Women in the Driver’s Seat

Mar 23rd, 2021

Written by Ampersand Marketing

If the Truck is King, could the SUV be Queen? It may seem so—

The current data revolution in marketing has upended the traditional and outdated notions around gender and behavior if they were even true to begin with. According to Marc Bland, IHS Markit’s Chief Diversity Officer, women account for 62% of new cars sold in the U.S. and influence over 85% of all new car purchases. Demographic breakdown for the Cadillac nameplate across SUV categories revealed that women decidedly make up most SUV owners. 57% of small premium SUVs and 61% of small SUV owners are women.

According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, one of GM’s smallest brands, Buick is big with female buyers, Buick, GM’s mid-luxury brand, leads in market share with 56% of their vehicles purchased by women. The piece also states that in 2020, sales for the brand were led by their SUV Encore. Inside GM, Cadillac is No. 2 with their XT4, XT5 and XT6 models accounting for 43.9% of their sales to women. According to IHS Markit, women buy more compact and midsize luxury SUVs—the single largest growth market among luxury brands—more than any other vehicle type.


Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Therefore, the knowledge — that women play a dominant and crucial role in impacting an auto brand’s bottom line — brings opportunity for interest to be paid on every ad dollar spent speaking to women. Despite all of this accrued knowledge, the investment is still lagging when it comes to fully embracing the business opportunity that women represent in the automotive marketplace.

The auto industry still all too often looks at women in a monolithic way that doesn’t fully recognize their importance and influence in purchasing decisions. Automakers need look no further than to the NFL, one of their most important media partners in perennially driving brand and sales, who has begun acknowledging that female fans are more than male accessories. Last month Forbes published an article, Data Shows Women Paid More Attention To Super Bowl LII Than Men, that research in recent years revealed, that nearly half of the NFL’s fanbase is women and that the Super Bowl viewing experience—including the actual game—held women’s attention better than men’s.

On the Road to Progress

The knowledge-investment gap notwithstanding, there are still many positive examples to point to. For one, Cadillac launched its EV (electric vehicle), the LYRIQ, an SUV, during this year’s Super Bowl with its Edgar Scissorhands spot. What was truly noteworthy was the story was not told from Edgar’s perspective but in fact through the lens of his mother, played by Winona Ryder.

Actress Regina King, a Cadillac Ambassador who was featured in the launch of the 2021 Escalade last fall describes the Cadillac experience as “all about ambition, being hopeful, and being relentless as you work towards your goals.”

Hope. Ambition. Goals.

Sadly, all those things have been crippled by the effects of the pandemic on women over the past year.

According to a UN policy brief titled The Impact of COVID-19 on Women — women have been the hardest hit group.

But they will also be the backbone of recovery in our communities.

Hope. Ambition. Goals.

Never have three words meant so much to an entire country. Women need to be inspired to get these things back as our world starts to mend from the impacts of COVID-19.

Now, more than ever, auto brands have an opportunity and ultimately a responsibility to inspire women. And to a great extent they are, because of initiatives like SEEHER, from the Association of National Advertisers. This mission is to ‘accurately portray all women and girls in marketing, advertising, media and entertainment so they see themselves as they truly are in all their potential.’ The movement’s mission statement is “If you can see her, you can be her.”

Dentsu, an agency of record for General Motors, recognized this shared mission by publishing a study alongside #SEEHER titled, “Perceptions of Progress: The State of Women’s Equality in the U.S.” The study uncovers a series of four key disconnects between American’s perceptions of the state of gender equality and the reality of women’s experiences. According to this report, 52% of respondents say media has a lot of responsibility to improve equality because media both influences society and individuals.

“Built Phenomenally”, an ad campaign created by Ford Co to support the launch of the 2020 Escape, the company’s best-selling SUV, followed the guidelines set by the #SEEHER initiatives. The campaign was a celebration of the defiance, transformation, and versatility of Black women as creators, marketers and performers who own their uniqueness and live phenomenally.

So, if you can see her, you can be her. But what if she doesn’t see it? What if traditional buying and planning parameters are leaving women out of the equation?

Moving TV Forward

TV has been the primary channel that has driven marketing reach in auto, but with the explosion of streaming TV coupled with the accelerating digital transformation of linear TV (broadcast, cable and local), the auto industry is on the cusp of a great opportunity.

A central pillar of this opportunity is presented by the technology that is finally available to optimize scale of multiscreen TV inventory with an unprecedented scale of consumer behavioral and viewership insights. This is the raison d’etre for Ampersand and our AND Platform™, which was launched to offer brands and their agencies a user-friendly platform to execute unified, efficient multiscreen TV campaigns at scale across the entire TV footprint in the U.S.

Through the AND Platform™, brands can now build campaigns by matching customer data with viewership insights aggregated anonymously across tens of millions of set-top boxes. The AND Platform™ allow brand teams to manage frequency and drive incremental reach against their key target audiences—vital to accruing market share. Additionally, brands can see just how effectively car campaigns reach key strategic audiences.

Women Are the Future

March is not only Women’s History Month, but also marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. After one of the most challenging years in this country’s history, there is much to be hopeful about.

Recently, hope came in the form of women taking the driver’s seat, leading marketing at some of the largest and most influential brands in the auto industry. In a 2020 report done by McKinsey Research, titled Women in the Workplace 2020, it was reported that when women are well represented at the top, profits and share performance can be close to 50% higher.

Ford, BMW, Hyundai, GM, Cadillac, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Audi and Volvo are just some of the brands with women at the helm in this new wave of leadership.

Honda’s social media campaign, ‘When She Leads, She’s Unstoppable,’ which will run through the month of March, features female athletes and coaches. Another prime example of the value auto brands see in women as an integral part of their campaign messaging.

In the words of Cadillac, the auto industry needs women to “Never Stop Arriving,” because if we don’t, they don’t.