CES 2018: Why #SeeHer Should be an Inspiration for Us All

Paul Kontonis, CMO, WHOSAY

Gender equality, inclusion and role models were brought to the center spotlight on Tuesday at CES 2018 when Shelley Zalis and Gail Tifford, co-founders of #SeeHer, the ANA-led association whose goal is to increase accurate portrayals of women and girls by 20% by 2020, hosted Stephen Quinn, Chairman AFE, Susan Canavari, Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase, Sadira Furlow, Head of Consumer Engagement at PepsiCo, North America Nutrition, Anna Griffin, SVP Corporate Marketing CA Technologies, Carla Hassan, Executive Vice President, Global CMO at Toys “R” Us, Nadine Karp McHugh, Senior Vice President of Omni Media and Creative Solutions at L’Oréal USA and Andrea Riley, Chief Marketing Officer Ally Financial Inc. to discuss how #SeeHer is producing well-needed change in the industry.

“It’s the power of collaboration that has taken us where we are,” emphasized Zalis who’s also The Female Quotient CEO and founder of the Girls’ Lounge. “[#SeeHer] is something that has become an industry standard that’s already producing change.” She recalled the history-making moment when over 300 women walked at CES when she started The Female Quotient. “The best part was watching the guys’ faces, ‘where do all these women come from?’” Zalis joked. But jokes aside, she dropped one of the best quotes of the panel: “Modern feminism must include men; gender equality is not a gender issue, it’s a social and economic issue.”

#SeeHer at CES 2018Tifford, who’s also Vice President, Media North America and Global Digital Innovation, Unilever, described the origins of the #SeeHer movement in Washington D.C. two years ago. “[We] were just sitting around talking about how we could create change and the fact that gender equality seems so so far away,” she said. “And one of the things we talked about was the role of media in not only reflecting but also creating culture.” Once they got full support from the ANA and their respective organizations, #SeeHer focused on its two-pillar mission: “It’s very simple; 1) how do we help advertisers create ads that don’t promote negative stereotypes of girls and women and 2) making better ads and putting them in better programs is actually better for business.”

Stephen Quinn, Chairman of AFE (and the only man in the panel), talked about the perfect storm that helped created the movement. “When Gail (Tifford) brought this idea forward, we went to our research and [found out that] over 90% of people agreed that the portrayal of women and girls was substandard in media, both in advertising as well as in programming,” he said, adding that the proposal was the catalyst for AFE and ANA to focus on solving this issue. “Marketers want to make a difference and I think that what’s more important is that marketers are in a position to make a difference.”

But, as it turns out, women empowerment is also good for business. “The ANA is supposed to help marketers be more effective and here’s an initiative that has proven to improve purchase intent, reputation and ROI,” Quinn said, adding that, given the “cultural moment” we’re living in, the #SeeHer movement has also come to represent a solution for marketers and brands trying to improve their programs. “We got over 50 companies participating in #SeeHer. Over 30 thousand ads have been tested. Any marketer can get their GEM scores for their own content [and] see how they’re doing. It’s a great opportunity to improve your media plan as well, and you have data that shows that there’s a really good business case for you doing that.”

Carla Hassan, Executive Vice President, Global CMO at Toys “R” Us, shared some of the ways her company is trying to combat gender stereotypes. “As someone who markets to kids we take a huge responsibility to make sure that what we are showing in our creative, in our content as well as where we show up from a media perspective is doing the right thing,” she said. So, aside from organizing their stores by interests instead of genders, Hassan said she’s working on a dream of hers; to go beyond play patterns and into personalizing the experience for kids. “We don’t get it right all the time,” she admitted. “But the ability to measure it and knowing where and how we missed the mark and get the feedback to be better next time, I think it becomes really important.”

“We love this movement because we are the beneficiaries of this movement,” said Anna Griffin, SVP Corporate Marketing, CA Technologies. “We jumped on this movement right away because we know that is right and our industry is going to benefit from the talent pool. And, by the way, it’s just not gender equality. Where are the African Americans, the Hispanics? It is a massive problem beyond just gender equality.” Griffin explained how her company launched the “The STEM 10” program to showcase diverse, young and problem-solving minds. “[We] are distributing the content to the people who need to see it the most; the 10 year old girl, the 8 year old African American boy who can be inspired.”

Other ways members of the #SeeHer movement can help make a difference is with their budgets. Nadine Karp McHugh, Senior Vice President of Omni Media and Creative Solutions at L’Oréal USA, shared how she did it. “When I was introduced to this through the ANA, we started to talk about the GEM scores for the creative and we also put it into our RFP process from the very beginning,” she said. “We told our media partners across the board that it’s not business as usual, that this is super important and that those who had high GEM scores would be considered favorably to get on board. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

#SeeHer is a movement led by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), the largest marketing and advertising association in the U.S. Its mission is to increase the percentage of accurate portrayals of women and girls in U.S. advertising and media by 20% by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.