Mobile marketing's gender gap

Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles' director of digital strategy calls for more women in the mobile marketing industry

A Fleishman-Hillard Inc. study reported that over the next decade women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

As we look towards 2015, it’s more important than ever to consider the implications of this statistic for mobile advertising and marketing. As mobile becomes consumers’ preferred platform, advertisers need greater awareness of how women influence the consumer marketplace if they hope to be successful in what is sure to be a benchmark year for mobile.

As a woman in mobile marketing, I’m well aware of the gender disparity in our industry. In order to change the low number of women working in mobile, we need to focus awareness on systemic challenges facing the category, while showing the value and importance of a women’s perspective for our mobile future.

The issue: Mobile is still homeless

Mobile marketing has yet to find a permanent home in many marketing departments.  Research shows marketers and advertisers are still uncertain about the medium’s effectiveness, and we remain in the early stages of developing mobile marketing as standard practice.

Even though we’re seeing mobile-ad projections increase each year, mobile-ad spending could be much higher given how much time consumers spend on their devices. eMarketer estimates American adults spend almost a quarter of their media time on mobile devices, yet only 9.8% of ad buys went to mobile in 2014. A 2014 Mobile Behavior Report, ExactTarget found that women are significantly more likely to like or follow a brand on social media to receive coupons or deals (71% do so, compared to 63% of consumers overall), yet marketers aren’t taking advantage in their mobile strategies.

Why is this? Could the uncertainty be related to a lack of diverse opinions - including women’s - influencing and shaping the mobile marketing narrative? If so, how can we pinpoint the origins of the issue and move forward the industry forward to reassure marketers and advertisers?

Mobile has a technical history

One reason: The current mobile marketing landscape is distinct from other areas of marketing. Traditionally, mobile marketing has been tied to the functionality and technology of devices themselves. Many, many people currently working in the existing mobile community hail from the product development side, a predominantly male sector, versus traditional advertising and marketing communications industries.

Since product technology and user interface skills are driven by product design and engineering and not out of marketing departments, the gender discrepancy on the engineering side of mobile has bled into the marketing side of mobile. The result is an inherent lack of women sitting at the mobile marketing table, and consequently a lack of a female perspective.

Women in mobile, for mobile

Women are uniquely positioned to add a valuable and diverse perspective to mobile marketing. We can empathize and truly understand a woman’s needs and mindset in the context of technology. We understand certain pain and passion points and can use those insights to help create better, more relevant experiences for consumers — the more relevant the mobile experience, the more we will see mobile marketing being selected as a first-choice engagement option.

A few years ago, I was one of four women working for a mobile-technology firm. We were working on a project for a consumer packaged goods brand whose main target audience was moms, and we were well aware of how important it was to engage the purchasing power that moms hold within the household.

Our task was to develop a mobile-optimized website where moms could read reviews and recommendations from other moms about the product and locate where to buy the product via a store locator and inventory match. When it was time to review the user-experience wireframes, we noticed the interface required the user to type components into several lead forms — meaning the functionality of the app design optimized interactions for someone browsing with two free hands. But busy moms juggling various physical activities throughout the day rarely have both hands free to dedicate to interacting with an app. And without a first-hand experience, that sort of consideration may not have entered the planning process.

The future

If advertisers and marketers are to take advantage of everything mobile has to offer, we need to help create better experiences for all consumers on mobile. In order to create those experiences, we need to engage diverse perspectives to move the industry forward.

I’m optimistic about the future for women in mobile. This September, Business Insider published a list of the 32 most powerful women in mobile; BI acknowledged that the industry was dominated by men and noting that only one woman made its list of the most powerful people in mobile advertising last year.

Prominent female business leaders are also making major strides. Women like Angie Ruan, Head of PayPal Retail’s engineering team and former head of eBay’s mobile strategy, played an integral role in creating the first PayPal mobile product to enable merchants to take payments easily anywhere. And at Mobile World Congress, Ginny Rommety, CEO of IBM, introduced IBM’s Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, a global competition encouraging developers to create mobile apps that build on top of the artificial intelligence supercomputer technology.

We’re still early in the development of mobile marketing as a practice among advertisers and marketers, and there’s an enormous opportunity for women to get involved. Let’s take a seat at the table and help shape the future experience of our mobile-first world.

Kayla Green is director of digital strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles.

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