Ad Industry Stereotype Policeman?

According to a blog from Choozle, by Megan Sullivan-Jenks reporting on a SurveyMonkey study, gender stereotyping in advertisements is a common tactic used for many brands and products to portray their target audience. Whether it’s the shampoo that only features women with beautiful hair in their commercials, or camping gear that only shows a male on the packaging, brands are consciously choosing to highlight and promote to one gender over the other.



The study, “Gender Stereotype Survey,” was designed to better understand how the average consumers perceive gender targeting, and gender stereotypes, in advertisements; how attuned they are to the role gender plays in ads, how they’re affected, what aspect of an ad they think promotes these stereotypes, and whether these consumers believed that the ad industry should be held responsible for reinforcing gender stereotypes.

The study surveyed 250 men and 250 women, representing a range of ages 18 and older, located in every region of the U.S., and have household incomes ranging from $0 to $200,000+. To begin the survey, respondents were provided a brief definition of the term “gender stereotype” with traditional examples for both men and women.

The study tackled a variety of different subjects, says the report, including brand breaking stereotypes, creative design and the copy of ads pushing stereotypes, purchasing behaviors, and the ad industry’s role in breaking stereotypes.

Brand Breaking Stereotypes

While there is an audience that will react positively to brands actively breaking gender stereotypes, there is an even bigger segment of consumers who will not be affected, says the report. 

  • 44% of respondents said when it comes to their feelings about a brand, they are not impacted by advertisements that aim to break stereotypes.
  • 50% of males are more likely to experience no impact from a brand trying to break a stereotype compared to 38% of women. 
  • 36% of respondents said they like a brand more when it runs advertisements that break stereotypes
  • 25% said they are more likely to purchase from that brand

Ad Copy vs. Creative

The study asked “Does something as simple as the font and color treatment of an advertisement impact consumers’ perception of stereotyping.” Yes, was the response, but not in the way one might expect, says the report. 

  • 57% of respondents agreed sample copy tagline was targeting women 
  • 43% of respondents thought it was targeting men. 

When provided more information, (the font and colors of the men’s ad tagline,) respondents had mixed opinions on whom the ad was targeting:

  • 189 people responded both men and women
  • 112 responded men

Colors, fonts, images, words, and phrasing create a connection between the creative aspects themselves and the reinforcement of gender stereotypes, says the report. 

  • 60% of survey respondents agreed that colors and fonts in ads promote certain gender stereotypes 
  • 80% of respondents agreed that images in an ad promote gender stereotypes
  • 75% agree words and phrasing in ads can play a part in promoting a certain stereotype 

Purchasing Behavior

Opinions are mixed on whether gender stereotypes affect purchasing behavior. There is a notable segment of consumers that will sometimes buy men’s products and sometimes buy women’s products, regardless of their gender, says the report: 

  • 55% of respondents said they sometimes prefer to buy products that are made for their gender
  • 42% of respondents stated that they sometimes prefer products made for a different gender than their own. 
  • 39% of respondents say that will only buy products for their own gender and will never buy those made for a gender different than their own

Ad Industry’s Role

Respondent’s opinions are mixed on whether the ad industry should be held responsible for breaking gender stereotypes: more than a third of respondents don’t feel either way strongly, says the report. 

  • 37% of respondents agree that the advertising industry has a responsibility not to use gender stereotypes
  • 27% of respondents think the industry doesn’t have a role in gender stereotypes

The survey revealed many things regarding the use of gender stereotypes in digital advertising. A mixed bag certainly, but there are proclivities. Some generic conclusions and observations:

  • Some people don’t mind the gender stereotyping that can be formed through an advertisement and actually prefer buying products for their gender
  • Others believe it is important to start breaking these stereotypes and would prefer buying from a brand which is more progressive and forward thinking as it relates to genders 
  • It important for advertisers to take into consideration what the product is and if it could be used for male and/or female
  • As some women shared, they often prefer buying products that advertise towards women

Many products could be used for either male or female, concludes the report. If an advertiser is producing ads for a product that could be utilized for either gender, they should consider a message and creative style that appeals to both without portraying that it really should be just for females or just for males. 

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