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Gender targeting: how important is it?

We’ve all heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but did you know that when it comes to chocolate - men buy Mars and women buy Galaxy

Gender targeted advertising is an entrenched facet of the marketing industry, and the impact of it should never be underestimated.

Until a 1947 DeBeers campaign that ran with the slogan: "A diamond is forever," an engagement ring didn’t come anywhere close to a woman’s bucket list.

Targeted advertising is everywhere. Just sit for five minutes and watch children's TV programmes after the summer holidays - you’re guaranteed to see the mass proliferation of toy-related specials. In the wake of Christmas, we are similarly invited to escape the cold wintery weather by seizing that summer holiday bargain in the January sales. Targeting the audience whilst they’re ‘in the mood’ works every time.

Successful gender targeting

What about campaigns aimed at specific genders, just how successful are they?

In the list of top 100 ads, (as compiled by Ad Age,) the majority of the top 10 were aimed at both men and women.



"Think Small"




"The pause that refreshes"




The Marlboro Man




"Just Do It"




"You deserve a break today"




"A diamond is forever"



Absolut Vodka

The Absolut Bottle



Miller Lite

"Tastes great, less filling"




"Does she...or doesn't she?"




"We try harder"



For instance, the Marlboro Man, representing the very heart of the masculine male, comes in at No.3, whereas at No.9 stands the highest-ranking ad aimed at women by Clairol for hair dye, which suggested only the woman's hairdresser would know if she dyed her hair.

If we take a look at the remainder of the list, we get to see how little marketing is actually aimed at women, and apart from the few stand out brands like Dove and Sport England (who have both approached advertising to women in a very radical way), it seems traditional marketing is still very much geared towards either men (by default) or all genders.

Impact on social media

Is it more important to be funny, smart and enduring than appealing to one gender or the other? Is this a question of quality over direction? Social media thinks oftentimes it’s not. Many women who change their Facebook relationship status to ‘in a relationship' witness their page ads transform from the latest fashions at low cost prices to weight loss programmes and wedding photographers.

Most of us seem to think that gender targeting is common sense (let’s face it, sanitary products won’t be aimed at men), but it’s not as simple as that. Take ads for aftershave, aimed at the men, who wear it, and the women who buy it (for the men who wear it). Complicated, indeed.

Without a doubt, advertising is the most influential form of visual hyperbole that all of us have been guilty of falling for at one time or another. Imagine then if there was a way of determining exactly who the subject was, and personalising the ad they receive at the flick of a switch.

The future

Japanese team have innovated a billboard that can determine a passer-by's gender and approximate age in order to display a tailored ad. Pretty amazing stuff!

It’s a long cry from a universal solution to targeting gender, but it could put a stop to a car crash like the Coke Zero ads whose male dominated rhetoric didn’t fair well with the female soft drink consumers. “Dudes, Coke Zero is totally for guys. None of that girly Diet Coke stuff here! No way. So don’t be afraid. Unlike Diet Coke, this stuff won’t turn you into a chick or anything.” Ouch!!