Correction appended, Feb. 8
Despite being half the audience, females had no speaking role in 64% of the national commercials aired during this year’s Super Bowl, according to a Motto analysis.
We also looked at several other factors—like how often women failed to appear in commercials, whether women had any lines and whether the voiceover artist was a man or a woman. Here are some of the most interesting findings about the (perhaps unconscious) gender bias:
-25% of the commercials had no women in them at all. Only 5% of the commercials contained no men.
-Of the 41 commercials that did contain women, 56% failed to give the women any spoken lines.
-Out of the 29 commercials with voiceovers, only two (or just under 7%) were done by women.
-We reached out to all of the brands that ran spots (and the production companies that produced them, as well) and can confirm that 50 of the 55 ads had male directors. One woman does make an appearance in this category: While there was no director role for Advil’s spot, the leads on it were Patricia Kendall and Carmine Licata. Colgate declined to share the name of its director, and we’re waiting to hear back on the other three spots.
For the purposes of this analysis, we included only the 55 spots that aired nationally during the game, not the ones that were broadcasted before or after it.
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Of course, gender is only part of a larger conversation about diversity in media. Our analysis also found that 44% of the commercials with women lacked any women of color.
There was one clear victory for diversity during the night: MINI’s empowering “Defy Labels” spot, which starts with tennis star Serena Williams saying, “This is a chick car,” followed by U.S. soccer legend Abby Wambach saying, “This is a gay car.”
And a couple of other spots—Budweiser’s “Simply Put” and “The Bud Light Party Super Bowl”—prominently featured women (Helen Mirren and Amy Schumer, respectively).
“It’s the most important day in American television,” says Amy Hill, a female director who was nominated for a Best Commercial award by the Director’s Guild of America and who’s part of Wondros’ directing duo Riess|Hill. “The Super Bowl is an incredible platform, and that’s why commercials that run during it are such a big deal to us. … Change starts with the advertisers. Brands have a responsibility to create parity in how they talk to their audiences.”
Correction: The original version of this article misstated the number of commercials featuring women and women of color. There were 41 commercials featuring women, and 44% of those featured women of color.