My overall aim was to ‘Investigate the extent of the stereotyping of gender in advertising’. Within this aim were two sub-objectives to ‘Investigate how gender advertising works to portray gender’ and to ‘Investigate the effect of stereotyped roles on the public’. Content Analysis The portrayals used in billboard and magazine advertising are very similar. Therefore, a large part of my conclusion will apply to both types of advertising. There will be, however, certain aspects that are unique to the specific type of advert. I will look at these separately.
The effectiveness of the use of sex The use of sex is one of the most powerful tools in advertising and in media. The use of sex is apparent everywhere (from newspapers like ‘The Sun’ to Television) to promote a new product. This use of gender is very effective and because of this, it is hard not to find an advert using sex to attract attention or influence feelings about the products. Even adverts that do not, at first glance, seem to be using sex may be using it by way of sexual innuendoes and references.
This use of sex has been a main contributor to the world of gender portrayal. When sex is used, it is usually combined with the traditional gender roles, for example, the Diet Coke adverts portraying the man as a rough, yet attractive manual worker, The use of sex can cause the public to be misled into purchasing products that they either, don’t really want or don’t really need. Clothing is a perfect example of this. Advertisers for clothing use sex to promote the image of the product showing them off as a magnet to draw a partner to you. Many people purchase these, more expensive, clothes because of this image.
The categories looking at ‘body-shape’, ‘part of body shown’ and ‘proportion of image taken up by person’ are all different aspects of the use of sex. These categories all increase the effectiveness of the advert when used correctly. By focusing on, say, the breasts or legs of a woman, men are just about guaranteed to take an interest (just as women would with a man in the advert). Body-shape in advertising has become a talking point in recent times because of its ‘effect’ on the minds of young people. A slim woman or muscular man in an advert is likely to grab the attention of more people than average-looking characters.
The effectiveness of Role Reversal Although the use of role reversal (going against the traditional gender roles) helps to give women more power and credibility, it can also be seen as being used to simply gain attention. People looking at the advert will notice the way the woman or man is portrayed and are more likely to remember it because it is unusual and not what they are used to seeing. These portrayals are intentional and not just a whimsical choice made by the advertising agency/department. If not to gain attention, the use of role reversal is likely to be used in response to complaints about the portrayal of characters in traditional roles and not the more modern ones, for example, the businesswoman or househusband.
Billboard Advertising My initial theory for billboard advertising was that they would be designed to be more eye-catching or more complicated than those in magazines are. This theory was partly wrong. I feel that the adverts on billboards have a lot more substance and detail than magazine adverts (well, those that I looked at anyway) but are generally not very eye-catching in comparison to the adverts I analysed from magazines.
I found that the billboard adverts were, generally straightforward and simple, apart from the occasional post-modern type advert, e.g. those of Benetton. Several of the Benetton billboard adverts that have been publicised are very obscure. They are not obviously adverts for clothing, for example, an image of a newborn baby covered in blood. My expectation that billboards would be more eye-catching was wrong. The adverts in magazines were far more eye-catching than those on billboards. I now feel that billboard adverts do not really need to be wild and wonderful in appearance because of their size and location placement, which will get them noticed very easily. Magazine adverts, on the other hand, need to be extremely eye-catching and ‘worthy of viewing’ because readers can easily miss them when flipping through the pages of a magazine. If not interestingly weird or bright, many readers will not take much notice of it or even miss it altogether.
Magazine Advertising The main point I would like to bring to light is the fact that different adverts are found in different magazines. Advertisers know the target market of the product and therefore must look to match with the target audience. It would be a stupid idea to include an advert for a car in a child’s magazine because it does not relate to them. Just as the product must be matched, so must the portrayals. Advertisers, again, know which tactics gain the attention of to which audience. For example, an advert showing a man sitting on a couch being served by a woman can be seen as sexist. This portrayal would be completely out of place in a ‘women only’ magazine like Woman’s Own.
I looked through FHM in search of adverts and the ones that I found were definitely positioned in the magazine intentionally. The majority used sex tactics and were for products that men would usually purchase, either for themselves, or their partners. This reinforces the argument I have made above. Interviews Before going out and conducting the interviews, I had my own views on gender advertising. My feeling was that men and women are typically portrayed in their traditional roles. There are certain portrayals that are easily seen as a ‘man’s job’ and those which can be seen as ‘a woman’s place’. When conducting the interview I was looking to investigate this view and whether this view was replicated in the views of other people.
I can now conclude, after analysing the responses I received that the use of gender in advertising has a great effect on the public. I was looking to see how advertising affects the views of people. My research has shown that people are aware of the gender roles used in advertising and their significance. They are aware of the reasons for their use and yet are still affected by them. I can make this statement based on the fact that advertisers continue to gender roles.
If this style of advertising did not work, advertisers would look for another way. This is not the case, however, because products, which use a large and expensive advertising like the Calvin Klein fragrances, sell very well. This cannot be down to just the smell. A lot of these sales are down to the cool image of these products. Many interviewees picked up on this in their answers to question 4 – ‘Do… adverts exploit gender?’ and argued that people are won over by way products look on the model. They think that they would look as good as the models do with it.
Evaluation Aims and Objectives The overall aim for my study was to investigate the extent of the stereotyping of gender in advertising. Within this objective it was my intention to gain insight into the views of the public, and to investigate the use of gender in advertising. With hindsight, I can see that these objectives were not very precise, as they could be interpreted in a number of ways. These objectives might have been more clearly defined. They could have also been broken down into various sub objectives.
Methodology I decided to use content analysis and interviews as my research methodology. Within the content analysis, I chose to look at the advertising on public billboards and in magazines. While I am happy to have looked at these two types of advertising, I have two regrets. The first regret is that I did not look at television advertising and the second is the lack of time. If more time had been available to me, I would have been able to find and analyse a lot more adverts and billboards. I went to Chester expecting to have no trouble in finding suitable advertising. From there, I went to Sheffield, as I was going to attend a University Open Day. It was a struggle to find advertising that fulfilled my expectations. Maybe I had been looking in the wrong places or maybe it was just bad luck.
Going back to my regret about not investigating television advertising, this was again due to the amount of time available to me. Television advertising would have been both interesting and useful to investigate because of the aspects of advertising not available in the printed media, for example voice-overs. In carrying out the interviews, I questioned about 10 people. Those questioned were all 17/18 years old, both male and female and members of my school sixth form.
This is a failing in the representativeness of my interview research. In order to gain a more valid understanding of the views of the public, I should have looked at several other groups. One factor that I could have looked at, was that of age. By investigating the views of older people, they might have given me insight into tactics used in advertising in the past. This would have been very helpful in analysing the “effect of stereotyped roles”. In order to change all these things, I need to look again at the sampling procedure used in the interviews. By using a more developed and structured procedure, I would have been able to foresee any problems that could occur.
I believe that the level of reliability in my interview research is high. The responses I received were very much like my own and those discussed in newspapers and on television tended to agree. I feel that a repeat of my study would yield, essentially, similar results but the timing of the research may adjust/distort findings. Advertisers use different tactics at different times of the year, i.e. the use of children at Easter or couples near to St. Valentine’s Day.
Presentation of Results The presentation of my results would have been made better through the use of pie graphs and charts. These summary diagrams were not included because of the amount of information I had to get across. I felt that it would be too complicated for the reader if these diagrams had been included. Therefore, I have included the full content analysis tables with analysis and the actual adverts in the appendix of the study.