Our role in creating culture is key to taking a stand against stereotypes: Julie Bramham

At Pitch CMO Summit - Mumbai 2020, Julie Bramham, CMO, Diageo India spoke on 'Progressive Gender Portrayal: The What, How and Why Now'

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Mar 3, 2020 6:00 PM
Julie Bramham Diageo India

The 12th edition of Pitch CMO Summit 2020 Mumbai witnessed a gathering of the best minds in the business of marketing and one of those was Julie Bramham, Chief Marketing Officer, Diageo India. Bramham spoke on the topic of 'Progressive Gender Portrayal: The What, How and Why Now'. 

Bramham kicked off the session with a short story about her nine-year-old son who is an avid YouTuber. She said her son spent a lot of time on YouTube, and one of the things he enjoys doing on YouTube is riddles. “There are all these different riddles that he and his friends try to crack when they're at school together. He came home from school a few weeks ago, with a riddle that's been around forever. He was telling me it took him and his friends 10 minutes to crack it. The riddle was about A father and son, who were in a tragic car accident. Father is pronounced dead on the scene, the son is taken immediately to the emergency room. The surgeon comes to the emergency room and says, I'm really sorry, I can't operate on this patient, because he's my son. So Sam’s friends took 10 minutes to crack the riddle, because it was inconceivable for them, that the surgeon would be a woman. Such is the power of bias, that even my nine-year-old boy who I think I've tried to bring up to not have such gender bias has that gender bias and it's very powerful.” 

She spoke about unconscious bias and the role that it plays and how we can overcome it. “We are proudly working in association with the Unstereotype Alliance, which is founded by United Nations Women in 2017. The whole purpose of  Unstereotype is to eliminate harmful stereotypes in advertising, of which some will be gender.” 

She said a lot of the stereotypes are not created intentionally. It's an unconscious bias that is driving these stereotypes and the truth is, we all have them.  They are driven by how we were brought up, our family environment, our school environment, our college environment, and importantly, they also come from culture and the stories that we hear and tell, and the stories that we hear in the media. 

“As advertisers are creating stories that have billions of dollars spent on them, and therefore our role in creating culture is critical because if popular culture is quietly, unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes, then we've got to take a stand to try to overcome that," she asserted.

She shared some of the data that sits behind the reason people feel passionate about it. This is data collected by the Geena Davis Institute that studies gender portrayal across a number of industries. They looked at the Cannes Film Archive of over 2000 films, "75% of working characters are male, with 62% more likely to be shown as smart and twice as likely to be shown as funny. And about 65% of the dialogue in family films is also a man's. And the truth is we know that doesn't represent how we all live," she said.

Speaking about the Asia Pacific, specifically as a region, she spoke about a Kantar study conducted last year on attitudes towards advertising across APAC, and what they found was 66% of people said they switch off when they see stereotypes. “63% of people think advertising conforms to stereotypes. And the traditional roles in advertising are holding back progress. Here's the thing, 83% of us marketers think we're doing a good job in avoiding stereotypes. So whilst we're merrily thinking, we're doing a great job, actually, what people are telling us is we're not doing a great job, we're actually really conforming to stereotypes. So you understand why we're talking about unconscious bias throughout because none of this is intentional.”

"Looking at India, Kantar again did a study to look at the landscape and they took the top hundred and 50 yards from the last two years in India and what they found was 40% were what they would call progressive. So actually, we've got a ton of businesses and agencies doing a really good job in this space. But it does mean that there is a 60% opportunity to do better in terms of how they are portraying women."

Bramham shared the Diageo framework for how they are approaching and getting better at this. She said they recognized that dealing with something like unconscious bias is difficult because none of them realizes that they have it. 

She said, “We needed a framework to train our marketers and our agencies to help minimize that bias as we go through the creative development process. The framework is relatively simple. We talk about representation. So who is being portrayed in the advert's perspective? Whose points of view are we seeing this from? And finally characterization. Are we showing characters with real depth?"

Bramhan continued, "So representation first, this is perhaps the easiest one, actually, because firstly, it's about the numbers. Have we got roughly equal numbers where script permits? Are we showing women alongside men? And then when you get beyond the numbers, representation is important because what we also recognise is, there are many sections of society that are never shown in advertising or in communication. It's as if they've been erased from culture. So making sure that in our communication, we represent as many sections of society as we can.”

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