Why Did Super Bowl Advertisers Ignore Women?


40% of the Audience Was Female but Ads Skewed Heavily Male


By Martha Barletta and G. Mark Alarik

There was a time when $2.4 million was a lot of money. You didn’t spend that kind of coin without a pretty good reason to believe your advertising was going to create awareness, deliver a message or build your brand into a bond with your consumers.

Most of this year’s ads were mildly entertaining, innocuous and positioned as if female viewers didn’t exist.

Not any more, I guess. This year’s Super Bowl ads were … mystifying. In their eagerness to be both entertaining and innocuous, many of them missed the biggest opportunity of the year.

Ask yourself this — Who were they advertising to? Men, of course. After all, the Super Bowl is football, and football is a male-dominated audience, right?

Buying decisions Well, the truth is, more than 40% of the Super Bowl viewer audience is women — in total more women than the runner-up big event, the Academy Awards. And it’s an established fact that women make most of the buying decisions in most of the categories advertised on the Super Bowl (beer and trucks being the most notable exceptions).

Which gives us a question even more mystifying than some of the ads themselves: Why aren’t Super Bowl advertisers trying to connect with women?

Some car companies are starting to get it. Women buy 60% of new cars, and of the eight car brands advertised on the Super Bowl, three — Saturn, Lexus and Prius — ran ads that resonated well with women. All showed people; Saturn and Lexus showed genuine family moments, and the Prius concept is founded on a principle women generally care about more than men — the environment.

Speeding past women But of the other five, the Cadillac V-Series, Nissan and Volvo all platformed on the conventional “faster than a speeding bullet/rocket” story — and all languished in the

Was Dennis Rodman the most effective way to speak to women about Silestone countertop products? Watch the spot on the ‘TV Spots of the Week’ Video Page. conventional men’s world of faster, stronger, cooler. And Cadillac even went so far as to show a father who seems to care more about his XLR than his daughter’s future. Probably not the best way to connect with women.

Some of the more popular commercials, according to a few informal surveys, were the “Don’t judge” spots from AmeriQuest. But many viewers lost the tie-in to mortgages, and brand awareness suffered. And the opportunity to connect with women who are often “judged” by financial advisors as inconsequential to the decision process was completely missed.

Dennis Rodman? Honda knows that most trucks are bought by men, and expertly directed its ad toward that segment, with the Ridgeline conquering mountaintops as the voice-over talks about horsepower and integrated frames. But what ever made Silestone think that the best way to speak to its obviously female-dominated market was to use three retired Chicago football players and ending with Dennis Rodman in a tub?

Seventy percent of new businesses are started by women. But FedEx/Kinko’s chose to ignore this obvious market for its product. In fact, the marketer chose to ignore its product altogether, making the advertisement itself the reason for the advertisement. Here’s a company that can be an incredible multitasking resource for these new-business owners, and what is their message? Optional.

It has become de rigueur that a Super Bowl ad be entertaining. An ad without the humor, ingenuity or poignancy that viewers have come to expect is not only ineffective, but potentially damaging. But dancing bears and rugby-playing Gladys Nights just aren’t enough. The Super Bowl gives access to the largest number of members from the most significant market segment there is — women. And the advertiser who can speak to that audience and still entertain will truly have gotten their money’s worth.

Martha Barletta, is the author of Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach and Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market Segment.

G. Mark Alarik is the head of client strategies at Michelson Direct Advertising in Chicago.