We asked three female Creative Directors from different countries to give us their perspective on women and advertising campaigns in their local market, and how the shift in attitudes towards women is playing out in advertising communications around the world.

Getty Images Creative Research team has been tracking contemporary depictions of women and girls over the past five years, and has witnessed a global sea change, with portrayals shifting towards women with agency and strength, but who are also funny and real.

Women have become the authors of their own stories and this is playing out in many advertising campaigns around the world – we spoke to three Creative Directors from different countries to see if this is the reality in three diverse markets.


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Kaoru Naito
Art Director - Japan

“The trend of Japanese advertisements featuring women has changed. The main target is now experienced adult women (30s to 40s) rather than young beautiful women. This may be because women have discovered their value is not in their youth, and they have come to idealize the concept of inner beauty as they age. This evolution in thinking has resulted in a phenomenon in advertising to women that could never have been imagined in the Japanese market ten years ago. 

Despite this trend, it still surprised us when we saw female models in their mid-40s featured in female underwear advertisements in the summer of 2013 - models such as Christy Turlington for Calvin Klein Underwear

and Noriko Maeda for Triumph 

These two super models have mirrored the hopes and dreams of regular women in Japan. Following this evolution of women in advertising campaigns, portrayals showing representations of ideal beauty that are not so far removed from the woman in the street means these new types of visual ideals may become the norm in future.”

About Kaoru Naito:

Kaoru graduated Joshibi Junior College of Art and Design and started her career as an Art Director at a design office in Tokyo. Kauro’s company works with clients in Japan such as SONY and Recruit, using a proactive ‘design solutions’ approach to resolve her client’s communication challenges. As well as design, Kauro focuses her efforts on bringing young Creatives up through the ranks. 

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Nina Rieke
Chief Strategy Officer at DDB Tribal Group, Berlin

Women play not just one, but many roles - Women are an important economical factor globally: they drive consumption, create new businesses and shape society. Never before have there been so many well educated young women – but the same goes for so many active, older women – being more present in society and business than ever before.

Media today is still portraying women in a limited way - The female force is a clear fact, but the reality in media is a different one. Typical images are ‘the glamorous sex kitten, the sainted mother, the devious witch, the hard-faced corporate climber’ according to a UNESCO report from 2009. The conclusion - we will need another 75 years to have gender equality in media. And neither is Germany far ahead compared to other countries, nor has there been a big leap forward in the last 5 years.

Broaden the story - instead of limiting it to stereotypes - I do not want to argue about stereotypes being right or wrong – but they are only part of the truth, neglecting that women have a more diverse identity. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sums it up in a TED talk:

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

Advertising has started to use natural beauty, imperfection and age as creative success factors, reflecting that people appreciate an honest reflection of today’s culture. The most prominent example is still Dove’s 2004 campaign on “real beauty”. Others have followed – from German female magazine “Brigitte” asking women in their 2011 campaign to “live a life more imperfect” to American lingerie brand Aerie launching their spring 2014 ads highlighting “the real you is sexy” by using untouched images.

We need more diverse images to promote a more diverse society - A change in how advertising pictures women is about much more than supporting female self-esteem. It reflects how society is changing and influences how we perceive men and women in relationships, family or work context.

The controversy that followed Barilla’s announcement last year to only support a traditional family image, and not see people outside this as their target group, indicates that we are ready for more image variety - as a legacy to the next generation, to support more choice, a different self-image and a better society - just by choosing from a broader range of female images.” 

About Nina Rieke:

Nina Rieke develops strategic insights based on cultural trends and human behaviour. Over the last 18 years she held a variety of positions in strategic planning and marketing, and as the Chief Strategy Officer for the DDB Tribal Group she works for clients such as Deutsche Telekom, Electrolux and eBay. Rieke holds a degree in social and business commmunications from the University of Arts, Berlin, is a frequent lecturer on strategic planning, and was member of the board for the German Account Planning Group (APG) until 2013. Nina is based in Berlin and enjoys urban life and the chances it offers in observing culture – in art as well as the everyday. You can find her on twitter as @ninarieke.

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Kara Jenkins
Creative Director at Isobar and founder of SheSays Melbourne, Australia

“The representation of women in the Australian advertising landscape is very much a mixed bag currently.

Our TVs and Magazines are lit up with ads that have been repurposed from global campaigns for the Australian market showing not much more then a retouched female striking a pose and a bold single-minded headline.

It really feels like brands are the ones behind the tone of how women are being represented, and some are getting it right, while others not so. The ones that are getting it right are delving more into understanding their audience, and talking to them, rather than at them.

With social media being high on the list in media strategy these days, brands now realise they have to engage in a two way conversation with their audience, which means they have to have something meaningful and real to discuss with their consumer.

Last year we saw a TV campaign from Target 'Style Journey' featuring Gok Wan, who caused controversy when he referred to women's breasts as "bangers" and "assets". This was of course deemed offensive to some, but lighthearted to others.

On the same subject a billboard for Australian underwear brand Bonds raised eyebrows when in large white type on a black background it simply read 'BOOBS'.

Is this really how women want to be marketed to?

You can however, feel a shift taking place, but a slow paced one at that. The more brands talk to, and engage their core female consumer, the more we see a realistic portrayal of women. Social media has, and continues to help this greatly - fueling a two-way conversation where brands can no longer hide behind TV ads or glossy magazines.

About Kara Jenkins:

As Creative Director for Isobar, Kara helps oversee the creative team of over 30 to help ensure the agency is providing the best quality creative and solutions across her suite of key brands. Kara has worked for several key integrated advertising agencies including TBWA, Clemenger and Leo Burnett.

Her work has been internationally and locally recognised via various accolades such as Cannes Lions, New York Festivals, AWARD, ADMA and AIMIA. As founder of SheSays Melbourne, Kara is an advocate for helping more women rise to the top of the industry, and holds regular events to provide networking, inspiration and support to likeminded women. You can follow Kara on twitter at @karatou

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