Online Female Consumer Graces Us with Laser Eyes

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I (Angela) was really looking forward to attending ad:tech San Francisco 2007 panel entitled "The Online Female Consumer - Come Meet Them" Tuesday afternoon, featuring CEO Kate Everett-Thorp of Real Girls Media as moderator and Senior Analyst Debra Aho Williamson of eMarketer. Additional panelists were women pulled from various walks of life (well, except not), the youngest being thirty and the oldest in their mid-forties, with children of varying ages.

First impression: oh, we'll be hearing from Fembots. Kate and Debra seemed tight and mildly Stepford in appearance. I don't know what it was but the room took on a defensive and unfun Girl Power air that had nothing to do with trouncing around in platforms and going ziga-zig ahhh.

The requisite stats, courtesy of eMarketer:

* 66 percent of US women over the ages of 3 will be online, versus 64 percent of males. That's 97 million versus 91 million.
* 1/3 of US female internet users are mothers (women with children under 18).
* Males are more likely to access Youtube regularly, at 78 percent versus women at 66 percent.

That last statistic rang surprising to Debra because women and men apparently enjoy the same forms of online video, including music, movie clips, reviews and weather. However, one wrench in the equal-appeal equation is mens' disproportionate affection for "amateur videos."

While the Fembots wondered what "amateur video" meant ("PORN" briefly floated across the PowerPoint screen), my mind leaped immediately to ghostride the whip and the GI Joe spoofs my co-ed colleagues are constantly subjecting me to.

But moving on.

The online female is present on the internet, deeply involved (she reads, blogs, posts pictures of her prom dress options), and powerful (she's somehow connected to over 85 percent of consumer purchases in the US). Moderater Kate (almost) smilingly said, "She's obviously very desirable. With that, though, everybody wants her."

Suddenly I felt like the prettiest girl at the dance.

The key to getting into the elusive Online Woman's circle isn't really much of a key; it's the same advice Cosmo has been toting all our wildly conditioned, angst-ridden and self-esteem-violating teenage years. How do you win a woman in general?

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* Communicate better
* Develop a relationship
* Be valuable to her
* Deliver on your (brand) promises
* Make her an advocate to all her tittery little friends

Aww. It all sounds so ... well, Judy Blume. ("Are you there, God? It's me, Angela.")

I'm not knocking the knowledge but the delivery was just frightening. One gets tired of hearing touchy-feely admonitions about how to treat a lady. One also gets tired of Fembots who try their best to push the warm, fuzzy, engaging buttons while maintaining a "Take me seriously!" demeanour, leaving them feeling eerily icy and robotic.

I mean, they even promised us audience engagement and all we got to do was listen to the opinion of pre-selected forty-somethings (excepting the one thirty) who all made cliched jokes about divulging their ages and seemed to violently reject the notion of digital participation.

The older a woman gets, Kate said, the less important technology is in and of itself. It just becomes a means. Teens, on the other hand, want to own technology.

This strange anecdote, made by a woman who confessed she has no teenage children, devolved into a riled illustration of MySpace users who photograph themselves in different outfits so their internet friends can vote on what they should wear today.

"I wouldn't do that!" Kate said. "I'm sure none of these women would either. Would you?" She turned to her stock panel. They all smiled into her burning eyes, like bitty dolls, and shook their heads no.

And as if we weren't sufficiently smothered by demands for stronger communication and relationship development by the Fembots, we were, for the umpteenth time since 2006, subjected to Dove Evolution.

Ironically the panel that boasted the most engaging, communications-obsessed social demographic was also the only one that closed without opening the floor to audience questions.

"The Online Female Consumer - Come Meet Them"? More like come listen to them bitch about what women have been bitching about since time immemorial.

Kate smiled tightly, flanked by Deb who wore a frozen expression of cheer, and said something along the lines of how she's sure we all wanted to get out of here.

Hell yes.

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to think I stayed home and read an article about Martha Stewart on the front page of the Wall Street Journal paper edition (subscription required or a trip to your local library but wear earplugs).

Gads, the chick is 60, thinks sharp, has a glint in her eye. a polished but everyday appearance, plus she has loads of naysayers and admirers. Talk about influence.

And to think she got there without those big boobs.

Posted by: nancy on April 26, 2007 12:43 PM

Well that was 5 minutes I will never get back. In reading your editorial I was hoping for something more enlightening.
As "The prettiest girl at the dance" how does a business get into "your circle?"

Posted by: Cheryl on April 26, 2007 3:57 PM

With a sneezing panda, Cheryl.

Posted by: Angela on April 26, 2007 7:03 PM

I attended this session and was suprised by the format -- it was the only panel that did not have a question period (either during or after). Very suprising since getting women to participate in public forums is always difficult.
Second I was very suprised by how much video the female panelists watched (daily - news, jokes & cooking). After, I asked the panelists if they were selected because they watched online video and nope, the were selected because they spent time online.

Posted by: MoPho on April 26, 2007 10:09 PM