Stereotypes in Advertising Media stereotypes are inevitable, especially in the advertising, entertainment and news industries, which need as wide an audience as possible to quickly understand information. Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick, common understanding of a person or group of people—usually relating to their class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation. But stereotypes can be problematic. They can: educe a wide range of differences in people to simplistic categorizations transform assumptions about particular groups of people into “realities” be used to justify the position of those in power perpetuate social prejudice and inequality More often than not, the groups being stereotyped have little to say about how they are represented. Anyone who examines North American entertainment and news media will notice that members of ethnic and visible minorities are inadequately represented in entertainment and news media, and that portrayals of minorities are often stereotypical and demeaning.
This tendency is particularly problematic in a multicultural country, where some of the population is immigrants and some is visible minorities, along with larger urban centers. Visual representation of reality is influential in shaping people’s views of the world, where everyday realities are articulated mostly by what we see in the media. The role of advertising in this interpretation of reality is crucial. The target audience’s self-identification with the images being a basic prerequisite for an advertisement’s effectiveness, makes advertising one of the most important factors in the building of behavior models and values systems.
The way a certain notion is managed at a visual level determines how people will perceive this notion and whether they will identify with it or not. Meaning is encoded in the structure of the images, which thus become potent cultural symbols for human behavior. The framing and composition of the image, the setting, the symbolic attributes and every other element in its structure, all are engaged in the effective presentation of the underlying notion. Gender Stereotypes in Advertising
Dominant discourses surrounding gender encourage us to accept that the human race is ‘naturally’ divided in to male and female, each gender realistically identifiable by a set of immutable characteristics. In Foucault’s terms, relations of difference are social constructs belonging to social orders that contain hierarchies of power, defined, named and delimited by institutional discourses, to produce social practices. “Gender differences are symbolic categories” (Saco, 1992:25). These categories are used to ascribe certain characteristics to men and women.
The representation of those characteristics determines how men and women are presented in cultural forms, and really whether an individual is identified as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. It is important to understand the big role that media, in general, and specifically advertisement plays in maintaining an ingrained gender hierarchy. The closer study of men’s and women’s images as presented in advertising should result in uncovering the messages about their identity and role in society. Until recently, masculinity in the media was not considered problematic since there was the notion that masculinity is not constructed. Masculinity remains the untouched and untouchable against which femininity figures as the repressed and/or unspoken” (Holmlund, 1993:214). The role advertisements play in the development and perpetuation of gender-role stereotypes may include: Women Stereotypes in Advertising Advertising is an over 100 billion dollar a year industry and affects all of us throughout our lives. We are each exposed to over 2000 ads a day, constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society.
The average American will spend one and one-half years of his or her life watching television commercials. The ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes they sell addictions. Advertising is the foundation and economic lifeblood of the mass media. The primary purpose of the mass media is to deliver an audience to advertisers, just as the primary purpose of television programs is to deliver an audience for commercials.
Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because they are new and inexperienced consumers and are the prime targets of many advertisements. They are in the process of learning their values and roles and developing their self-concepts. Most teenagers are sensitive to peer pressure and find it difficult to resist or even question the dominant cultural messages perpetuated and reinforced by the media. Mass communication has made possible a kind of national peer pressure that erodes private and individual values and standards. But what do people, especially teenagers, learn from the advertising messages?
On the most obvious level they learn the stereotypes. Advertising creates a mythical, mostly white world in which people are rarely ugly, overweight, poor, struggling or disabled, either physically or mentally (unless you count the housewives who talk to little men in toilet bowls). In this world, people talk only about products. The aspect of advertising most in need of analysis and change is the portrayal of women. Scientific studies and the most casual viewing yield the same conclusion: women are shown almost exclusively as housewives or sex objects.
The housewife, pathologically obsessed by cleanliness, debates the virtues of cleaning products with herself and worries about “ring around the collar” (but no one ever asks why he doesn’t wash his neck). She feels guilt for not being more beautiful, for not being a better wife and mother. Very unrealistic goals for ideal body shapes, which lead to high rates of anorexia nervosa and bulimia Make women believe they are valued based on their body, therefore their self-esteem is also based on how their body looks compared to others.
Give messages to women that changing their appearance, they will have a better life *Men* Stereotypes in Advertising It is interesting to see that now, when things have admittedly changed for women, we still see much of the same themes in modern men’s advertisements. In the ads from “Men’s Journal,” we generally see a handsome, strong, successful and somewhat rugged man. The camera angles are almost invariably from the bottom up, giving us a view of the man as though we, the viewer are below him, looking up at him. All of them are young, but none are teen-aged looking. All but one have, or show remnants of facial hair.
None of these ads show the man in the work place, but their depiction of leisure is that of mature success, not youthful excess. Because of the camera angles, the strong stances, the rugged good looks, and the depictions of success, these ads reinforce the stereotypes of men as strong, powerful, aggressive providers. An ad for Tommy Hilfiger shows the man with his arm around a girl who is leaning into his chest. This ad depicts a man as protector and as a heterosexual. The one ad that stands out from the group in this collection of ads from Men’s Journal is the one from ESPN’s Sport’s Center.
This ad shows a man finishing up a piece of cake at a diner and watching Sport’s center from across the bar. This is a different depiction of leisure which seems directly related to the product it is selling. The rest of the ads are selling some form of apparel. They are designed to show clothes as comfortable and stylish and show that a man who wears those clothes can be the aggressive, dominant male. The Sport’s Center ad is selling a product that isn’t consumed as part of public image, but of private pleasure. The clothes worn by the models are assertively masculine, and often emphasize a broad shouldered and solid body shape.
The models display a highly masculine independence and assurance, as well as the coding of narcissistic self-absorption. The choice of lighting and film stock emphasizes the surface qualities of skin, hair, eyes and the texture of clothing. Finally the cropping of the images works to produce intensity in many of the images. This stereotyped presentation of a gender role, certainly tells us that there is still a part of society that believes that men should be naturally related to power, aggression and authority. In recent years however, other aspects of masculinity have become acceptable in ads.
This can be seen in the difference between the ads in Men’s Journal and those in Maxim. The ads from Maxim are similar to those from Men’s Journal but definitely appeal to a younger audience. It is therefore interesting to look at what advertisers feel is more appealing to younger men. There is one ad for Ralph Lauren Cologne that shows a young successful looking man in a shirt and tie looking over the top of the head of the women cuddling in his chest. She is looking into the camera seductively and he looks as though his mind is elsewhere. He is dominant, even arrogant in this position and once again appears successful and confident.
Another ad from Maxim is for a DVD special edition of “Rocky. ” The ad shows rocky beaten and worn but continuing to fight. The copy reads “at least David had a slingshot. ” This ad depicts the ultimate American sports hero, appealing men, both young and old. In-short, disadvantages with Men Stereotyping, are: Show ideal for body type, also which can be unrealistic Show men as aggressive and in control of things, including women Women’s problems are “fixable”, you either fit the part of the masculine ideal or you do not Negative Stereotypes in Advertising
Aunt Jemima, Darkie toothpaste, Uncle Ben and the infamous “Waaaaaz up” crew from the people at Budweiser are some blatantly stereotypical roles that have had many conscious blacks frustrated during the past century. Darkie toothpaste may be unfamiliar to many Americans today because it was marketed in Hong Kong until March 1990. The toothpaste package featured a minstrel character with a wide smile. The character appeared to have placed black soot on his well-rounded face and red lipstick around his mouth while smiling large with gleaming white teeth.
To make the character completely minstrel-like, the character added a large brimmed top hat to grace his head. According to Jamieson and Campbell, the authors of “News, Advertising, Politics and the Mass Media: the Interplay of Influence,” Darkie toothpaste was removed because of its negative connotation of the word “Darkie” and not so much the image on the box. The regional commercial director for Hawley and Hazel (the makers of Darkie toothpaste) said, “We want the name of our toothpaste to be internationally acceptable. However, some people consider the word ‘Darkie’ racially offensive, particularly in America. It’s not that the name is not offensive, but the image was not even discussed. Associating the name with such an offensive image makes the toothpastes image just a bit more offensive. If Darkie toothpaste were associated with an image of dark yellow teeth with a contradictory image of a bright smile shown next to the crude picture, it would have shown a whole new connotation to the brand name. The frightening thing about this image is it was only removed from circulation 13 years ago, well after the Civil Rights Movement. Aunt Jemima has been a character that has shown a dramatic change throughout the years.
Aunt Jemima wore a red and white scarf over her head. Now Aunt Jemima has a well-groomed coif and a slimmer face that graces the boxes of pancake, waffle and syrup bottles across the world. The changing images of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are representative of the changes in American culture today. Although we do not see blacks as cooks, maids and servants anymore, we may see a new stereotype arising. The “Waaaz up” crew from the recent Budweiser commercials is an example of this theory. This campaign was very effective and catchy. It had people – black, white and every race in between – making it a staple in our ever-changing language.
Budweiser did not only stereotype blacks in America but also other often-stereotyped groups. The Italian mobsters constantly repeating “How you doin? ” and the “yuppie” stereotype stating, “How are yooooooou doing. ” The only people that spoke proper English in these advertisements were the upper class white men. The images of blacks have increased by number but not by quality. According to the Journal of Advertising, blacks spend more than $279 billion a year on consumer goods, yet the advertisers are only spending approximately $865 million a year to reach them.
This disproportionate figure reveals why many advertisements misrepresent blacks across America. Only a small percentage of the black population is professional athletes, yet they are the majority of endorsers for black products. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women must demand a wider variety of roles in advertisements for it may negatively affect the children of tomorrow. If we are only being shown in narrow roles, our future generation may not aspire to be anything but rappers and athletes, instead of politicians, doctors or lawyers. Ask the advertisers, “Waaaz up wit dat? Research supports that mass stereotyping groups of people does not work in the development and marketing of business ideas. Although many corporations still try to capitalize on stereotypes, this line of thinking simply does not work as effectively as the old “mom and pop country store” approach to business: Getting to know your customers as intimately as possible. If grouping populations like cattle into marketing niches worked, why would major corporations still continue to invest so heavily into studying consumer habits and demographics?
If this type of marketing philosophy worked well then anyone with a great business idea could make it simply by targeting. Obviously, this is not so. *Stereotypin*g Myths For example, stereotype marketing ideologies might focus too much on one group and ignore another equally, or even more important. For example, target only kids for (non-PC) video games and lose access to millions of customers. Nearly a quarter of all video games are purchased by consumers aged 40 and older, and 38% of all video game sales are made by women.
Another case in point: Senior citizens have become the fastest-growing population in the United States. ; however, mass marketing to seniors has remained somewhat elusive. Several pioneers in the senior marketing industry note that age alone has little to do with the interests of senior consumers. Those who have attempted to cash in on the senior population, simply lumping retirees together by age, have failed, and miserably so. When it comes to advertising, “marketing” studies that offer only cold statistics may play less of a role than you think in developing successful marketing strategies and advertising campaigns.
Customers can be your best or worst source of advertising. Word of mouth referrals, especially in the age of the Internet, should not be undervalued. And, since consumers are more likely to complain than to compliment, it pays to have customer-friendly and trustworthy complaint resolution practices in place. It pays to see your customers as individuals, with common needs, but not as groups who, because of stereotype images, have lemming-like behaviors when it comes to making purchases.
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