effect their ads create. Our industry perpetuates bias — both internally in the structure of our organizations as well as externally in the form of the creative that we put out into the world. When it comes to equal representation of people, and specifically women, there’s a lot of work to do be done in our industry.

Overhauling change is challenging — that’s not an excuse to run from it, but rather a reason to tackle it head-on. Fortunately, there are companies and tools out there designed to help empower this movement. I sat down with Erica Green, the Global Group Creative Director at Mattel, to discuss ways in which agencies can identify and overcome bias and she shared these 3 resources:

1. Free the Bid

Free the Bid is a non-profit that advocates on behalf of female directors for more commercial advertising job opportunities. The idea is that if you’re triple-bidding for directors, at least one of them should be a woman. The whybehind their mission is two-fold. First, they’re tackling equality because it’s the right thing to do. But secondly, making companies more representative of their audiences will increase creativity, lead to more empathetic advertising, and better speak to the majority of decision-makers — women.

2. GEM™ Scoring

As part of the #SeeHer initiative, Gender Equality Measure indexes ads and encourages accurate and equal representation of women. It’s a data-driven process that measures consumer perceptions by asking 4 questions:

  • What is the overall opinion of the female presented?
  • Is she portrayed respectfully?
  • Is she depicted inappropriately?
  • Is she seen as a positive role model for women and girls?

GEM™ Scoring seeks to create bias-free advertisements and emphasize the positive correlation between accurate portrayals of women and industry standards (such as awareness, recall, and purchase intent).

3. #BiasCorrect Tool

In honor of International Women’s Day, Catalyst, a nonprofit advocating for progressive workplaces for women, developed resources for identifying and correcting unconscious bias in the workplace. Their plug-in tags bias in our online conversations. For example, it’ll suggest changing the word “aggressive” to “assertive”. Their campaign asks, “If she were a he would these labels apply?” #BiasCorrect increases awareness about the power of language in the fight for equality.

Change starts from the ground up. Hopefully, these 3 tools will serve as a jumping off point for self and company assessment, alignment around the goal, and assertive change toward combating bias in advertising.

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