If demographics are dead what about stereotyping?

Jessica Bee, Strategic Business Director shares her thoughts on the IAB Engage conference.
Two key topics really grabbed me at year’s IAB Engage conference: power and authenticity.
Firstly, how do we, as an industry, navigate the quickly evolving landscape in which the consumer (rightly) responds to and demands evermore empowerment? And how do we succeed in communicating to a consumer with near-limitless choices and paths to purchase? Especially in a market where consumers seek content, products and services immediately when even milliseconds of latency is not tolerated.
The concept of the power of now has been around for a few years of course in our industry. Advertisers, marketers, agencies and media owners can all attest to evangelising ‘right place, right time’, that contextual relevance is absolutely key. It seems a bit obvious to my ‘non-advertisey’ friends when we discuss this fact. They look blank at the fact that it has only relatively recently been possible to react in ‘real time’ and capture tangible contextual moments. Duh. People have short memories when it comes to the evolution of technology to deliver this.
This is a powerful message. Here at Posterscope, we have pioneered being more now and service-led in digital OOH, working with our clients to use content which capitalises on providing consumers with location-based, real-time information and reaping better campaign results from doing so.
This brings me on to the power of authenticity. If we are so ‘now’, we can adapt and react our media plans and strategies to both target and engage consumers in the moment, we also need to recognise that this needs to feel authentic to our world-weary digital consumers.
Consumers, and particularly women, are starting to expect authentic conversations with brands. Gendered advertising is a fascinating topic for me in today’s world where traditional demographics have very much begun to unravel. Brands who used to rely on clear-cut audience segments are now understanding that these are defunct and dangerous, which represents both huge opportunity and a challenge.
Huffington Post’s Poorna Bell took us through the recent history of advertising to women, watching some examples of the ads from the early 90’s demonstrated just how far we have come. If we were presented with the Flake or Bodyform ads of the 90’s now we would, at best, all screw our faces up and cringe. But she also highlighted that even though we have come really far in our strategies to talk to women authentically and realistically, we still encounter the horrors of gender marketing from time to time, where we collectively sigh ‘how did that get signed off?’ – cue a barrage of complaint tweets and company apologies.
Her presentation wasn’t gloomy, instead she had a positive outlook and a challenge for brands. She urged brands to create an authentic voice and use the excellent case studies from brands like Unilever who are removing gender stereotypes from their marketing strategies. She rallied us as an industry to resonate with women by listening, making them feel confident and letting them be themselves. We have the power through technology to do this, so we must make sure we do because they also have the same technology to turn their backs.