What’s wrong with a little blue chip action for the ladies?Citi’s latest ad campaign – sexist, derogatory, or relatively benign (but effective) advertising?

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Women have been consistently breaking down barriers. First it was suffrage, then it was admission into McSorely’s Ale House. What’s the final frontier? As Citibank’s latest marketing campaign would have us believe - Investing. On the whole, relative to men, women tend to behave more conservatively when it comes to investing.
Citigroup’s latest ad campaign is a joint venture with Women & Co. (a Citi Company) is targeting this largely untapped demographic. A portion of Women & Co.’s mission below:
Women & Co. was created to address the unique needs of women as they seek more command over their personal finances. Our mission is to provide you with access to the education, resources, tools, and benefits to become an active participant in planning your financial future. We’ll be there to support, encourage, and empower you on your road to financial fitness.
Their September ad blitz featured in the glossy pages of Vogue, O, Gourmet, Real Simple and Cookie as well as The New York times is directed toward the affluent female population of North America specifically between the ages 25 and 40. In an article by Moe of Jezebel.com it is argued that this slew of ads is mildly offensive and derogatory towards the more “fair sex.”
Let’s take a minute to analyze who Citi’s enterprise is really aimed at. Let’s start with who it isn’t aimed at: you, me and lots of the people who are reading DealBreaker or Jezebel. About forty-percent of DealBreaker’s readers are New York City dwellers and New Yorkers tend to be more savvy when it comes to the markets and investing (ladies, I think you can all say you’ve had at least one investment banker boyfriend?). So girls like Moe and I are likely more adroit than those who this campaign is actually targeted at.
So who is Citi’s target recipient for this ad? It’s 28 year old Shelly Lopez in Fort Worth, Texas working at the local Frost Bank branch with 5k in her savings account generating ~3.25% interest.
What this campaign is saying to Shelly – Take your money out of the bank and put it in dividends or blue chips where you could earn a higher rate of return! It’s hard to see how encouraging women to actually get out there and invest is offensive to women. This makes a whole lot more sense than spending those hard earned dollars on $275 shoes and $20 vodka tonics at the Gansevoort hotel (That’s where those investment banker boyfriends come in handy).
As for the argument that dividends and blue chips are for “grandparents” and “people with heart conditions,” it’s doubtful that this target demographic knows enough about “the markets” to desire more greater to EM’s and high-margin growth stocks. It hardly seems fair to take Citi to task for understanding what women want and pitching their ads at those desires rather than some egalitarian view about what women should want.
What Citi is doing, is using both a persuasive foot-in-door strategy by planting the seed and imploring women to start small with their investments. It’s simply encouraging women to educate themselves so that they may some day invest in more volatile markets and increase their value at risk. Until then, I think Citi does a service both to Wall Street, women on the whole, and of course (and I think this is where Moe and I can find common ground) to themselves.
Citi could not be reached for comment.

--by Silas Greenback

More on Women & Co. [Citibank]
Citigroup To Lady Investors: Take It From Us, Markets Are Tough! [Jezebel]

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