Canadians don’t hate (all) ads

A new survey by the Ad Standards Council found that sexism is a big turn off for consumers.

With all the doom and gloom around ad blocking and other disruptions, Advertising Standards Canada has some reasonably good news for marketers: Canadians don’t hate ads.

The independent, self-regulating agency released its annual ASC Research: Consumer Perspectives on Advertising 2016 report Thursday, which showed a majority of Canadians find advertising helpful and receive some value from it.

That’s the good news. The bad news is consumers still find many portrayals in ads to be sexist, racist and otherwise unacceptable, and that those portrayals will make them less likely to buy a product.

Respondents also didn’t let advertising agencies off the hook: one-quarter blamed agencies for the offensive portrayals, while roughly the same number blamed society at large and almost one-third blamed the company whose product was being advertised.

Research firm The Gandalf Group conducted an online survey of 1,564 Canadians for the ASC to understand how they perceive ads, with a special focus on sexism.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) said women are treated “somewhat” or “very unfairly” in Canadian ads, with 31% saying the same about portrayals of men. But the numbers were sharply divided by gender: 56% of women said women were treated unfairly while only 38% of men agreed. The gender split on the unfair treatment of men was virtually identical.

For women, the top examples of unfair treatment involved unrealistic body images; for men, it was being depicted as stupid.

The survey showed 63% of Canadians believe that at least some ads are sexist toward women (70% of women said so), while 40% said some are sexist toward men.

A plurality of Canadians see things improving: 44% said advertising is less sexist than it was 10 years ago, but 25% said it was becoming more so.

The criteria for what constituted a sexist ad included: objectifying women or men; portraying women in less powerful roles; omitting women from traditional male domains such as business meetings; and portraying  women in traditional roles, such as doing the laundry.

As for the consequences, 67% said they’re less likely to buy a product from a company that runs a sexist ad.

The full survey is available here.

Featured image via Shutterstock