A+E Networks, the parent of Lifetime, which has been serving women TV viewers for 30 years, is stepping up its research game in order to provide advertisers fresh insights into marketing to women.
The “SheReports” initiative is the beginning of A+E’s effort to provide marketers — and prospective clients — with data and cultural information that will make viewers more comfortable watching ad supported TV for women, make the advertising and marketing more effective and bring extra business to A+E.
As part of the effort, A+E has already conducted two major studies about women. It has begun publishing a monthly newsletter for about 5,000 brand decision-makers. And it is working with the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer program, which aims to increase the percentage of accurate portrayals of women and girls in the U.S. in media by 20% by 2020 — the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
Amy Baker, executive VP of client strategy and insights at A+E Networks and head of a recently launched Client Strategy and Insights team, said the initiative grew out of research showing that women didn’t like the way they were depicted in TV advertising.
Surveys found that 59% of women felt misunderstood by food advertisers, 66% by health-care marketers, 74% by auto marketers and 84% by investment marketers. Those statistics caught A+E’s attention.
”We’ve been in the women’s space for over 30 years and always doing what we do best and that’s providing amazing content to a broad range of women viewers,” Baker said. “But what we probably didn’t do as much as we could have done was to be a thought leader and take the leadership role in how to really reach women on their terms and really do some intelligent different research that we could not only use for our own programmers, but also be able to share those insights with marketers.”
Two years ago, A+E began working with research companies and cultural anthropologists on a couple of broad studies on womanhood and how women look at money.
The Womanhood Insights study found that women of nearly all ethnic, economic and educational backgrounds want to see strength when women are depicted on TV. They also prefer a realistic portrayal of their lives, not a glossy fantasy.
“In our study, only 4% of women strongly agreed that they felt like they were accurately represented in media,” A+E VP, primary research, ad sales Strategic insights Joetta Gobell said.
But the experience of being a woman is not a unified one. Surprisingly, the survey found political leaning was the biggest variable in how women reacted to depictions of women in the media.
“It’s something marketers never truly address when it comes to creating what their marketing objectives are and how psychographically they want to reach their audience,” Baker said. “So it’s really nice to be able to have these marketers pause and think about it a little differently.”
Baker has been taking the study directly to decision-makers at major marketers. Having its sales team bring thought leadership to the table has helped them win new ad business, such as Ford, which heard A+E insights on marketing to women and for the first time bought a schedule of commercials on Lifetime.
The other major study was Women & Money. “We really just wanted to understand where women’s attitudes and behaviors and emotions around finance come from,” Baker said. “And then how does that translate into what they’re looking to hear from financial providers and service?”
The Women & Money study found that women and men have similar attitudes about financial services and investments. “In fact, messaging that we shared with them that actually differentiated and spoke to gender was actually very alienating to both men and women,” Gobell said.
Financial services is an advertising category that doesn’t spend as much as it should on Lifetime and other women’s media outlets, Baker said. “We just don’t even get looked at for banking and the investment category at all. It goes to the male side of the house,” she said.
In addition to being disseminated to marketers, A+E is taking the insights from the studies to heart internally.
“What’s so fantastic about this company is that we’re always working with different research firms and different studies and this being a very big part of it that when it comes to being at the table when programming decisions are being made when it’s being developed, when we’re thinking about how we’re going to approach our own marketing, all of this is absolutely a part of the conversation woven into what our filters are,” Baker said.
But the insights from the studies that have been shared with clients are being used to develop video products, some of which will be launched at on-air branded content.
Learning What Viewers Want
“These insights give us the ability to then create product that makes sense for what the viewers want and what the advertisers need,” she said. “So we have a handful of different products that are in development right now.”
The products include both short- and long-form programming.
“We’re in the midst of creating those products that will be a direct result of these studies and working with marketers. So it’s sort of at the confluence of all those pieces coming together,” she said. One project and its sponsor are expected to be announced shortly.
“That project is a result of all this hard work that we’ve been doing,” Baker said.
“We applaud A+E Networks for expanding their SheReports initiative,” said Stephen Quinn, chair, ANA AFE #SeeHer. “They have been proven partners since we launched #SeeHer in 2016. We share their passion to increase accurate portrayal of women and girls in advertising and media. We fully support them in sharing their business-driving insights with our industry.”