It’s not about gender, it’s about human truth

HyoJae An is the Associate Strategy Director for Carat APAC.

Instead of creating messaging on gender, let’s focus on getting to understand the human truth and the “why” of consumer behaviour, and start targeting communicating around on shared interests or qualities that resonates.

5 minute read


As marketers and agencies we are all familiar with consumer marketing terms such as millennials, baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Z… etc. These terms can sometimes be useful when taking in very general terms but it is important to remember that no two millennials nor two women are truly alike.

Mass communication and advertising still stereotype and bucket people into one “type” (think “moms” or “teenagers”) and I find this at best limiting and at worst, dangerous for marketers. Because when we try to fit people into these superficial boxes we make assumptions that can be both wrong and that paint very dull creative pictures which we feed to the world in the form of ad campaigns.

Advertising has and will continue to influence society’s culture and opinions. Young girls and boys who are exposed to advertising will undoubtedly be affected by the messages that they see, in fact it is this early exposure to “gender roles” that go on to impact the imbalance of female representation in industries such as science, engineering and C-level positions. Today’s society is so much more fluid than it used to be and we need to focus on finding the human truth that goes beyond gender, age and social class. Instead of creating messaging on gender we should look to target and create messages based on interests and real human behaviour.

One of the biggest advocates of anti-demographic targeting is Netflix, they find it useless and believe it doesn’t tell the full story, instead they look at actual behaviour and cluster people on taste profile because as they put it.There are actually 19-year-old guys who watch Dance Moms, and there are 73-year-old women who are watching Breaking Bad and Avengers.” They even go as far as to say demographic targeting will damage your brand.

As advertising technology and capabilities advance we look to take more advantage of targeting tools based on interests, activities, location, sentiment and past behaviour. For example, we look to employ people based targeting that doesn’t care for demographics, simply things like patterns of behaviours, video consumption and purchase history across screens. This allows us to still get the mass reach that our clients need while allowing for creation of multiple audience subset audiences within the overall female or male target. This increases relevance and ultimately improves the viewers experience. Facebook call this People-based marketing, in reality it is about using the data available to create scalable and accurate target segments, correctly represented across devices.

These are the tools marketers should be using to help ad resonance and real cut through.

As consumers are increasingly bombarded ads brands can better serve them by spending more time in tailoring the content and the message.

Instead of painting all women and men with the same gender brush let’s focus on getting to understand the human truth and the “why” of consumer behaviour, and start targeting communicating around on shared interests or qualities that resonates.

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