Women stereotypes in advertising

“They are better educated, earning more money than ever, and make the bulk of buying decisions. Yet when it comes to wooing women, advertisers could use a lesson in the art of courtship.”

A recent study showed that ads targeted to women were mostly cliched and offensive, more at CNN.com

The Belfast Telegraph agress and lists five typical clichés of woman (as portrayed by advertisers). There's super-granny, The Beauty Bunny, Alpha females, The Fashionista and good ol' Perfect Mum - but do these women really exist in reality and do real women identify with these caricatures?

"We already understand that women are different from men. Now we need to understand that women are different from one another. They want to be catered to as individuals," said Rebekka Bay, the head of consumer trends at Enterprise IG.

Yes, we're all individuals! crowd cheers back: We're all individuals. I'm not!

Bay argues that advertisers need to change the way they research female consumers. Instead of focus groups about particular products, she believes that marketers should find out more about all aspects of women's lives.

Not a bad idea considering that women still hold most of the buying power - 88%! “53 percent of all stock purchases, 63 percent of personal computer buys, and 75 percent of all over-the-counter drug outlays.” according to the study which CNN reports on.

The Belfast article argues that this is not just a gender issue - which is true. Caricatures and stereotypes of men exist in advertising as well - we've all seen the bumbling buffoon, the beer-guzzler, the purse-holding husband et al. Many argue that when you only have thirty seconds to tell a story, you don't have much time to flesh out a character.

Perhaps if advertising spent less time telling jokes and showing 'settings' where we should identify and spent more time telling the story of the product, these things could be avoided.

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caffeinegoddess's picture

I thought this bit from the article was bang on too.

But both Mr Mildenhall and Ms Bay believe that advertisers have failed to keep up with the rapid changes in female lifestyles during the past five years. Mr Mildenhall identifies five key changes in women's lifestyles that marketers should take into account. First, women are increasingly adopting male behaviour, for example in their approach to alcohol. Second, they are doing better than men in education, but not in the workplace - while they make up half of the workforce, there is still a massive pay imbalance. Third, while women are getting older, they are acting younger. For example, a 45-year-old might wear the same clothes as her teenage daughter - without looking ridiculous or in any way unusual. Fourth, women are having children much later and are less likely to stay at home with them. And finally, women are increasingly important when it comes to making purchasing decisions. But advertisers are still afraid to address them.
"Advertisers are lazy in their approach to consumers. They're stuck in a 1990s time warp where they think if they add a bit of emotion, they've done their job. Consumers have changed rapidly over the last five years," said Ms Bay.

These are points that are definitely not addressed in a majority of advertising directed at women now.

It's a copout to say that caricatures and stereotypes have to be used in a :30 because you don't have time to flush out a character. They exist in :60s as well, where there is more time. And there are adverts that do some how manage to do ads in :30 period of time without resorting to it. It's an issue because advertising is still a boy's club, there's more of a concern to "catch attention" without crafting an ad around what should be the star- the product, and a large number of advertisers still look at women from an antiquated point of view.

All you have to do is look at ads for things like peanut butter. They still use the concept "if you care about your family you should purchase brand X. If you don't you are a horrible mom." This sort of thing is like something out of the 1960s and it's rather sad and scary that it still exists today.

Dabitch's picture

This is an equal stereo-gender-type world, and Stacy on adlist suggests that these are the most common male caricatures:

> 1. Dumb Jock/sports enthusiast
> 2. Emasculated husband who cannot master simple household chores
> 3. Loveable and/or horny old geezer
> 4. Preoccupied businessman on the verge of enlightenment
> 5. God

blkadr's picture

Of course there's not enough time to flesh out a character, but showing a woman with a pot holder setting a dish onto a table where a man and children are waiting, or a woman complaining about soap scum while wearing rubber gloves and holding a spray bottle in her hand does get a certain point across, and that point is that women are supposed to tend the children, clean the house, and keep their husbands fed and happy. The husband's job is to be unable to cook or clean and be catered to. This stereotype makes me so angry that I can barely watch tv anymore.

Dabitch's picture

I keep coming back to this: Where did product as hero ads go? You know, the ones where the product was the character, the main star of the ad. Like Honda Cog, Bravia balls, Masterlock "repeat did not budge", and a bunch other ads I can't recall right now.

fairuse's picture

I know. The product as hero faded out about the same time jingles did? There is Mr Clean with that catchy jingle. No BS, just sell the product.

And now some bad news for the stereotypes are needed crowd. Do you honestly think a "suit" such as my wife is going to buy into the line about "scrubbing bubbles" doing the work so her $$$ fingernail designs/polish won't get wet?

The answer is yes & no. Yes if a product states that it has super duper high pressure steam scrubbing bubbles and it works, however, if the product is trash bin lame at its task then No. Lucky you, no repeat sales. Now the real bad news: I do the scrubbing and do not use any of the products pushed on TV. I buy a cleaner that works at the cheap price of $18.00 gal. ($ convert: 12.46 euro, 111.75 krona). There it is, the product explained and not simple minded stereotypes are the way to profits.

Guess who buys cars, mobile phone, Sat Radio, grocery? Well she does, and along with my tech input items such as TV, DVR, DVD and computers. Advertisers have to throw out the 60s.

RANT: Pepsi: Do you really think pushup boobs and a bouncy butt attached to way-long legs in a beach setting is going to sell more soft drink? .... waiting on answer ....