Aishwarya Ramesh

Positive gender portrayal impacts short-term sales, long-term brand building: Kantar’s Soumya Mohanty

Kantar’s MD talks about gender portrayal in advertising, this year’s winning ads and Unstereotype Metric.

Most awards in the advertising world have juries - mostly veterans from the industry itself. Kantar’s Creative Effectiveness Awards (CEA) take a slightly different route.

In these awards, the consumer is the jury. Kantar tests the effectiveness of the ads by recording consumer responses to them. There were two types of advertising taken into account - television and digital ads.

The winning entries
The winning entries

Across television ads tested in India, Kantar awards standout performers in five product categories - food and beverage, personal care, durables, home care and services.

Hindustan Unilever (HUL) won both in the TV and digital categories in the 2022 edition of the awards. Surf Excel’s Dumb Charades ad and its 2021 Holi ad (both) by Carlos Creatives, were among the other spots that received recognition.

Ogilvy was the creative agency that got recognition in both TV and digital - for its work for Mondelez and HUL’s Comfort fabric conditioner.

What's common about all these ads is that they carry a strong emotional insight. Kantar’s data also reveals that positive gender portrayal (such as Surf's ad, where the father is seen doing laundry) can have better impact on the brand and how it's perceived.

“It leads to better impact, in terms of both short-term sales and long-term brand building,” says Soumya Mohanty, managing director & chief client officer, insights division, Kantar.

The real impact of positive gender portrayal
The real impact of positive gender portrayal

Mohanty talks about the Unstereotype Metric (UM) that made its debut during this year’s CEA. Kantar’s collaboration with the Unstereotype Alliance has led to the development of UM, which Kantar now includes as a measure of gender portrayal in advertising.

UM, over the long-term, provides learning and context for gender progressive ads. It is now measured for 14,000-plus ads across 70 countries, 3,300-plus brands and 251 categories.

Kantar has also partnered with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to release a white paper to evangelise the fact that positive gender portrayals help the cause of the brand.

Mohanty says the ads that won this year, have a show and tell element - such as Cadbury’s Chocobakes ad, demonstrating the cake’s inside, or Vim’s ad about helping out in the kitchen by washing dishes.

“It’s important to engage and inform your consumers, since every ad will not result in an immediate sale for the product. That’s why we always need to keep brand building in mind,” Mohanty says.

She adds that whenever consumers see positive gender portrayal in ads, there’s an intention to buy from the brand - even if the consumers don’t take that action immediately.

But can creativity truly be assessed? Mohanty seems to think so, “Our intention is to assess creativity and effectiveness. You have to put aside your own personal biases and look at the data objectively. That’s how we came up with the winners in different categories.”

“Half of the films were finished, and some were in the animatic stage. We test both types and put the awards together. That’s the research that’s gone behind it,” Mohanty mentions.

She explains that Kantar tests for whether an ad is persuasive or not; does it actually prompt customers to take the intended action. “To put it simply, there’s always a marketing brief and we test that using a validated tool to see whether it is delivering to the brief or not.”

According to a press release, Kantar tested more than 13,000 creatives for clients around the world. 10% (1,300-plus) of those creatives were tested in India alone.

Unilever was one of the most awarded brands at the Kantar CEA this year. What is it doing right? Mohanty explains “It is consistent with its messaging, but find ways to make the ad topical, such as Surf Excel’s social distancing Holi ad. It also follow all the five points we’ve outlined in our report - a good story arc, a touch of drama, visualisation, strong emotion, show and tell.”

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