When the measurement industry began it was primarily run by women, and now it’s run by men. Why? This is the question that prompted us to begin The MeasHERment Interview. Our goals include a desire to recognize strong female role models, and to nurture female industry leaders. We realize that there are some in the measurement industry who identify as neither male nor female, and we don’t wish to leave you out. We’d be delighted to hear from any non-binary persons who don’t feel adequately recognized or represented in leadership.
This month The MeasHERment Interview welcomes Angela Jeffrey, Vice President of Brand Management at ABX, Advertising Benchmark Index. As we will discover, Angela was an early measurement entrepreneur, loves adventure travel, fills us in on the Super Bowl ads, and provides a plan for measuring gender equity in communications. If you like, jump to specific sections of the interview:
- The adventure traveler
- The measurement entrepreneur
- Measuring the effectiveness of advertising creative
- Measuring gender equality
- Did the Super Bowl ads add up?
- On gender roles and jobs
And now the interview…
Bill Paarlberg, TMA Editor: Hi Angie, welcome to The MeasHERment Interview.
Angela Jeffrey: Greatly honored to be here!
1. The adventure traveler
TMA: Angie, you sent over some intriguing photos to accompany this interview. This one here looks like a youthful adventure. Tell us about it.
AJ: Ha. The photo isn’t very good, but the story is… Quite a while ago my friend Penny and I were trekking the Himalayas, with Sherpas and all that. After several days my knees gave out and, from that point on, I had to go backwards down all the mountains. Don’t believe it when they say “foothills.”
TMA: So you’re quite a traveler?
AJ: Yes! Here’s a more recent shot of me making batik in Bali.
2. The measurement entrepreneur
TMA: OK. Speaking of adventure, let’s talk about your adventures in the early measurement industry. You created PRtrak, the first desktop publicity measurement system. When was that? What was the measurement industry like then? Was there even a measurement industry then?
AJ: I initially needed some little system to speed up the ad value measurement that I had learned for to do at JCPenney by hand. This was in the late nineties and I was unaware of anyone else who was trying to measure. My brother Erik is a programmer, and he helped me build a system for real to help other PR colleagues. We had no clue what we were getting into.
“I remember being surprised that I, as a woman, was able to source data from Arbitron and Nielsen, write contracts, handle all marketing, PR and speaking, direct the software build, and so on… I was working day and night. I lost some friends during that time as I had no time for anyone.”
TMA: At that time did you feel you were doing any sort of great or unusual thing by being a female measurement entrepreneur?
AJ: I remember being surprised that I, as a woman, was able to source data from Arbitron and Nielsen, write contracts, handle all marketing, PR and speaking, direct the software build, and so on. I’ll never forget landing the final data agreement and being told by Luce that we had a ‘tiger by the tail.’ But I was working day and night. I lost some friends during that time as I had no time for anyone.
“…women are the creatives; the problem-solvers; the ones who want to help others as they solve their own problems.”
TMA: When you began PRtrak there seemed to be more female measurement entrepreneurs than males. Yet today there are few women in top leadership in comms measurement companies. Why?
AJ: I think most of us early entrepreneurs came from a need-based point of view. For instance, JCPenney had drummed ad value measurement (sorry!) into my head and they remained a client for 10 years. I hated doing it by hand and calling stations for rates, so inventing PRtrak met a need in my own life.
I think Katie had trouble convincing a boss of the value of her work until she put it into charts and graphs. It worked so well that she quit and formed her own company. I think Angela Sinickas’ story is similar. So, maybe I can say that women are the creatives, the problem-solvers, the ones who want to help others as they solve their own problems.
I see many of the young turks who run these businesses now as being highly proficient in business and technology skills. These guys come in when the women are exhausted and need either capital or management support to take them to the next level. PRtrak had won about 150 contracts in its first 3 years with no one but me selling. We started talking to angels when my health gave out. We sold instead to the former SDI, which was practically all male in management back then. And I heaved a sigh of relief. Of course, today women are equally trained in business and technology, so no blanket statement can really be made.
TMA: Have you experienced any particular help or hindrance during your career because of your gender? Did you have to compensate or be more aggressive or consciously manipulate situations to adapt?
AJ: I probably should have compensated more than I did in my career, but truthfully, PR is so female-centric, I never felt the need to be a different gender to succeed. I did feel tremendous pressure in my social life to be a ‘stay at home mommy,’ which wasn’t possible at that time. And, I did feel the PRtrak yoke was very heavy, since my husband was more involved in our agency and I often didn’t know which way to turn. However, maybe any entrepreneur would feel that way who was pioneering a new technology and who hadn’t been trained in many of the needed areas.
I do feel more gender pressure now on the advertising side. I’m the only woman in management at ABX; all the partners are men. I’ve become more assertive in these last years. ABX is another entrepreneurial company and areas of expertise are very delineated. I am careful to adopt the style of the rest of the team.
3. Measuring the effectiveness of advertising creative
TMA: Let’s talk about ABX. What do you and ABX do?
AJ: Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX) exists because 50 to 60 percent of an ad’s success is based on its creative, just like the success of a PR story lies in what it says. But ad creative testing has been slow and expensive, and only 10 to 20 percent are tested before they run. Our vision is to enable companies to measure all their advertising, and that of their competitors, at a fraction of what testing has cost in the past. Now, with ABX’s creative test results showing up on their dashboards in 24 hours, creative and media teams can yank a poor ad off the air and fix it, or exchange it, thereby saving marketing spend.
TMA: How does ABX do that?
Ads are tested in online surveys with consumer panels. The panelists rate each ad on 14 key performance indicators, like Brand Linkage, Message Clarity, Relevance, Reputation, Likability, Calls-to-Action, and Gender Equality. We have no black boxes; our formula is open to all clients.
The ABX Index, the most important measure, is comprised of several of the KPIs that correlate best to outcomes. We’ve just expanded into 13+ foreign countries, so we’re the only syndicated ad testing firm in the world—not to mention the only firm testing gender equality in advertising.
“I do feel more gender pressure now on the advertising side. I’m the only woman in management at ABX; all the partners are men. I’ve become more assertive in these last years… I am careful to adopt the style of the rest of the team.”
4. Measuring gender equality
TMA: I’ve heard great things about the Gender Equality Index, and ABX’s work with ANA and AFE and #SeeHer.
AJ: #SeeHer was launched in June 2016 as a partnership between the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) subcommittee, the Alliance for Family Entertainment (AFE) and The Female Quotient (TFQ). The #SeeHer mission is to achieve a 20 percent rise in accurate portrayals of women and girls in advertising and media by 2020—the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.
Several years ago, the ANA/AFE needed a way to measure how actors are presented in advertising in terms of appropriateness, role models, etc. ABX’s Chairman, JJ Klein, and President, Gary Getto, had already established a syndicated measurement system that could address the problem. They started with 30 variables and whittled them down to four that correlated with reputation and calls to action. As of today, ABX has measured about 55,000 ads in all media types for gender bias. ABX supplies this gender data to the ANA/AFE for the #SeeHer program. You can see articles that report our results in ABX’s newsroom.
TMA: Any LGBTQ data?
AJ: No, we don’t have LBGTQ data yet, but are about to start testing for how LBGTQ actors are presented in ads, along with various ethnicities, disabilities, etc. We currently test for how men, women, boys, and girls are portrayed.
“Nothing keeps young people from being taken seriously more than an inability to grasp what a client or vendor is saying, or insisting on your own point of view.”
TMA: How is ABX’s Gender Equality Index related, if at all, to the Gender Equality Index from the European Institute for Gender Equality?
There’s no relationship. ABX is focused on how advertising portrays men, women, and children. The European Institute looks at real societal scores to judge the health and well-being of women in different countries. ABX has just rolled out gender equality testing in 14 countries (representing almost 90% of all media spend), so we hope to help impact the lives of women and girls throughout the world.
TMA: In an interview in 2017 you made a very exciting recommendation that comms measurement include measures of gender bias:
“…measurement pros should also be evaluating their own, and their competitors’, content for how they are presenting human characters in photographs and video. This is almost more important in non-paid media than in paid. There is no guidance yet within the PR world to direct this measurement, but we’ve created a Powerpoint that fleshes out the four key questions that we use in Gender Equality Measurement. It’s easy to adapt these four questions for PR by creating your own index.” (See Slide 8, with the four KPIs, below.)
Any progress on this? What brands or companies do you know of that regularly evaluate their comms for gender bias?
AJ: As far as companies using gender bias measurement, I know of no one in the PR world doing it yet. But any measurement firm can figure this out in a couple of hours. The four KPIs shown above were found to most closely differentiate between high and low levels of gender bias. A scale can be developed for photographs, or even for copy. I think the first firm that starts doing this will have a fresh new sales advantage.
5. Did the Super Bowl ads add up?
TMA: Did you and ABX do anything on the Super Bowl ads this year? Anything you can share yet?
AJ: Yes, we measured every one of the 55 ads and focused on gender equality for Jack Neff’s AdAge piece (“Super Bowl Commercials’ Portrayal of Women has Improved, but not much, Study Finds”) and on the success of various fashion/celebrity ads for WWD (“Super Bowl 2019’s Top 5 Ads for Culture Enthusiasts”). As for the gender role results, in brief, women and men appeared in fewer ads this year, and the general score for women’s portrayal inched up slightly, but not significantly.
6. On gender roles and jobs
TMA: Let’s talk more about gender roles. Two years ago I interviewed Gini Dietrich and she pointed out a very distinct difference between male and female job candidates:
“I’m shocked at the difference in men and women candidates. Every single male candidate has negotiated his package. Every single woman has not… I sometimes want to shake candidates and say, “Negotiate with me!”
Have you noticed differences in how men and women approach their jobs? Are there instances in which one gender might be better suited for a role or responsibility than another?
AJ: In the past, we often associated caring, people-oriented types of jobs as most suitable to women: nursing, executive assistants, public relations, etc. Women are still often well-suited to many of those fields. But today there is a huge push in all major countries to encourage women to go into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers. At this point, women are still a minority of STEM workers in the U.S., making up less than 24% in 2015. Look to see this change.
In my own case, I started my career in fashion and public relations with a big emphasis on events and publicity. I did well, won Silver Anvils, but got bored. I wouldn’t have dreamed I had the chops to do the kind of research I now do daily at ABX. If anything, women must be malleable and open to growth in unexpected areas of their careers.
By the way, when I was in high school and was tested by the Johnson O’Connor Foundation, I was told I had no aptitude for numbers or research work. I believed it to be true, so early on in my career I tried to stay away from anything analytical. As it turns out, I have an appetite for exploratory research. It’s not as easy for me as it is for some others with high math genes, but I do okay.
“Another thing [that keeps young people from being taken seriously] is the horrible accent so many young women have developed based on pop culture. It causes those around them to think of them as ‘little girls’ and not ‘young professionals.’ ”
TMA: In recent years we have heard much about gender inequity and harassment in the workplace. Is there any reason to believe the comms measurement industry is different from other industries in this respect?
AJ: I don’t think I’ve ever heard of gender harassment in the measurement services industry. There are too many women to make that a common problem. I think we’re at 80 – 90 percent female now in public relations, so harassment more likely comes from our own sex than others. However, I’m sure that women in communications in regular businesses are subject to the same threats as anyone else.
TMA: Have you observed—or experienced yourself —any obvious instances of gender bias, stereotyping, or exploitation in the measurement and evaluation industry?
AJ: No. I have found the men in this industry to be lovely, even those very high up in their organizations. I think anyone who goes into a communications job does it because they care about people, want to communicate well with them, and hope to help our world be a better place.
TMA: What advice do you have for women on their way up in the measurement industry?
AJ: Learn to listen, and try not to talk like Kim Kardashian. Seriously. Nothing keeps young people from being taken seriously more than an inability to grasp what a client or vendor is saying, or insisting on your own point of view. Another thing is the horrible accent so many young women have developed based on pop culture. It causes those around them to think of them as “little girls” and not “young professionals.”
TMA: Thanks for talking with us Angie.
AJ: You are very welcome, Bill.