Community Spotlight - Fancy a Chat With Katie Keating?

During a recent scroll through LinkedIn, I noticed a few posts by Katie Keating, co-founder of the creative agency Fancy. The posts instantly grabbed my attention. They pertained to women over 40, with or without children, or husbands, or wives, and how they are mostly shunned by marketers because they don’t fit the “traditional mold.” I checked out her company and learned that Katie and co-founder Erica Fite created an agency that helps brands market to women over 40. As Katie wrote in her blog:

Women over 40 have seen and heard a lot. They’ve been bombarded by messages from advertisers, Hollywood, magazines (because women over 40 actually read magazines!), men, mothers and mothers-in-law. They’ve received criticism masquerading as advice. Advice sold as a must-do. And opinions laid out as fact. They’ve been told if only their hair were shinier, their skin smoother, their waist smaller, their breasts bigger, their ass rounder, their house cleaner, their glasses sparklier, their colors brighter, their bodies fresher, their life would be more fulfilling, their kids less cranky, their husbands more attentive, they’d have more fun, better sex and wake up well-rested, completely fulfilled, and 25 years younger. We all know it doesn’t work like that.

I had to meet her.

GJG: We love what you’re doing. Was there a pivotal moment that inspired you and Erica to start Fancy?

Katie: Unlike most creatives, I always wanted to be in advertising. After college I put a portfolio together at the aptly named “Portfolio Center” in Atlanta and then landed in New York working for some big blue-chip agencies, as well as in-house at Clinque, where I met Erica and we became friends and creative partners. Over the next 10 years we worked together on and off and always had in the back of our minds that we would run an agency differently if we had the chance. Well, we did have the chance in 2011 when we had the opportunity to work with a Unilever Ventures brand that was trying to reach women 35+. It was that same year that the 3 Percent Movement started. The statistic that only three-percent of creative directors at top ad agencies are women made me start looking around. I realized that not only were there few women, there were very few “old” women. No women over 40, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, am I going to get fired soon?” So, it seems insane, but from our POV, the smartest, most financially conservative thing to do was to leave the big agency world and go out on our own. It was a few years later that we really started to notice that there was basically zero advertising to the 40+ women’s market. We thought maybe it was just us. Maybe we were too close. So, we surveyed over 500 women in this demographic and gained some incredibly valuable insight to share. Women were angry. They were sick of being portrayed as grandmothers and frail and every other stereotype you can think of. They had specific needs and money to spend and couldn’t find brands that met those needs.

Were you met with pushback from brands, in that they felt you were off-base? That they either didn’t need to market to our demographic differently or they thought you were wrong?

When we shared some of our findings with our clients and potential clients, they found our information interesting, and most agreed that it would be a good idea to have a special focus on women over 40, but they told us we should definitely not make it our whole business. And that was good because if we had, we’d probably be out of business. Brands just weren’t ready to commit to this audience. Which seemed insane to us.

That must have been frustrating. Did you ever feel like just throwing your hands up and moving on?

Not really, no. While we were working to drive home what we’d learned in our research we were still taking on other clients that wanted to elevate what’s important to women. So, although we kept trying to convince brands their campaigns could more effectively target the women who were actually buying their products, we also recognized they weren’t quite ready.

Have you started to notice change in the industry?

Yes. And it really seems like it’s in response to the fact that women over 40 are starting to demand they not be ignored. A bunch of brands have launched specifically targeting this group and it’s really exciting to see the bold tone they’re taking which resonates with and echoes that of their target.

What’s next for you and Fancy?

More big brands, legacy brands, are coming to us to ask for help in reaching women over 40 and women in general. So, we will keep doing what we are doing. We love working with smaller brands, too, and we are always on the look-out for the next up and coming opportunity.

After my conversation with Katie, I did some research. That is, I Googled “Advertising to Women.” As Katie mentioned, most of the articles, infographics, and white paper research I found started about four years ago. When I limited the search to “Women Over 40,” the only information I could find pre-2019, aside from the research done by Fancy, was “40-plus women: Putting age before reason,” a 2013 Marketing Week piece that focused on women in the UK. What struck me was the similarity to what Katie discussed almost a decade later. As the article noted, women “are responsible for (controlling) 80 percent of the UK’s wealth, so it is a huge demographic. And as we’re an ageing population, their importance is only going to increase.”

Yet eight years later, companies still struggle to get it. I work (ed) for several large Fortune 500 companies and could count the women in leadership positions on one hand. The number of women CEOs increased from 6 percent in 2019 to 7.8 percent in 2020, according to the Women CEOs in America report. That’s encouraging, but more representation in Senior Management is needed. In 2020, only 29% those positions were held by women.

In this role, women can influence marketing and advertising campaigns across organizations. The C-suite might set the strategy, but not without consulting the senior leaders of the organization. Women leaders often are more inclusive. According to the article, When Women Lead, Diversity Follows (UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School), “When it comes to diversity and inclusion, there are differences between female- and male-led organizations. And by many measures—flexibility, appreciation of difference, understanding diversity, empathy and self-awareness—those led by women performed better.” As leaders become more inclusive, so too will the products created and marketed. Change might be happening slowly, but it is happening.

Katie Keating, Erica Fite, and Lindsey Seyman are the three principals of Fancy. If you or your company are looking for an agency to help reach one of the most valuable and underserved demographics, women over 40, reach out to them HERE.

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