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Why Don’t Car Ads Target Women?

Just in case you haven’t noticed, this is 2016 (the latter half of 2016 at that).  This isn’t Saudi Arabia. In other words, there are just as many women as there are men holding drivers’ licences in this part of the world (although I haven’t checked the exact stats).  However, the people who make the car ads don’t seem to have caught up on this.  Pause and think about all the car ads that you’ve seen recently.  Not many of them feature women as the driver, except for a few for people-movers that show Mum ferrying around tons of kids (has anyone told these advertisers that this isn’t the 1950s?).

This situation was nicely highlighted by a team of comedians (female ones) from across the Tasman in this rather popular video clip (please excuse the four-letter words) that parodies a Holden Colorado ad:

This got me thinking about (a) the cars my female friends drive and (b) the number of commercials that feature women as the driver (not as the passenger or as some form of detachable decoration). My friends drive 4x4s, utes, small sedans, vans, hatchbacks, station wagons… the full range of vehicles.  Most of them forked out their own money for said vehicles, too.  And they don’t just use the cars as Mum’s Taxis, either (not surprising, seeing as several of them either don’t have kids or else their kids have grown up and left home or got their own licences). They’re using the cars to go to sports training, to go to work, to go to school, to take a load of garbage down to the dump, to tow the horse float and to carry out contracting work (and farm work).  In short, they use vehicles the same way as my guy friends do.  But the car ads?  No – as far as they’re concerned, it’s guys who buy cars and drive them… apart from those people-movers.

Nope, it’s guys all the way for the typical car ad. In the case of utes and trucks, the not-so-subtle message is that these vehicles are what you drive if you’re a Real Man:

But us women? We’re only allowed to drive people-movers with tons of kids and the dog on board, according to the makers of car ads:

Nissan tried to target women buyers a few years ago, they really did, with the infamous ad for the Tiida  that features Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall.  At least they tried, but using sex to sell anything shows a lack of imagination.

To be fair some manufacturers are starting to wake up to the surprising fact that it’s not just guys who drive and buy cars.  Audi  tried a social media campaign (#womendrivers, where users were tempted to click the hashtag, expecting to see a funny story about women driving badly but instead got a story about actual real women driving properly. However, the campaign aimed at busting stereotypes ended up backfiring (unlike the Audis themselves).

Holden has also come up with a real, fair dinkum ad (for the Spark ) that specifically targets younger women drivers.

Actually, despite the rip-off commercial, Holden seems to be doing pretty well for targeting women, as a quick peek through their YouTube channel and their ads seems to have at least a smattering of women drivers.  Even the real Colorado  ad seems to have realised this, so well done, Holden!

Come on, the rest of you car advertisers!  Time to realise that you’re completely overlooking 50% of potential buyers!


  1. Alan Banister says:

    How about an article lamenting all the ads featuring dumb husbands having to be sorted out by smug super intelligent wives! There are a lot more of those.

    October 25th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

  2. Richard says:

    When will the evil patriarchy stop oppressing womyn…*yawn*…here is an idea…buy whatever vehicle you like…use it in any manner you wish…but stop imposing your agenda on your readers…I for one won’t be pandering to your pathetic ideology…neither should private companies in their advertisements.

    October 25th, 2016 at 3:52 pm

  3. Dan says:

    Thank you Alan and Richard for the comments above.

    Sanity is alive and well somewhere.

    October 25th, 2016 at 9:27 pm

  4. Romeo says:

    The marketing experts obviously haven’t worked out that women have a big say in the choice of the next family vehicle these days and in a lot of cases fund the purchase.

    October 25th, 2016 at 10:45 pm