Jaguar: it's time women took the wheel in automotive advertising

Rhidian Taylor
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Earlier this year, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) released a call to arms to the advertising business to stop stereotyping women. This caught our eye at Jaguar because we know the car industry has been one of the worst offenders.

According to the WFA research, 25% of ads feature men only while just 5% feature women only. And research undertaken by Unilever in 2015 showed that 40% of women don’t relate at all to the women they see in advertising.

There are so many clichés: mountain roads, a city at night, the moment where a car splashes through a stream... and a man in the driving seat looking pensive and determined

The car industry has certainly been guilty of this. Think about the car adverts you’ve seen recently. There are so many clichés: mountain roads, a city at night, the moment where a car splashes through a stream (especially if it’s an SUV) … and a man in the driving seat looking pensive and determined. Some car ads don’t feature a driver at all, but their tone and cues are unmistakably masculine. If 40% of women think advertising doesn’t talk to them, you’d be hard pressed to find a sector where that’s more apparent than the car industry.

And yet, nearly half (42%) of all new cars are registered to women. What’s more, women influence 85% of all car buying decisions, so even when they aren’t the buyer women nonetheless have a significant say. But still these female buyers and influencers are largely ignored by car advertising.

Some car ads do show women but all too often they’re in small (“shrink it and pink it”) cars, on the school run, going shopping or showing how practical the car is for families. And frequently women appear quietly in the passenger seat while the man takes the wheel.

Recently at Jaguar we’ve been trying to change this, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes great business sense. Only one in ten Jaguars is sold to a woman which seems a nonsense when women are buying over 40% of new cars. The journey begins with making our brand more relevant to women, including transforming the way they’re portrayed in our advertising.

In the last year, we’ve run several campaigns with women in lead roles. The Jaguar E-PACE Bend the Rules campaign features the ‘Mistress of Mischief’, a character cheeky enough to drive the car who uses her wiles to get away with all the things we wish we could.

A Breed Apart – the campaign for the Jaguar I-PACE, our first all-electric car – takes a more cinematic approach. All about how Jaguar people stand apart from the crowd, the striking ‘Bond girl’ walks with a life-size computer-generated Jaguar before driving her I-PACE in a dramatic electrical storm: “It’s just electricity – nothing to be afraid of”.

We believe our advertising is changing perceptions and building emotional connections. We’ve got more work to do but it’s a strong start that we hope others in the car industry will follow.