The Dubai-based marketing and advertising industry body Advertising Business Group (ABG) has announced its plans to tackle a number of key industry issues and making new appointments during its first AGM.
ABG Chair Sanjiv Kakkar, who is Unilever’s executive vice-president across MENA, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, outlined two key initiatives: The first is to raise awareness about gender stereotyping within advertising, and the second is to tackle the issue of advertising to children.
“As a body that brings together the biggest advertisers, agencies and publishers, we need to look at the big issues that are affecting societies across the Gulf and do our best to ensure that we’re playing our part to push for progress,” Kakkar told the attendees. “Gender parity and children’s health are two topics that advertisers must address in a positive fashion, especially given what is happening in the Gulf.”
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Gender stereotyping in advertising is a global issue but it is of special importance in the Middle East region, where countries like Saudi Arabia are setting new norms. As a first step towards addressing this, the ABG will commission local research into gender stereotyping within the region’s ad sector.
It will also adopt and apply the Code of Principles already set in place by the Unstereotype Alliance, a global thought and action platform that uses advertising as a force for good to drive positive change focusing on eradicating harmful gender-based stereotypes.
Research undertaken by the Unstereotype Alliance indicates that in South Africa, almost three quarters of women do not feel fairly represented in the media, while 53 percent in India don’t feel fairly represented in society.
Not only is this detrimental to society, it also has a direct effect on brands with 67 percent less likely to buy products from a brand running sexist ads, according to a study by Advertising Standards Canada (ASC).
Brands such as Unilever have taken a stand after a global research last year by the company showed that 40 percent of women surveyed don’t identify with the women they see in ads.
P&G, too, announced its commitment toward and support of #SeeHer through a slew of initiatives at Cannes 2018. “Only 32% of chief marketing officers, 33% of chief creative officers and a mere 10% of commercial directors are women. These issues persist despite evidence that gender-equal ads perform 10% higher in trust and 26% higher in sales growth,” said a statement by the company.
Marketing to kids
Kids in the region (UAE, KSA and Turkey) spend over four hours a day glued to screen including TV, smartphones, and online games, according to a 2016 study by Turner.
And despite age limits on social media platforms, the study also found that 70 percent of kids between the ages of four and 14 are already on social media.
Worse still, according to the same study, 60 percent of mothers actually believe that TV time (two hours daily) is beneficial for their children to connect with the world.
And so, ABG is endorsing the GCC Food and Beverage “Pledge on Responsible Marketing to Children,” which is a voluntary commitment to the way food and beverage (F&B) products are marketed to children under the age of 12 in the region. It was first introduced in 2010 with brands including General Mills, Kelloggs, Mondelez, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Unilever.
The pledge includes products containing saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sugars and/or salt and forbids the advertising of these products to children under the age of six years. It does allow advertising of F&B products to children between six and 12 years but only for products that fulfill specific nutrition criteria based on scientific evidence and dietary guidelines.
The ‘under 12’ audience segment is defined as one where at least half the children are under the age of 12.
This commitment applies to marketing material across a number of channels including TV, print, owned/third-party websites, radio, cinema, interactive games, and SMS.
“Advertising to children can be a very sensitive issue. Yet, it can be valuable and meaningful as it can educate, excite, entertain, and inform them if done in a responsible manner,” said Kakkar. The endorsement of this pledge by ABG will see all its members following it.
The structural board changes at the AGM saw PHD MENA CEO Elda Choucair joining as vice-chair, Choueiri Group’s senior legal counsel Julien Cordahi being elected to as legal officer, and Mars’ regional brand and portfolio director Daniele Calderoni filling the position of professional & knowledge development officer. Unilever’s Priya Sarma was re-elected as the communications officer while P&G’s Alex Malouf and Google’s Marie De Ducla stayed on as development officer and treasurer respectively.