Facebook advertisement for dance shown to few men
June 27, 2019
A Wellington dance director is concerned that a Facebook advertisement for a partner dance event was automatically shown by the algorithm to mostly women.
Swing Central director Timothy Goddard started a Facebook advertisement campaign for West Coast Swing without indicating audience restrictions.
Facebook showed the advertisement to 89% women and only 9% men. This led to 18 responses from women and one response from a man. “It’s something that was quite strange and alarming,” said Goddard.
The Facebook demographic statistics had both the viewers’ gender and age. It also indicated how many the ad was shown to and how many responded.
For the next dance event, Goddard bought two copies of the same Facebook advertisement and targeted one at women and one at men. This brought about a more equal response.
Goddard said it often had more women than men through the door but had about equal in terms of committed dancers.
“There’s no way that was random. ‘That sounds like a women’s thing, let’s send it to women.’ That can break in some distressing stereotypes. It seriously cuts the value of that advertising.”
When there weren’t enough men to dance with, there tended to be a lot of waiting around which made for a “skewed class”.
West Coast Swing and Modern Jive dancer Logan Clarricoats said in modern jive it usually had too many males. “On Wednesday, it was particularly bad. We had 16 guys to four girls.”
He said it could be because Wellington had many young professionals who might be more open to dancing. When he asked other modern jive schools in New Zealand, he found there were usually more women than men.
Scott Curtis started modern jive dance four years ago and was fearful before his first class. “I’d actively avoided it all my life. I even avoided my school ball because I was afraid I’d have to dance.”
When he invited friends, women were usually interested while men were hesitant. “If I mention that I dance then their reaction is often amazement. When I try to convince them to come, the most common answer is, I can’t dance.”
Senior Lecturer in marketing at Victoria University Dr James Richard said Facebook used data when targeting users in advertising. It would use location, age and search history to determine the best fit.
Its ultimate goal was to use existing data to find out who might be interested in dance. “It’s not that Facebook is sexist. It’s just that most people who are looking up dance are women.”
The advertising would be more likely to persuade men already interested in dance. “There’s some guys who might want to join [dance classes] and suddenly they see an ad and they go and join.”