When are advertisers going to pay attention to single women?

They should. There are a lot of us.

Since the dawn of advertising, marketing strategies aimed at female consumers have had two goals: to convince them that the products being advertised would 1) help them get a man or 2) make them better mothers and wives.

sexy-hairIn the first category: makeup, perfume, clothing, fitness and hair care products that will make you sexier to men. You wear certain mascara, dab on expensive perfume and exercise until you get flat abs and you’ll snag a guy.  Even your hair must be considered as part of your arsenal of sexual attraction (check out the $18 volumizing spray called for in this “10 Ways to Sexy Hair” article from InStyle.)

Full disclosure: I wear makeup and jewelry. I style my hair. I wear clothes that flatter me, hopefully. I view these elements as ways to express my personal style, not as symbols of some kind of single-woman-desperation.

The second category is even more insidious. Pick up any non-fashion-oriented women’s magazine next time you’re at the supermarket and you’ll find tons of ads for food items, cleaning products, toys for kids and home décor accessories – all of which you should buy and use if you want to make your family happy and healthy.  These seemingly benign promotions are manipulative and damaging. Women have a tough time trying to live up to the idealized versions of wives and moms that are thrust upon them by society. I know this from friends who are wives and mothers. I know this from my own mother.

But I’m getting off track.

Time to ditch the stereotype

“How is it 2018 and many marketers still think a single woman is just a married couple who hasn’t happened yet?” That question is posed by Jess Lloyd in an AdWeek article entitled, “It’s Time to Ditch the Isolating Single Women Stereotypes and Expand Marketing Efforts to Include Them.”

Lloyd is VP & Planning Director at Hill Holliday, a Boston advertising agency. Her company conducted a study with focus groups that confirmed what we single people already know: “singlism” – discrimination against unmarried people – is real, particularly for women. (The term “singlism” was coined by and has been extensively written about by Bella Depaulo, PhD, a social scientist. Her book, Singlism: What It is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It, is available on Amazon.)

It’s not like our numbers are insignificant. Lloyd points out that unmarried women and men account for 60 million households in the U.S. The number of women in their 30s and 40s who have no children continues to rise.

Desperate and lonely

“Nearly half of the single women we surveyed think they are virtually nonexistent in advertising,” writes Lloyd. “When single women are depicted in the media, they’re often portrayed as hypersexualized, desperate or lonely. We’re seeing these outdated stereotypes circulate in perpetuity across advertising and media, and all the while these single ladies are growing into a sizable consumer force.”

Lloyd predicts that the single woman market segment will continue to grow in size and value. Her warning to marketers: if you don’t rethink how you define your customer, you will fall behind the rapid pace of cultural change.

It’ll be interesting to see if advertising professionals will be able to get beyond their own outdated notions about single women.

I’m thinking no. Not anytime soon, anyway.


Maureen Paraventi is the author of The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women, which explores the single life through conversations with unmarried women from all over the U.S. The New Old Maid is available from Amazon.

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This entry was posted in being single, fashion, feminism, feminist, Lifestyle, single life, Women's Issues and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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