Citigroup Inc. and the Association of National Advertisers are expanding the industry’s “#SeeHer” effort, which aims to improve the representation of women in marketing and media, with a new project boosting women in the music business.
“Women are quite honestly just missing from the music industry,” said Jennifer Breithaupt, chief marketing officer of Citi’s Global Consumer Bank.
Less than 22% of the artists behind hundreds of popular songs from 2012 through 2018 were female, according to a new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Just over 12% of songwriters were female, and only 2% of producers were female.
Citi hopes using female artists, especially up-and-coming performers, more often in its own commercials and events will help increase demand and support for female artists, Ms. Breithaupt said. Her goal when the brand asks agencies for music ideas is to solicit “50% female, 50% male and in a lot of cases, 50% female songwriters.”
The company also started a mentorship program, including $5,000 awards made to aspiring singer-songwriters.
For Citi, the effort could polish its brand at a time when doing good is considered basic marketing. The company also is publicizing the program on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday as part of its sponsorship of the show’s concert series.
It might also help with the effectiveness of its ads. Citi’s advertising in the last five years featured male musical artists more often than women, Ms. Breithaupt said. It became drawn to the issue partly after noticing that some of its advertisements performed better in focus-group testing when they included female vocal tracks instead of male vocals, according to Ms. Breithaupt. “It happened more than a handful of times where the only thing that changed was the song,” she said.
The Association of National Advertisers will seek more participants for the initiative, dubbed “#SeeHerHearHer,” from the ranks of marketers but also ad agencies and music labels, said Christine Manna, president and chief operating officer at the ANA. “They’re an integral part of this,” she said.
But advertisers’ budgets will be key. “Marketers are influencing the conversation by their choice of who they choose to use in their advertising and promotion,” Ms. Manna said.
The original #SeeHer has helped participating marketers achieve better results in goals such as purchase intent, Ms. Manna added.
The Right Time
Female artists’ presence in advertising recently has improved and is better than in the music industry as a whole, said a senior record-label executive who connects music acts with brands. That is partly because of changing musical tastes and partly a result of media fragmentation, she said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss industry partners.
Ads two to three years ago often used electronic-music soundtracks, according to the executive. “That was mostly about male creators,” she said. “Before that, when it was more about rock, that was mostly male creators. Now it’s more diffuse.”
Fragmenting consumer audiences and proliferating demand for digital ads also opened up new avenues for artists, she said. “There are so many genres that see the light of day because of streaming.”
It would help, however, if the agency industry employed more women as creative directors and music supervisors, she added. “If you had more diverse folks in those positions, you might have different outcomes,” she said.
David Lapinsky, vice president and music producer at Townhouse, a production agency within WPP PLC, agreed that other elements of ads, such as the narrative and casting, have a big impact on the music they end up using. But he said he’s found equal opportunities for female artists, songwriters and composers in advertising, “or at least a willingness for it to be.”
“With more clear social awareness, with more female empowerment, it really creates more opportunities for us to showcase female talent,” he said.