Stereotyping Commercials

Commercials are the vast source of gender stereotyping, because they are adapted to the specific, either male or female target, and are “the reflection of the recipient”. The aim of the modern commercial is not only the satisfaction of needs but also their creation.

Women are more often presented in commercials, because they are seen as responsible for making everyday purchases. Men generally advertise cars, cigarettes, business products or investments, whereas  women are shown rather in the commercials with cosmetics
and domestic products. They are also more likely portrayed in the home environment, unlike men, who are shown outdoors. Another important distinction is the face-ism phenomenon in  the commercials, which consists in showing the entire figure in case of women and close-up shots in case of men (Matthews, J. L. 2007). The first method lowers the receiver’s estimation of the intelligence of the person on the photo. The second one more often evokes positive associations.

According to Steve Craig’s research (1997), women can be presented in commercials in several variants. The first one is the most popular: a housewife obsessed by a steam on a new tablecloth or a woman whose main problem is lack of ideas for dinner. The other examples are less traditional, however, they are still very stereotypical. One can distinguish commercials with female vamps – sexy seductresses, the objects of desire of every man. They mostly advertise cosmetics, but they also appear in the commercials directed to men. When a beautiful woman accepts and praises the male cosmetics, it is treated by men as a guarantee of its quality. Another type is a woman, whose major concern is to preserve her beauty. Hence, she presents a healthy life style, is physically active, uses a wide range of body and facial cosmetics. However, one can observe mainly the presence of very thin actresses in this type of commercials, which can lead to the assumption, that only thin women can be beautiful and healthy. As a result, many female receivers fall into the obsession with their weight, which sometimes can have negative effects.

Male stereotypes are also various. The first model is “a real man”, athletic, successful, professional, seducer with a beautiful woman by his side. He also has a branded car and a smartphone. The other type is less popular and presents men devoted to their families who can save enough time for them. Men are very rarely presented during housecleaning. And if they are, it is rather a satirical image – e.g. in the Mr. Muscle commercial – or they appear as the experts and they advise women, for instance, how to do laundry properly. Advertising specialists also use the stereotype of male friendship, which can be called “buddy narratives”; men are presented as acting together, for instance by going to a football match or to the pub. They share the same interests and opinions, and they enjoy spending time together by doing something extremely interesting and adventurous (Pawlica, Widawska 2001).

More and more commercials are directed to children. They  indicate “the proper place” in the society for girls and boys. Girls are shown as babysitters nursing dolls or cleaning house with a pink cleaning kit, whereas boys do sports or play computer games (ibid).

If men and women appear in the commercials together, they are mainly presented as a couple or marriage. A sexual subtext is also often used in this case, even if the advertised product has nothing in common with the erotic sphere. In the situation of competition, women appear to be weaker than men (Lukas 2002).

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