Women as a niche market

 Posted by on July 30, 2008 at 9:58 am  Media-Web-News, Season 1
Jul 302008

Marti Barletta, author of two books on marketing to women and founding member of the Women Gurus Network, has an article in the current Ad Age about Mad Men and the attitude toward women seen in it. She is not pleased.

I caught one of the recent reruns from the first season, and, just to stay current, tried to watch it all the way through. What raised the bile in the back of my throat was when the ad guys stumbled across the eternal question “What do women want?” and the flippant reply was “Who cares?” I don’t know about Leo Burnett or J. Walter Thompson, but ad legend David Ogilvy rolled in his grave at that moment. Here’s a guy who showed he understood what side his bread was buttered on when he said, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”

It’s a shame Ms. Barletta didn’t see that the episode in question (Ladies Room) is criticizing Roger’s attitude. Had she seen it all the way through, she’d have seen Don working and struggling to answer that question; in his own relationships and, concurrently, for the job.

But I’m not dissing Ms. Barletta”when you’re really close to a subject, it’s hard to tolerate bullshit, even when the bullshit is there in order to show, well, that it’s bullshit.

She goes on to say

Until two or three years ago, women as consumers were still thought of as a niche market. When my first book, “Marketing to Women,” was published in 2003, I’d get invited to speak at corporations by their emerging-markets teams — those poor souls charged with influencing 84% of the population (blacks, Hispanics, Asians and now women) with 5% of the budget. They brought me in to explain to their management that women are not an “emerging” market. At 51% of the population, they’re actually the majority market and make fully 80% of consumer spending decisions.

Now, this is stunning. “Niche” marketing to women may be fading into the past, but women are still relegated to the Fashion/Style section in mainstream media. I could give a thousand examples, but most recently is this article in the New York Times about the BlogHer conference. An article about female bloggers is (of course) “niche” and is relegated to Fashion/Style, whereas an article about the health of male bloggers back in April was in the Technology section. At the end it doesn’t matter who you are, every market have customers and I have heared that Sales force CRM software is the best to manage your customers. Just keep in mind that you are here to make profit and keep customers happy!

So, back to Ad Age. Ms. Barletta is peeved that women are so marginalized on Mad Men, and she wants us to know that 1962 was not the good old days. But you know what? We’re still marginalized, and talking about it through the medium of 1962 is a way of talking about it today. Mad Men is promoting, not denying, her mission.


  12 Responses to “Women as a niche market”

  1. Agreed. We're playing for the same team here. In fact, one of the things I appreciate most about Mad Men is that it portrays life behind the sitcom or the film reel, where everything is beautiful and all you can think about is how great that woman looks in her chic 1960s outfit and wouldn't it be terrific if you could get happy endings like that in today's world?

    I used to do theatre in high school, and whenever we would do a period piece, girls would sigh and say "I was born in the wrong decade, I want to wear hats". Which is fine and dandy (I want to wear hats too. Pink pill boxes), but we never stopped to think what went along with the hat, and the white gloves. Or who got to wear them and who didn't.

    Mad Men allures, but also reminds us of time not that long past. And that's why I love it anyway.

  2. This writer is using a typical marketing ploy. Notice that she make sure to note the title and year published of her last book. It is a way to get the info out there and in the current press. Maybe drum up some book sales. Her book has probably been languishing on the bookshelves for a while. This is free advertising and will bring out a little "recent" interest in her book.

    If she really wanted to do the ethical thing. She should have sat her butt down and watched the whole series or even the entire episode. She would have seen that the whole gist of the sotryline was to point out the ignorance of Roger and the Boy's Club, and show Don's brilliance and surprising sensitivity for the time.

    She would have also seen how Don is slowly morphing into Peggy's mentor.

  3. I mean she mentioned her "first" book. In hopes people will buy it and be so amazed they find out where to buy her next book.

  4. Julia, very smart commentary.

    Ellelque, there is nothing wrong with a writer promoting her own books. And she is not the one who decides what a byline will look like. When you write for publication, you submit the byline info (Deborah Lipp, author of…, lives in…, blah blah blah), and the publication decides what and how much of it will appear. Her authorship promotes her book, and also gives her authority; it is her credentials for writing the article. It is in no way unethical.

  5. Marketing is not unethical. It is part of our world.

    My problem was more with the fact that she states that "I caught one of the recent reruns from the first season, and, just to stay current, tried to watch it all the way through."

    She bases her whole article on "women niche" but failed to sit through the whole episode and see that it indeed comes up with what she is trying to say, Women are the market.

    I just think that is wrong to promote her book at the expense of putting down another work, Matt's. It would have been more appropriate to priase Matt's writing and how it show's her own theory about how there was a time when they felt women were a niche. Matt's writing is a work in progress that will eventually show these people and the society evolve. How else are we to understand how far we've come if we don't see where we were.

  6. Interestingly, in the same magazine/website, AdAge, there is another Review (link below) by Barbara Lippert (any relationship Lipp Sisters?) that is extremely interesting and insightful from her point of view (as all reviews should be – even if we don''t agree with them). What makes this review neat is the willingness by the Reviewer to admit she was wrong with her first-impressions and to adjust her opinions based on more in-depth thought and further viewings ("…my obsessive view was in fact making me the dim one"). Her assessment of FTWTY as: "…the best ever, setting up psychologically intricate story arcs that will play out all year in grandly satisfyingly Sopranos-like fashion", is followed by some really interesting insight…

  7. Peter, thanks for the link. No relation that I know.

    Ellelque, it may be that the author is being cheesy, but it may also be that when her pet peeve appears on screen, it irritates her too much to pay close attention. I know the feeling and I sympathize, even though she's wrong.

  8. I can't say I have much tolerance for her point, because it's poking into my pet peeve zone. It's the same gut reaction I have when someone says Joss Whedon is sexist or racist, because… You don't kick the people who are trying to say something important because they didn't get an A+ on their report card, not when most everybody else in their field is flunking out, and you bring your native-born intelligence to the experience and understand that a writer doesn't advocate everything he/she writes, often the reason they wrote it is a form of protest.

    I have sympathy for Ellelque's point as well. There's nothing wrong with peddling your work, but not by making a point that isn't honest. I don't know, of course, that she doesn't believe what she's selling, but no careful observer of the show could possibly come away with the impression she did, and to make the allegation without careful observation or stating more than once that you say part of an episode and it existed in a vacuum, and the most you can do is use it as a discussion point rather than make a point about the actual show, and I'm running out of commas, largely discredits her. But might sell books — too bad her last name isn't O'Hara.

    Of course, I've spent time on the IMDB board which has worn down all tolerance for people incapable of paying attention or processing simple information.

  9. Oh, and add homophobic to the charges against Joss Whedon. I know, right?!

  10. There are just some people who are incapable of understanding irony.

  11. I’m sorry. You kind of have to be an idiot to look at that moment and think that the team behind the show is actually behind that thinking!

    She gets high marks proving herself to be wit-free.

  12. […] here’s my favorite article of the week, from Ad Week (hat tip to Basketcase Peter G.). Barbara Lippert writes an insider’s critique of Mad Men, hating it and then loving it, […]

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