Introduction: Advertising & Gender The adverts are carefully crafted bundles of images, frequently designed to associate the product

with feelings of pleasure stemming from fantasies and anxieties (Craig 1997). Advertising can also be defined as a paid for massmedia communication, and a means of managing and controlling the consumer markets at the least cost (Brierley 1995). It is clear that advertisers seem quite willing to manipulate these fantasies and exploit our gender identities to sell products.

Gender is a social construct, a dichotomy that exists in all societies (Costa, 1994). It is used to describe the socially constructed differences between men and women, referring not only to individual identity and personality, but also at the symbolic level, to cultural ideals and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and, at the structural level, to the sexual division of labour in institutions and organisations (Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences).

The definition of gender encompasses a great deal. Temperament, abilities and skills, activities and behaviours, ideal types and accepted and unacceptable deviations from the ideal, sensuality and culture based essence of what it means to be male or female, are all part of the gender constructs of a given society.

Therefore, marketers perform their activities differently when their targets are male than they do when the targets are female, and consumers’ responses often differ on the basis of gender. Sales personnel learn that alternative methods may be required when a potential customer is male rather than 1

there are certain principals underpinning our understanding of these two specific words. Male vs Female The study of differences and similarities between women and men is compelling for both its personal and its political implications. advertising and packaging sends gendered messages.female. Issues of femininity and masculinity are emphasised strongly in our culture and can be important aspects of individual identity and self concept. bold colours with toys for boys and pastels and purples with toys for girls. perhaps the most obvious of which is the association of bright. To help society address men and women as ‘male’ or ‘female’. Apart from the obvious physical appearance. for example: the use of colour in promotion. ‘Male’ Gender Traits Independent Rational Rough Nasty Brave Insensitive Aggressive Competitive ‘Female’ Gender Traits Dependent Irrational Gentle Nice Cowardly Sensitive Placid Co-operative 2 . certain attributes are associated with males and females that group individuals into one or the other gender.

Physical Disobedient Active Unhappy Assertive Confident Uncaring Emotional Obedient Passive Happy Unassertive Unconfident Caring The above table illustrates the summary of stereotypical ‘male’ and ‘female’ traits. Sex or gender stereotypes are socially shared beliefs that certain qualities can be assigned to individuals based on their membership in the female or male half of the human race (Lips. 2005). for example males are seen to be brave. who are more independent and confident where as females are seen as cowards. It is very clear to see that both genders are of opposite characters. who dependent on others (such as a male partner) and do not have the confidence that males demonstrate. Advertisers use the information the labels provide to guide their behaviour toward other people and to interpret their behaviour toward themselves. People adjust their stereotypes of women and men by taking into consideration the roles they occupy: If women tend to be in roles that demand 3 . The labels female and male carry powerful associations.

beauty is generally defined as peculiarly feminine attribute and preoccupation with one’s appearance is seen as part of the feminine stereotype (Ivy & Backlund. In terms of gender stereotypes. with men portrayed in many different occupations as compared to women being shown as housewives and mothers. observers will assume that women and men have the qualities required for such roles. 4 .nurturing behaviour and men taking charge. As Lips (2005) has pointed out. 2004). men were portrayed as more autonomous than women. too. is reflected in physical appearance particularly in strength. physical appearance may have strong implications for how masculine or feminine a person is thought to be. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the products advertised are aimed at target male and target female audiences. Psychologists have become increasingly aware that physical appearance is a critical aspect of stereotyping. thus resulting in a higher level of specificity in gender-portrayed roles. Men were far more likely to advertise alcohol. Stereotypical masculinity. According to Craig (1997). Gender Targeting Research conducted in the 1970’s laid out the basic aspects of the advertising portrayals of both men and women. overall. Rostker claims that men are not immune to concerns about how their bodies will be judged – perhaps because concern with one’s appearance is supposed to be a feminine quality – it seems less acceptable for them to talk about it. Although physical appearance is important in both males and females.

Therefore advertisers use this to their advantage and create certain needs and wants according to the behaviour and expectations of society. Recent studies suggest some changes such as significant declines in portrayals of men’s traditional roles such as husband. men still are more likely to be depicted in themes of sex appeal. as careeroriented. Men were far more likely to be shown outdoors or in business settings while women were shown primarily in domestic settings. but mainly to be fit. Gendering enables advertisers the ease of breaking down target consumers. 1997). a qualitative analysis of 40 beer adverts found a very strong relationship between drinking and stereotypical view of masculinity (Craig. or business products while women were found mostly in advertisements for domestic products. active and healthy for their own benefit. and in activities and life outside the home. father and athlete. It helps to eliminate the undesired group(s) instantly therefore efficient in 5 . gay or complex are not present in beer advertisements. thoughtful. it seems their concern is not to look attractive to society or specifically to the opposite gender. While the gender stereotyping had decreased slightly. women are viewed as a mere audience for male activities. Although more and more men are becoming self-conscious. In contrast. Men who are sensitive. For example.vehicles. Advertisers abuse these needs and wants from men and women by playing on their weaknesses such as beauty and lack of self-confidence in women and manipulate messages to influence the decision making process.

‘time is money’. 2003). seem to be similar on paper (or wherever they may be seen) but in fact. there are significant differences. which focus on different genders.1 Davidoff Cool Water-Woman Fig.terms of time as. 2003). Adverts for the same products. noting that within patriarchal society men and women seek pleasure differently. This is also due to the differences in how members of each gender perceive themselves and how they want to be perceived by the members of their own and the opposite gender (Batchelor.2 Davidoff Cool Water . can influence purchasing power (Batchelor. Fig.Man Craig (1997) suggests that in gendered advertisements. Adverts present messages tailored to fit the beliefs and values of the target audience to persuade its reader. Craig (1997) concluded that advertisers structure the gender images in their commercials to match the 6 . associations are made with pleasurable experiences. These particular beliefs are played on by advertisers which increase motivational impulses and when triggered.

the adverts have been gendered to send a clear message to the desired reader.expectations and fantasies of their intended audience. In figure 2 the bottle is solid. This plays on the ideology that most women do not have the self confidence to show their body but using this product will restore that confidence. the colours . confident female model passive on the shore resting her head on a rock and gazing at the reader. Although the adverts appear to be similar on the surface. Figure 1 is selling Davidoff’s Cool Water for women and Figure 2 is selling the same fragrance for men. Examples of how adverts are tailored for the desired gender is illustrated above in figure 1 and figure 2. Figures 1 and 2 use the same approach of photographic imagery of the sea and shore. The ‘Cool Water for Men’ 7 . It is intriguing that the bottle in figure 1 is fragile and passive like the woman and the design appears to have curvaceous. this product will make you look and feel fresh. cool. Figure 2 shows a muscular male model in water. so confident that you do not need to wear anything else but the fragrance. Figure 1 show’s an attractive. relaxed and confident. who is active (splashing water) and seems he has just ‘jumped’ out of the water. The message from ‘Cool Water for Women’ clearly states that as a woman. smooth curves resembling a woman’s body. rectangle with sharp edges and resembles a man’s ‘strong and muscular’ body.associate with water hence the fragrance name ‘Cool Water’ and the text for the and white .

Figure 3 and figure 4 below. Billions of Pounds are circulated each year in the beauty industry alone. and research proves that women spend more money on looking good than men. Women are considered to be lazy or at least not as active as men (as seen in figure 2).implies that not only will the product make you as a man. This aggressive targeting has mainly had an impact on women more than men as they have become extremely self conscious. an item of accessory to ‘match’ their clothing. Figure 3 adopts a fictitious movie character. Omega uses different These watches are celebrity endorsed to sell the product. Take a wrist watch for instance. It is them who continually make the audience feel that they have to have the latest products to be accepted by society and peers. not a necessity. 8 . This behaviour has been planted into society by advertisers. but it will give you full of energy so that you ready for any action. approaches in contrast to figure 1 and 2. Men and women illustrate different buying behaviours and convey different motivations to buy a certain product. associated with how men and women perceive themselves. The message from figure 1 implicitly emphasises on the woman’s body but the message from figure 2 is explicitly emphasising on the activeness of a man. they have to look good. feel cool and fresh. Men on the other hand buy it as a need. are examples of how Omega watch adverts are manipulated to target male and female groups. women see watches as jewellery.

a world famous model. sophisticated. Advertisers have emphasised that Omega is James Bond’s choice of wrist watch brand. and figure 4 is endorsed by Cindy Crawford. 9 . The message is very clear. and the advert states that Omega is the sign of excellence. connotating that ‘James Bond only wears the best and so should you’.James Bond – a British under cover spy/agent in one of the world’s most successful ongoing films in history. become suave. It plays on men’s desire of becoming a hero as we see a ‘scene’ from a Bond film in the background – explosion in the air. men who wear the watch can relate to James Bond. and those who see him as a ‘role model’ will copy his image. Fig 3 Omega – James Bond’s Choice Fig 4 Omega – Cindy Crawford’s Choice Men dream of being James Bond or aspire to his charisma. and successful.

and prefer indoor events. The advert emphasises that this gold. almost as if it is gold jewellery. The indoor décor in the background resembles a sophisticated. She appears to be wealthy and attractive and is urging women that it is a must have piece of jewellery that will make you look like ‘a million dollars’. upper class restaurant. 10 .In contrast. These certain methods have had negative impact on women than men as we are aware that women appear more emotional and unconfident in contrast to men. enforcing them to adopt certain buying behaviours to influence purchasing decisions. The message conveyed here is as if Cindy is speaking out to the reader saying. see figure 5 below. slim Omega watch. It is clear from the above examples that men and women are targeted according to their social beliefs and attitudes towards their self perception brought on by advertisers and society. ‘look at what I’m wearing’. It is cleverly created without using the obvious male and female models to show who the product is for but rather emphasises on words relating to males and females to distinguish between the two genders. Women are increasingly concerned with their physical appearance due to the pressure of looking good by society. Her watch is worn as part of her outfit. She is wearing a red dress associated with the ‘lady in red’ (attractive). This has been taken advantage by many companies as illustrated in the ad campaigns for Budweiser. is Cindy Crawford’s choice. This campaign has taken a very different approach to both ‘Cool Water’ and ‘Omega’ products. figure 4 demonstrates that women are more laid back.

Unfortunately. They are 11 . is very macho and very effective which sends the desired message very clearly to its male audience. roughness. ‘The Queen of Carbs’ for the Fig 5 Budweiser – King and Queen women and ‘The King of Beers’ for the men. irrational. it has no personality. nothing effective can be said about the ‘lite’ beer because it appears dull. with no personality. a ‘lite’ beer for the ladies advertised in a small section at the top of the poster in a simple way and the hard core beer for the men in a bigger bottom. It is clear that advertiser’s main focus was on the men’s drink as beer is mainly associated with men – explicitly playing on the machoism. The irony of a King’s crown being produced on the lid for the men’s drink by some sort of a liquid drop.The poster has been divided to promote two different products. disobedient and aggressiveness of a man. It is unfortunate that women are implicitly being portrayed as passive. proportion at the We know which product is for which group because of the words used for the slogans. no Queen’s crown.

Women are receiving many times more messages about thinness and body shape than men in prominent magazines and on television. Studies continue to reveal our cultures obsession with thinness as reflected in advertising. Media researchers explain that stereotyping involves presenting a group of people in an unvarying pattern that lacks individuality and often reflects misperceptions. Conclusion: What does it all mean? It is evident that advertising is a huge and pervasive industry. which is evidenced 12 . The pressure to be thin is not as great for men as for women. This behaviour of advertisers creates a widening gap between the weight of an average woman and the ideal. Courtney and Whipple (1983) produced a comprehensive list of female gender stereotypes in advertising which include the following: • • • women in isolation women being depicted as obsessed with their physical attractiveness women in underwear and lingerie more than professional clothing It is clear that sexist and stereotypical advert portrayals have severe negative impact and effect on women. it affects our culture and our views therefore it is extremely persuasive. they are obedient to the men. Advertising has a powerful effect that goes well beyond the purpose of selling products to customers.coming across as no match to the ‘Kings’ – or men.

Just as there are female stereotypes in advertising. knowledgeable Jock. According to Ivy and Backlund (2004). male gender stereotyping also appears. An advertiser not only can create product identification but can impel purchase if the vision hits its mark of personal desire. 1976). including looking beautiful and achieving wealth and success. [therefore] what we see are idealised characters using ideal facilities to realise ideal ends (Goffman. It is worryingly clear that women today are still not taken seriously within society. Advertisers overwhelmingly select positive. beauty products and underwear. approved typifications so their product will be associated with a good image. male depictions in ads include: • • • professional. Adverts are aimed at reflecting life as individuals wish to live it. 13 . This is an implicit promise that certain desirable benefits will accrue if one uses the right scent for example. who can perform in all sports handy man who can fix anything It is evident that men seem to fit any role and can sell anything but women are more favourable for the higher number of average – weight and overweight male models in adverts in comparison with females.

prestige. These appeals stereotype men as internally or “self” oriented. Gendered differences are apparent. appearance related emotional appeals such as using science to ‘prove’ the benefits of a certain facelift cream. when advertisers target men. power. attitudes. values and consumer behaviour exist. This pattern characterises women as externally or “other” oriented and concerned primarily with men. concerned primarily with themselves. accordingly. 14 . Advertising always involves a promise and is expected to fulfil its promise. gendered advertising beliefs. ego gratification emotional appeals. and use them to design gender specific advertisements. but it is more valued when it comes from those higher up the social scale since it is less likely to be self-serving and considered more perceptive. People seek social approval from all others. achievement or just plain hedonistic pleasure. understand them. they use simple. This is why most organisations concerned with persuasion look for prestigious spokespersons to endorse their position and thus endow it with something for their own prestige. Conversely. group feeling.Manca and Manca (1994) state that when advertisers target women they use complex. status. Consumer advertising most commonly associates products with symbols that exemplify values. therefore advertisers recognise them.

Craig. The Media and Communications Studies Site Online: Retrieved October 13. Lips.K. & Manca. L.aber. Brierley.A. Goffman. 6. (No Date) Semiotics for Beginners. from: http://www.html A. & Whipple.. 3.icaap. J. California: Sage Publications. Inc. Sex and Gender: An Introduction (5th Edition). H. (2004). D. 7. Gender and Utopia in Advertising: A Critical Reader. California: Sage Publications. Men. Ivy. Gender Issues and Consumer Behaviour. Lexington: MA Lexington London: MacMillan. [Accessed: 7 October 2005].REFERENCES 1. 8. Inc. P. Gender Advertisements.W. D. 5. Costa. Gender Speak: Personal Effectiveness In Gender Communication: New York: 2. Manca. Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences [No Date].aber. & Backlund. 2005. Masculinity and the Media. (2003) Gender Targeting in Print Ads. 2005. (2005). (Ed). S. (1983).uk/media/Sections/textan07. [Online]. The Media and Communications Studies Site Online: Retrieved October 13. (2002). 11. Illinois: Procopian Press. The Advertising Handbook (2nd Edition). E. (1997). S. (Ed).. (1976). T. Batchelor. (1994). Courtney.. A. 15 . Available from: http://bitbucket. London: Routledge. N. Chandler. 10. from: http://www. New York: McGraw-Hill. (1994). Sex Stereotyping In Advertising.E.M.

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