The Female Lead

What Women Want?

Kantar WPP Stella’s #WhatWomenWant Exhibition

Over the last century, the marketing industry has been heavily criticised for its part to play in contributing to negative and diminishing views of women in society. Last night our team visited a preview of the #WhatWomenWant exhibition, a 10-day event at Noho Studios in London which aims to celebrate the incredible milestones of female represented marketing over the last 100 years. The exhibition was put together to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which marked the date of the first group of women who were granted the right to vote in the UK. This was the beginning of a new era as brands began to see women as consumers, who were no longer simply represented by their fathers or husbands.    



The exhibition showcases famous ads from brands including TSB, National Rail, The Body Shop, Wonderbra, Nike, Dove, Sport England, Bodyform, Stabilo, River Island and more. These stand out ads have “focused on issues that matter to women, giving women a voice, power and confidence” and the exhibition aims “to challenge the rest of the marketing industry to live up to these standards – for a future of true gender equality” (Kantar).


Ads featured here  from River Island, Wonderbra and Nike


Kantar’s Research

We were then invited to a talk from Amy Cashman, the UK Managing director of Kantar TNS, who revealed the findings of Kanter’s study into what it means for a brand to connect with women. The study examined the responses of over 2000 women and 2000 men in the UK who looked at various campaigns. The research, summarised on an article on Marketing Week, found that:


  • “Brands which promote gender-balanced marketing are worth £774bn more than their rivals. The brand value of brands skewed towards men is £3.1bn, compared to a value of £4.1bn for brands that are either ‘balanced’ or skewed towards women.”


  • “Two-thirds of women responding to Kantar’s What Women Want? study say they skip adverts they feel are negatively stereotyping women, while a further 85% describe film and advertising as doing a poor job of depicting real women.”


  • “While 55% of the 2,000 male and 2,000 female respondents agree that movements like #MeToo have made gender equality a more prominent issue, just 37% of women and 43% of men think gender equality has improved compared to 12 months ago.”


  • “The What Women Want? study also suggests that brands are failing to appreciate the importance self-esteem plays in female empowerment and how this affects how women feel about brands.”


  • “The Kantar analysis shows that brands typically contribute more to those with high self-esteem than low self-esteem, meaning it is easier for brands to “endorse” self-esteem than it is to create it.”


  • “Crucially women’s self-esteem was found to be considerably lower than men’s. Just 20% of women surveyed said they would describe themselves as having above average self-esteem, compared to 38% of men, whereas double the amount of women (30% vs 15%) would describe themselves as having below average self-esteem.”

Amy Cashman argues that “there are still intrinsic beliefs about what women are, what women do, what they shouldn’t do, which is holding women back from improving their self-esteem.”

What can we do about tick-box diversity?

The evening ended with an incredible panel consisting of Megan Van Someren, Mark Inskip, Amy Cashman, Sonoo Singh and Fiona Gordon who discussed and answered questions on how the marketing industry can better engage with the female consumer.

One interesting point came from Sonoo Singh, Associate Editor at The Drum, who suggested that “whilst there is the appetite for more diversity it can sometimes appear to be more about box-ticking, which is slightly more worrying”.

Fiona Gordon, Team Lead for Walgreen Boots Alliance, responded by saying that “what we have to try and neutralise categories and make it more about the contribution you have as an individual and what you bring to the table… rather than what the category defines” she added “you need an environment where you have enough active mentoring and support networks… and one of the things that senior women leaders need to do is to call out unconscious bias when we see it… and this can happen both ways”.


What can we collectively do to make a change?

The panel ended with the experts imparting their advice on what we can do as a collective:

Megan Van Someren: “Be Fearless, take a stance – we have to call people out and hold ourselves to the same standards. It’s so important that we challenge our teams and challenge our clients. The little things make a big difference.”

Amy Cashman: “We need to use the insights we have about these audiences when it comes to thinking about the ways in which to engage them. We need to turn insights into business, by thinking about how women feel about themselves in a particular category and then acting on it.”

Fiona Gordon: “We absolutely need communications that depict the complexity of women. The more populist communications we have that do this the more impact we will have on populist opinions.”

Sanno Singh: “It’s all about radical change and this happens when there are ripples of little change – they really do matter.”



The event is open to the public from the 21st – 29th November 2018. To find out more and book tickets visit: