Where Marketing Fails? - Gender Stereotypes in Creative Communications at Spotlight
Date: Sunday, December 15, 2019
The impact of brands and marketing can be seen beyond merely sales, instead becoming a tool for generating public opinion, strengthening stereotypes and, in some cases, making positive changes.
Although this impact and role are well acknowledged, the advertising industry remains one of the areas most capable of deepening gender stereotypes and sexism worldwide. Georgia is no exception, where the issue of discriminatory communication has been criticized by the public many times. Due to the challenging nature of this problem, and with the initiative of UN Women, a special discussion dedicated to this topic took place at Spotlight, the main marketing event of the year, held in Tbilisi on 15 December 2019.
Pavle Gabrichidze, creative director of the advertising company Leavingstone and a session moderator, opened the discussion with some facts: “In Georgia, 49 per cent of women who do not have a job say that this is because of their family obligations. One out of five of these women say that this is her husband’s preference. Twenty per cent of women in the country have experienced sexual harassment, and one in four has experienced some type of gender-based violence.” He concluded with a question to guide the discussion: “What role do brands play in the formation of these statistics, and where marketing fails?”
The participants talked about the role of marketing in strengthening or defying gender stereotypes. They discussed the potential contribution of value-based creative communications in the establishment of an equitable environment. Discussion participant Tinatin Stambolishvili, communications director at the insurance company GPI Holding, shared her experience with the audience. She recalled a campaign launched by the company eight years ago that related to female drivers and angered human rights activists and consumers. “One of the key motivators for me to participate in this discussion was the desire to tell you this story,” she explained. “Today we live in a different reality. Now it is not enough to have a gender-friendly communication message. You have to create the entire piece in a way for it to support the strengthening of the universal principles of equality, freedom and inclusion.” GPI Holding has been a signatory to the Women’s Empowerment Principles for two years already, and as Ms. Stambolishvili clarified, this initiative helped the company see how relevant the gender issues were, as well as implement various activities that support women.
Discriminatory marketing campaigns are often the result of insufficient gender sensitivity and awareness on the part of professionals in this field. This was the factor that Salome Zhvania, one of the participants of the discussion and a co-founder of the feminist podcast “Women’s Chamber”, highlighted among the Spotlight attendees, sharing suggestions on how to raise advertisers’ awareness. Such information will help them plan and implement communication activities that are based on healthy values.
“This was an interesting and sincere session that helped me see once again that you need to take into account many details before you start to communicate, to ensure that your action does not unintentionally hurt anyone,” reflected Salome Kokosadze, head of the Marketing and PR Department at TeraBank.
Spotlight has been conducted in Georgia regularly since 2013. The event offers thematic sessions and motivational speeches about the achievements and challenges in the marketing industry, gathering hundreds of industry representatives every year. Ako Akhalaia, founder and organizer of Spotlight, remarked: “I think that the Spotlight discussions this year enabled more than 500 representatives of the advertising field to take a different look at the role that marketing and communications play in creating or changing the reality in the country with regard to gender stereotypes and discrimination.”
The panel discussion was held within the framework of the project “A Joint Action for Women’s Economic Empowerment in Georgia”, implemented with the generous financial support of the Government of Norway.