Newspaper article International New York Times

No Children, but Plenty of Purchasing Power ; Women Press Marketers for Ads That Don't Treat Everyone like Mothers

Newspaper article International New York Times

No Children, but Plenty of Purchasing Power ; Women Press Marketers for Ads That Don't Treat Everyone like Mothers

Article excerpt

Women without children, a growing demographic in the United States, is pressing for marketing campaigns that don't treat them like mothers.

Even as advertisers are embracing new configurations of families - - two dads, say, or grandparents raising grandchildren -- there's one group that feels left out. Women who are childless. Or as they also call themselves, the child-free. Or even the NotMoms.

According to census figures, more women in the United States are childless than at any other time since the government began keeping track in 1976. In 2014, nearly half of women -- 47.6 percent -- from ages 15 to 44 did not have children, up from 46.5 percent in 2012. And 15.3 percent of women ages 40 to 44 are childless. The numbers are growing internationally as well.

Despite these statistics, "the majority of marketing talks to adult women like they are all moms or want to be mothers," said Adrianna Bevilaqua, chief creative officer at M Booth, a public relations company.

Melanie Notkin has made a career of catering to women who don't have children but love them -- she is the founder of the website SavvyAuntie; coined the term "professional aunt, no kids," or PANKs; and is the author of "Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness." She wonders why companies, always eager to target a potentially lucrative demographic, seem to be ignoring this one.

The woman without children is "left off the table," Ms. Notkin said. "Advertisers don't know how to pitch to her."

Maria Bailey, chief executive of the marketing firm BSM Media and an author of books about marketing to mothers, estimates that about 60 percent of all women shown in commercials are moms; with certain products, like toys, the percentage is much higher.

One issue is simple inertia -- for years advertisers have followed research that says the mother is the main household purchaser. Ms. Bailey said mothers spent $3.4 trillion in 2015, "the largest spending consumer group in the U.S."

Another issue is how to portray the concept of being childless. If two women are sitting on the couch chatting about, say, yogurt or a smartphone, who knows, or even cares, if they have children?

"It's an extremely complex subject," said Bridget Brennan, chief executive of the Female Factor, a consulting firm, and author of "Why She Buys." "Women may be childless by choice or by chance. It's very difficult to define assumptions about this market."

It's true that people tend to view those who choose not to have children differently from those who can't have children. Those who are single and childless are perceived differently from couples without children.

But Karen Malone Wright, who founded the website, said it was less about differentiating between all these factors and more about being inclusive. Ms. Wright, who is 60 and married, and does not have children, ran the first NotMom summit meeting last year in Cleveland, where she lives.

"For example, it seems that vacation advertising focuses on the extremes of female travelers -- you're hot and single, or a mom with more than one child," she said. "You're not older, you're not with a girlfriend.

"And although it's beginning to change, it's still difficult to find a paper towel commercial that doesn't involve a kid knocking over a glass of milk," she said. But the fact is, a lot of women and couples without children have pets, and "everyone knows paper towels are very good for picking up pet vomit," she said.

An ad featuring a woman without a child may not mean much -- or even be noticed -- by the broader population, Ms. Wright said, but it would mean the world to her and like-minded women, "and we'd be more likely to buy the brand."

When Lands' End put a beaming woman on the cover of one of its catalogs in 2014 with her arms around two young children, and the caption, "Being their aunt means when we're #together, there are no rules," Ms. …

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