Mars steps up to help deliver greater industry gender equality

A key news development this week that seen Mars step up become a vice chair at the Unstereotype Alliance campaigning for gender equality in media advertising has to be welcomed as an extremely positive move.

While it’s more than fair to say that the general standards within the industry have come a long way in the last couple of decades, there are still notable issues that are a cause for concern in terms of how women are perceived on screen.

We’re a long way forward from the days as a child in the 1980s when I recalled watching an advert for chunky ‘Yorkie’ chocolate bars that were ‘not for girls,’ which certainly wouldn’t get made in the 21st century after rightly being labelled as sexist.

Such overtly blunt old school advertising may have largely been swept aside, yet these kinds of screen promotions reinforcing old-world stereotypes can potentially have a lasting impact in the public consciousness.

These days, thankfully marketing and design agencies are a whole lot more switched on, and we’re probably just as likely to potentially see a new era of the Milk Tray Woman dashing to save the day instead of the Milk Tray Man in the 2020s (with a number of women actually auditioning for that very same role back in 2015), which would be no bad thing in the eyes of many.

However, as the Unstereotype Alliance has highlighted, the pandemic has resulted in some particular gender equality issues. These included the fact that women have been given less speaking roles in ads during 2020, as well as being less likely to be working amid the pandemic – which the organisation has argued has harmed progress on gender depictions.

Why does this matter so much? Well, there’s no getting away from the fact that the millions of pounds and dollars that are put into product marketing each year around the world is done for the prime reason that it really does influence consumer behaviour.

So, a marketing world seemingly heading in reverse in terms of its storytelling for advertising across the board, including within confectionery, is indeed cause for concern – but with the likes of Mars and Mondelez now prominently taking action on these issues, it’s likely that forward progress will be restored as the world gradually gets to grips with the global pandemic and its wide ranging impacts.

Neill Barston,editor, Confectionery Production

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