Selling to the Bridget Jones generation

Targeting today's woman is seen as adland's biggest challenge, writes Meg Carter. But just exactly who is she?

Bridget Jones has got a lot to answer for. To some she defines a generation of single, independent thirtysomething women with disposable income. To others she is sad, frustrated and self-indulgent. No wonder young, single women have become the most challenging target market for UK advertisers.

And boy is adland running hard to keep up. So hard, in fact, that understanding today's female under-35s is becoming an industry in its own right. Focus groups, demographic analyses and, this week, a one-day Winning Women conference are being devoted to the cause as advertisers try to come to grips with who we are, what we want and how to persuade us to spend our cash on them.

There's a stark difference in attitude between women in their mid-thirties and over and those who are younger, believes Carol Reay, chief executive of advertising agency Mellors Reay & Partners and chair of the Winning Women event. "It's the post-feminist thing, I suppose. Working women of my age, 41, definitely feel they are one of only a few. I don't think younger women feel so lonely or out on their own," she says. "The problem with marketing is that it hasn't got it right for many older women for quite some time. Whether it's getting it right for the younger, post-feminist brigade must surely be in doubt as well."

Never have there been so many better-educated women working and earning more and putting off marriage and having children later. We want to cram more into our lives and we have more to spend than ever before. The challenge for the advertising industry is to understand what we want and where we're coming from. But how can they do so when many of us, apparently, still don't really know ourselves?

"These women are optimistic but torn - between hope and excitement about what they can achieve and the cultural norm of marrying, settling down and having kids," says Melanie Howard, director of forecaster the Future Foundation.

"Their challenge is to define a positive role in society beyond the late Eighties' negative stereotypical career woman who was a ball-breaking man hater."

Conflict is a major factor affecting our everyday lives, agrees Paul Edwards, chief executive of the Henley Centre for Forecasting. "There is still conflict between carer or career - how these women will resolve it will surprise all of us. Many women working in marketing departments today are baby-boomers and don't understand their younger, female consumers."

Even so, today's young woman views the future - with its increased freedom and growing opportunities - with optimism. Society is opening out to produce a huge younger generation of people who interact very well with each other, it seems.

"There may still be industries where women are not so well accepted, but there is hope that by confronting old prejudices the walls will come down," says Ms Fydler, who conducted research among a cross-section of ambitious and successful women aged between 15 and 35 earlier this month. "These women see men and women as different but equal. They don't want to emulate to succeed, they want to be themselves."

Confidence and independence no longer come from external trappings. "It's down to being yourself and feeling comfortable with it. These women are far more inner-directed," she says. And the role models chosen by this age group would appear to underline the point. Forget Anita Roddick and Germaine Greer, today's sources of inspiration are clever yet unostentatious, quietly confident and not obsessed by outward appearance.

This, however, is where many marketers fall down. Adland may now proudly denounce overtly sexist advertising, but it still relies too much on sexual stereotypes. Long gone are the days when car ads featured scantily clad female models to demonstrate "handling", or a household product was enthused over by, in adland parlance, "2 Cs in a K" (Clue: K stands for kitchen and the C word rhymes with "punt"). Yet many marketing "experts" are still missing the point. Using sex to sell is old hat, Ms Fydler claims. And using gender roles and role-reversal is dismissed by many as "boring".

Take the Nissan Micra's "Ask before you borrow it" campaign. Many of Ms Fydler's interviewees responded negatively to the depiction of the woman as a ranting harridan. The Terry's Chocolate Orange ad starring Dawn French, however, shows a large woman enjoying chocolate with a witty endline: "It's not Terry's, it's mine!" This scored better as it was seen to portray a woman at ease with herself.

Another popular ad was for Boots Natural Collection, in which a naked girl dances in a giant fish tank. She, too, was perceived as liberated, in control and at ease with her body.

"These people don't like to be sold a lifestyle by a product," Ms Fydler adds. "Too often marketers focus on their product rather than women's attitudes to themselves and their changing role in society." In other words, don't talk to me as a woman, engage me as a person. And if the product's specifically aimed at women? "Don't mess about, tell me about it and why it's so great."

Edwards believes there is a role for products and brands which "offer solutions" to young women's increasingly complicated and busy lives. Practical benefits rather than aspirational images are therefore more effective, he claims. Marketers used to assume women were looking for symbols of motherhood, family or home life. Not any more. Nowadays it is blokes who seek reassurance in advertising.

"Women today want a product that does this or that," he says. "Men want brands, meanwhile, that say `It's OK. Don't worry. Buy this'." Poor dears.

For information about Winning Women contact 0171-413 4116.



Dawn French "Funny, big and beautiful - obviously a woman at ease with herself"

Jennifer Saunders "Funny, clever, private - doesn't over-sell herself"

Vivienne Westwood "Has really carved out a niche for herself and stuck it out in a tough business world"

Isabella Rossellini "Beautiful but doesn't care - willing to look her worst on film"


Anita Roddick "Has sold out, too commercial, doesn't `walk the talk' as she has claimed"

Germaine Greer "What is feminism - it's about equalism nowadays"

Janet Street Porter "Loud, exhibitionist and obnoxious - seems to be saying things just for effect, even though this is probably unfair"

Source: 2CV

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Ad Sales - UK Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global mul...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Vendor Services Manager (IT) - Central London

£50000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Vendor Services Manager (...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album