The secrets of selling to women (and men)

An advertising research firm offers lessons in appealing to different sexes

Published March 11, 2010 4:12PM (EST)

Let's play Don Draper for a minute. You're a high-powered advertising executive, and you've got a fancy new Rolex to sell. You want to place a print ad that'll grab that coveted 18-35 demographic, for both men and women. So how do you capture the attention of the guys flipping through Golf Digest and the ladies who subscribe to Travel & Leisure? Aha! For the men's ad, focus on a close-up of a trophy. For the ladies, add horses.

This might sound insanely reductive, but it's what Rolex actually did in 2009. And it worked! According to a study conducted by MRI Starch Communications, a print advertising research firm, 80 percent of young women were attracted to the ad that featured an equestrian in the Kentucky Three Day, while 86 percent of men gravitated towards the Rolex advertisement flashing the President's Cup.

MRI Starch's study, as reported by Ad Age, selected the top print ads in 2009 in 11 product categories, ranking them according to how many male and female readers responded to the ad. What it reveals about the gender divide in marketing is well-worn territory -- men like ads with hot actresses! Ladies just looove sparkly things! -- but what's interesting is where men and women agree. Stella Artois scored highest for both men and women in the beer and ale category for a simple ad that just featured a tall, frothy class of Stella -- no men on jet-skis, no cleavage. And the top scorer in the food category, for both men and women, was an advertisement for DiGiorno Flatbread Melts, a portrait shot of that upscale hot pocket that highlights the convenience of the dish. It just goes to show: Men and women may respond to different advertising campaigns, but at least after we put down the magazines, we can go out for a frosty Belgian ale and a good microwavable sandwich.


By Margaret Eby

Margaret Eby has written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Salon and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in New York City.

MORE FROM Margaret Eby

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Advertising Broadsheet Gender Love And Sex