The Representations Of The Sexes In The 1970s Media

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Even though women outnumber men in global population, their representation on television, more specifically TV adverts are unrepresentative due to demeaning images of women continuously being beamed through our TV sets. Eisend (2009) claimed that female representation on TV adverts is a collection of out dated stereotypes, which is increasingly becoming worse. Holbrook (1987) warned of the growing ill representation of women in advertisements by suggesting that adverts highlight social stereotypes, which strengthens stereotypical values and attitudes within society.

So what are stereotypes? Vinackle (1957) defines stereotypes as socially contrasted concepts that help categories society. Judd and Park (1993) offer a more detailed definition of stereotypes by defining them as a belief or way of thinking that people hold about others. However such beliefs tends to be grossly generalized or offer and abstract of a person, consequently representing the entirety of an individual inaccurately (Kim and Lowry 2005). Gender stereotypes are social beliefs that highlight attributes that differentiate men and women (Ashmore and Del Boca 1981). Eisend (2009) however points out that stereotyping is not an inherently negative judgment as it provides expectations that help people categories groups of people while making it easier to navigate through everyday life. They can however lead us to over simplify rather complex concepts about peoples identities, which can lead to false evaluations of individuals, places and events within society (Eisend and Steinhagen 2011). For example, there has been increasing discussion in recent times about the need for more women to be better represented in board rooms of companies. However the stereotype that a women's place is at home and not the boardroom still exist today (Business week 2011).

This example highlights how stereotyping can restrict certain social groups and the opportunities they get in life, especially women. Stereotyping of female behaviors for example where the woman's role is to take care of the children may cause women to put restrictions on their personal development. It is for these salient reasons that representations of women on TV advertising prove to be important issues that should not be ignored (Kim and Lowry 2005).

Interestingly, several researchers have found the misleading representations of women exist across the globe. Furham and Farragher (2001) tried to find any differences in gender roles between Britain and New Zealand. Their findings found there to be identical similarities in how both nations poorly represented women in adverts. Kim and Lowry (2005) research on gender representation in South Korean TV adverts also found identical representations of women as Furham and Farragher (2001). This suggest that stereotypes have a place in different cultures from around the world but despite cultural differences they all have common stereotypes where the man is likely to be shown as the dominant and intelligent whilst being shown in a working environment. The woman is likely to be a housewife catering to the needs of her husband. She is likely to be young and attractive (Furham and Farragher 2001). Knoll et al (2011) claims that women especially in the western world have however become more career minded and are yet still represented in TV adverts more or less in the same light as they did a few decades ago.

Representation of gender in the media has predominately focused on women. This is because issues of gender representation have become synonymous with the stereotypes women have been stained with in the media (Knoll et al 2011). Men seem to have always been represented rather favorably on the media and therefore has not created much course for concern. This is where this study takes a new turn in order to focus on the salient issue at hand, thus "The issue of female representation on television advertising".

In order to understand the issue of gender representation on TV advertising, it is important to have a historical insight into this social phenomenon. Like most issues in society, the topic of gender representation is highly path dependent as history influences the future. The following sections offer a brief history into gender representation in the media since the 1970s. It hopes to highlight underlying trends that may help explain how gender stereotypes form and why such stereotypes are common on our TV screens.

Representations of the sexes in the 1970s

A study conducted by Courtney and Whipple in the 1970s claimed that men represented about 85% of all voice-overs on TV adverts. Men were more likely to be product representatives in adverts especially during prime-time hours. The products men predominately advertised were related to entertainment and excitement (Signorelli et al, 2009). On the other hand, women were predominantly the product representatives for female cosmetic products. In the few instances where women are represented as experts in the product being advertised the product would be related to cooking, cleaning or products designed to enhancing their beauty (Signorelli et al 2009). Women were represented as homemakers as 40% of women advertise products in a home setting whilst performing household chores. Adverts, which featured women were mainly shown during the daytime as the adverts look to appeal to housewives who were most likely to be at home during the day (Signorelli et al 2009). Men were only shown in a home setting 15% of the time with wider varieties of job/ character roles and were represented as more intelligent, expert and superior to women (Signorelli et al 2009). Only 14% of adverts saw women having the last word in adverts as evident in 1973 (Signorelli et al 2009). This percentage however increased to 26% the following year. This suggested that women were gaining a voice on adverts but this was restricted yet again to female related products such as cosmetics and cleaning products.

Representations of the sexes in the 1970s experienced small developments but stereotypes still existed. Schneider and Schneider (1979) research indicated that overtime, more and more older people were used in TV adverts. This was a shift away from using young adults to using actors in the fifty plus age group. Women were however still portrayed as younger compared to men and were still likely to be positioned as housewives or married 20% of the time. Schneider and Schneider (1979) also found that in 1976 men were most likely to be shown as being employed (48%) whilst 18% of women on TV adverts are shown to be employed outside the home.

Despite the disparity, this showed that the gap between workingmen and career women in TV adverts was narrowing. More men were shown in a wider variety of settings including the home however women were still shown exclusively within the home. Schneider and Schneider (1979) established that there still existed a disparity between representations of men and women on TV adverts. However the trend between 1971 and 1976 offered a more realistic portrayal of men and women in society. Schneider and Schneider (1979) believed this highlighted advertisers appreciation that gender roles were changing and maybe even converging.

What Courtney and Whipple (1974) concluded was that, the average 1970s woman in TV advertising was a young housewife who remained a subordinate to the men around her. Consequently this highlights the prejudice against older female actors as they do not fit the stereotype of the, young and attractive homemaker (Coltrane and Messineo 1998). Women were less skilled, immature and less successful compared to her male superior. However in the daytime, there was a sudden role reversal where women were represented more positively compared to men. Schneider and Schneider (1979) claim that in the 70s, men were as negatively represented as women. The only differentiating factor was the time of day the commercial was shown. Women were characterized more positively that men in the daytime whilst women were negatively portrayed compared to men during primetime. In the evenings, Manstead and Mculloch (1981) found that women were always proven to be less intelligent than men whom often outnumbered women on screen. In the daytime, women were more likely to provide factual or scientific arguments about products during adverts. This led to researchers like Pesch (1981) to investigate the differences in gender representation during daytime and prime time TV in the 1980s.

Representations of the sexes in the 1980s

Pesch (1981) found that 72% of product representatives were women and a further 83% of women shown on TV adverts were shown in domestic setting doing domestic jobs. Men however on afternoon TV adverts were however shown 67% of the time in business related jobs. This suggest that the adverts were trying to represent real life based on the stereotype that men were at work whilst women stayed at home to do house chores in the afternoons.

Men continued to dominate primetime advertisement owning 90% of all voice-over slots. Men and women were equally likely to represent products during prime time but this was highly influenced by the product being advertised. Therefore, men were most likely to advertise products that were considered to be more masculine such as cars and DIY equipment and cars. Women on the on the other hand were most likely to advertise feminine products like cosmetics.

Needless to say, not much progress had been made since the 1980s but the disparity between men and women were less the before Pesch (1981). Nonetheless the stereotypes remained; women belonged at home and the man in the workplace.

Courtney and Whipple (1974) points out that the stereotype of women intertwined with male stereotypes. Yet there has not been much research done on male stereotypes in TV advertising and this gap in literature seems to still exist today. The stereotypes of the sexes is not only isolated to TV advertising but is prevalent on TV programming in general. By the end of the 1980s TV adverts still offered inaccurate representations of society. However there was the smell of change in the air as gender representations took a new and exciting turn.

Representations of the sexes in the 1990s

More promising strides were made in the 1990s as more women in TV adverts were shown outside the domestic setting whilst representing 45% of characters on TV adverts (Coltrane S and Messineo M (1998) and Jean (2010)". Women were now being represented to be more assertive and having authority over their day-to-day lives. This however brought other problems of female representations in the media. Women seemed to have graduated from the simple obedient homemaker to provocative sexual goddesses tasked to sell products with their sexual embrace (Sacrisan, Fuertes-Olivera 1994). This is evident as advertisers adopted new form of cinematography that juxtaposed products with sensual female body parts like legs, cleavage and breasts. Furthermore Downs and Harrison (1985) research found that adverts, (mostly narrated by men), which encouraged women to enhance their beauty were shown once in every four adverts.

This highlights how women were gradually being taught to embrace this new stereotype the media was promoting. The objectification of women according to objectification theory is likely to have adverse effects on women. Objectification theory according to Snigda and Venkatesh (2011) occurs when repetitive exposure to sexual objectification leads women to view themselves as objects thereby valuing themselves based on outwards appearance such as attractiveness. Objectification theory further argues that women see their bodies' as things to be toyed with instead as an entity that helps keeps the person alive and functioning. This undermines a woman's ability to judge them selves based on inherent traits such as intelligence and emotional stability. Snigda and Venkatesh (2011) believe sexual objectification is promoted by advertisement ranging from TV to print adverts. However the effects of objectification theory varies from woman to woman as some women can readily inherit stereotypical images of women seen in adverts into their real lives. It is therefore vital for adverts not to objectify women but rather portray them in a light that they can easily relate to.

Men are less affected by objectification theory but have also experienced certain changes over the years (Jean 2010). Despite still dominating voice-over roles, men were now being shown in household settings doing stereotypical female jobs like cooking. This role reversal allowed women more control whilst showing a softer side of the modern man (Gauntlett 2002). Interestingly Bartsch et al (2000) found that female voice-overs by the late 1990s had grown from 10% to 30% within the decade. This suggests male dominance in voice-overs were gradually being eroded.

Nonetheless, Petro (2005) believes the role reversal we see occur from the mid 90s was due to the feminist movement that emerged decades earlier. The feminist movement's main aim was to empower women by fighting for social equality. This implied that women wanted to change the stereotypes they had been given by a male dominated society, which represented women as inferior to men. Petro (2005) claims the sexual liberation of women in the 1980s could be argued to have caused the depiction of women as sexually we see in the 1990s. Women by this time took control of their sexuality as many felt their sexuality should be celebrated on screen (Petro 2005).

This paved the way for advertisers to use women's sexuality to sell products thereby creating a new and provocative stereotype of women in advertising. Petro (2005) believes the feminist movement also encouraged women to abandon their domestic chores and take up careers. What this meant was that, women were earning money thereby becoming lucrative consumers that advertisers needed to pay attention to. In order to sell effectively to this new empowered woman, advertiser had to depict her in a non-offensive stereotypical manner (Ford et al 2005). However, Hupfer (2002) warns that traditional stereotypes may in fact distance career women as they may feel such stereotypes don't represent them.

Despite not being properly represented in top management positions, there is a growing trend of women in the senior management positions even within the advertising industry. Their mere presence in top adverting positions also allows female ideas and voices to be heard in advertising. Britain in 2005 had women making up 66% of the advertising industry however only one out of three women find their way into creative departments (Bosman 2005). In addition, out of 33 advertising agencies, only four had main offices with female creative directors (Bosman 2005). It is therefore no surprise that by 2006, no woman was on the list of the top most creative in advertising in the last 20 years (Creativity 2006). This suggest that the bias advertisers have towards men reaches far back the creative production line because the creative studios of advertising agencies remain male fraternities. Consequently, an old boys network forms where men hire other men and try to advertise to other men because people are most comfortable communicating with people similar to them selves (Ibarra 1992).

However Broyles and Grow (2008) point out that women are responsible for 80% of household spending. It is therefore startling how men continue to dominate advertising. The old boys network within adverting agencies may shed some light on the male dominance evident in advertising. However, it also highlights the fact that this bias towards men maybe because advertising agencies still have little clue about how to connect with women (Vagnoni 2005). Broyles and Grow (2008) consequently advise that gender equality on-screen can be attained if females are properly represented within creative department of advertising agencies. However a lot more still needs to be done according to Mendelsohn (2005). This is another reason women's representation on TV adverts changed as a consequence of the feminist moment, and by the mid-1990s their effect was felt within the advertising industry as women had some say in the creative process and content of adverts.

Despite the feminist movement making major strides in the representations of women, there remained a disparity between how white woman and ethnic minority women were portrayed in TV adverts. Coltrone and Messineo (2000) found that, black women were rarely positioned as sexually available or sex objects compared to white women. This is because black women are not perceived to be as attractive as white women in TV adverts according to Coltrone and Messineo (2000). Black women were less likely to be shown in a family setting or as career women. However black women benefited from the growing number of females in TV adverts in the 1990s. Yet they were still stained with past stereotypes that depicted women to be inferior to men, even men of the same race.

One could argue that, the stereotype of women being at home and men at work is an attempt by the media to create a male inspired utopian which audiences (mainly men)could easily relate to and hopefully aspire to. These stereotypes offered an idealistic view of the world or how it could be. Even though the world has moved on, Coltrone and Messineo (2000) believe the stereotypes will always exist as it has a function within society. Stereotypes allow us to perform a basic human function of interaction, which is to categorize everything we see, and experience. The feminist movement for decades has tried to take control of crass stereotypes and try to redefine them. The consequent developments in female representationwe see in TV adverts today is a result of the feminist movement (Petro 2005). However Coltrone and Messineo (2000) feel that TV adverts attempts in the 1990s to appeal to women created more but slightly different stereotypes, which still does not accurately represent the women in the real world. And if adverts are trying to portray real life, there is a lag time between what happens in the real world and what adverts show.

Conclusions and the last decade

Knoll et al (2011) tell us that adverts still offer inaccurate representations of society especially since women are seven times more likely to be appear in a stereotypical manner than men. Knoll et al (2011) therefore advises that gender stereotypes should be in fact be regulated. The EU women's rights committee in has pushed for member nations to closely regulate adverts to fight against gender stereotypes (Telegraph 2008). Research by Callcott and Philips (1996) claims that stereotypes in advertising do not always influence the buyer into purchasing the product. Therefore employing stereotypes to appeal to a certain gender does not guarantee increase in sales. The issue here is that the best way to communicate with consumers is to send messages that fall in line with their existing beliefs.

In support Zawisza and Cinnirella (2010) believe that challenging established stereotypes risk being rejected by the audience. For example, Eagley and Mladinic (1989) claim that society considers women to be the more socially pleasant compared to men especially when women conform to traditional feminine roles that employ their nurturing characteristics. Eagley and Mladinic call this the "women are wonderful effect". However, this effect disappears when women step out of her nurturing role and adopt roles traditionally given to men. Consequently advertisers are unlikely to challenge established stereotypes regardless of how accurately the stereotype represents real life (Callcott and Philips 1996). Therefore traditional portrayals of women as housewives and men as breadwinners should result in effective communication with audiences.

However, Schudson (1984) believes that adverts repetitive depiction of stereotypical images reinforce crass stereotypes that fail to accurately represent society but are successful in recycling largely socially acceptable stereotypes. In other words, the repetitive nature of adverts desensitizes audiences to many stereotypes. This is supported by McGhee and Frueh (1980) who found that, audiences who spent a lot of time watching TV were more likely to believe that stereotypes in the media were accurate representations of reality.

What's more, Huang (1995) believes stereotypes are further promoted by socialisation. Socialisation occurs when socially accepted ideas such as stereotypes are transmitted from one generation to another. This normally occurs within the family but is also sustained by the media. Childs and Maher (2003) and Browne (1998) found that socialisation and TV adverts played an important role in how children differentiated between men and women. Browne (1998) found that adverts on children TV stations employed the same biases towards males as pre-teen boys were seen to demonstrate product offerings more that pre-teen girls. Furthermore, young girls were less likely to be used as voice-overs on such TV stations. The young male dominance on children's adverts was only compromised when the product being advertised was gender specific like dolls for girls.

However Browne (1998) points out that, even non-gender specific products like food was dominated by boys on children's TV channels. What this shows is that there is a strong preference to males in TV adverts. It is therefore no surprise that children who watched more TV believed that men held a superior status to women (McGhee and Frueh 1980, Childs and Maher 2003). Even in adolescence, TV channel like MTV represent females as sexual objects both in their programming and adverts (Signorielli et al 2009). This causes teenagers to continue receiving warped ideas of the role women play in society. Furthermore Pollay (1986) argues that advertisers cannot possible portray the many and sometimes complex values and beliefs in society and are therefore rely on using stereotypes as a mechanism to reflect some of the audiences existing beliefs. Such beliefs were also subtly communicated as men were much more likely to be controlling or handling the product being advertised.

Much research till date had shown a clear bias towards men in TV adverts. Wulf et al (2002) took on a different approach to understanding the biases TV adverts had towards men. Wulf et al (2002) consequently attempted to find out if masculine countries as defined by Hofstede's cultural dimensions, influence the level and types of gender stereotypes according in TV adverts. Hostede believed countries with a high masculinity score tend to have males dominate the greater portion of society and hold more power within the social structure. Nations with lower masculinity scores tend to have greater equality between genders. In such cultures, women are seen and treated as equal to men (Hofstede 1980). Wulf et al (2000) research compared a highly feminine country, the Netherlands (masculinity index 14/100) and a very masculine country, the UK (masculinity index 66/100).

As evidence, the Netherlands in 2011 had 44% female representation in the European Parliament whilst the UK on the other hand only had 31% representation in Europe (EU Parliament 2011). Wulf et al (2000) found that, masculinity/ femininity scores had no effect on gender stereotypes imagery found in advertising. Wulf et al (2002) therefore concluded that the portrayal of the sexes specially women is unanimous across western European nations leading to less disparity between gender stereotyping between nations regardless of their masculinity scores of cultural uniqueness (Wulf et al 2002).

In sum, representations of women have been relatively static over the last few decades since the start of the new millennium. It is alarming how little has changed and this lack of movement and ill representation of women is illustrated very well by Mayne, (2000) who attempts to describe how British women have been represented on television adverts in the past; Mayne, (2000 p 59) describes her "to be a woman who is emotional about her washing-up liquid and the detergent she uses. This woman needs her washing to smell like 'all out doors'. She is pre pared to buy several different washing powders or liquids so that each type of fabric that her families' clothes are made from can be washed in the appropriate one. This woman loves children, and she is of childbearing years. Her home is large and airy and very tidy. Her toilet bowl is spot less and she may well sing as she cleans it. This woman makes her children picnics in their large garden. She is inclined to get excited and emotional about certain foods, like cream cheese spread. This woman is not over weight and her hair is always in place. She is slim and not at all wrinkled. If her family make her kitchen floor dirty, she doesn't mind as she has arrange of products that she can choose from to clean it. Soon her floor will be clean again and the baby can sit on it with out being in danger of infection from dirt and germs." Sound familiar?

Yet it is not only the sexes that suffer from stereotypical imagery. Representations of ethnicity also suffer from stereotypes that often categories people in adverts based on the colour of their skin and ethnic origins. The following section talks about ethnic representations of TV and how such representations are created and maintained by the media.

Ethnicity in TV adverts

To be an ethnic minority means what is says on the tin, a minority. Advertisers and marketers are fully aware of this, yet the question remains; does the level and quality of ethnic minority representation in TV commercials warrant any attention?

Qualls and Moore (1990) believe advertisers past reluctance to cast ethnic minorities in adverts was due to their fear of upsetting white customers which in turn would affect sales figures as the white population remains the majority. This notion seems to have lasted the test of time as a relatively recent article by Feig (2004) found that advertisers still think the inclusion of ethnic minorities my alienate mainstream white customers and disrupt their future customer base. However Appiah (2007) empirical research suggested that the ethnic origins of characters in commercials had little to no effect on white customers. However, Appiah and Liu (2009) claim that black viewers identify more favorably with black characters than with white characters. This may be because, unlike white people, ethnic minorities use race as the main criteria to evaluate others identity (Smedley and Bayton 1987). This suggest that some, if not all ethnic minorities require a representative within adverts for them to buy into the adverts message. Whites people as the majority do not consider themselves part of a distinctive racial group so therefore are less influenced by the race of characters in adverts. This leaves them to evaluate characters based on their occupational status or social class (Appiah and Lui 2009).

Bristor et al (1995) found that TV adverts promote the idea that Whites hold a superior social status to other minorities by hiring ethic minorities in subservient roles to white people. Furthermore Bristol et al (1995) believes that adverts with white and ethnic actors have little interaction in TV adverts. Bristol et al (1995) claims this is a subtle form of discrimination because one group is avoiding contact with another. This is all an attempt to create TV adverts that are minimally offensive to whites according to Bristol et al (1995).

Yet Soley (1983) claims that the poor representation of ethnic minorities on TV commercials is not driven by how customers would react to its characters. But rather, as a result of advertiser bias and self-interests such as creating an advertising campaign that will increase their client's sales. After all, if advertising looks to increase sales and profits then a marketer's safest option is to use white characters in TV adverts as they make up the majority of the market (Appiah and Liu 2009, Shipm 2010). On the other hand, Appiah and Liu (2009) dismiss such assumptions by stating that the best way to communicate with ethnic minorities is through representative ethnic actors in TV commercials. Yet ethnic minorities are still poorly represented in TV commercials mainly because ethnic minorities represent such a small section of the population that advertises don't see them as a profitable market to focus on [] (Beirne 2005).

However, the few marketers who target ethnic minorities still have little understanding of the cultural identity of ethnic minorities. Appiah and Lui (2009) attribute this to lack of Cultural Competency, which refers to ones ability to communicate with people from different cultures migration trends show that countires like the U.S. and the UK have a growing population of ethnic minorities. Appiah and Lui (2009) claim that a major misconception advertisers have is that, by just including an ethnic actor in an advert automatically satisfies ethnic representations. For example advertisers presume a Chinese actor acts is an ambassador for every other East Asian ethnic group (Appiah and Liu 2009). This type of advertising according to Frost (1993) does not work especially since ethnic actors are normally portrayed in a cultural setting, which does not compliment the actor's ethnicity. This confuses audiences thereby limiting the ethnic actors ability to communicate to the viewers. This further adds to arguments against the viability of ethnic representation on TV commercials.

Frost (1993) does well to explain that the inclusion of an ethnic minority is only effective if the actor portrays true and positive values of that ethnic group whilst avoiding crass stereotypes. In support of Frost (1993), Appiah and Lui (2009) claims that Cultural Cues are valuable supporting elements when using ethnic characters. Appiah and Lui (2009 p29) define cultural cues as "the values, symbols, ethics, rituals, traditions, material objects, and services produced or valued by ethnic consumers, which stimulate when, where, and how they respond". In addition Forehand and Deshpande (2001) introduce the notion of ethnic primes, which are verbal, or visual cues within adverts that highlight ethnicity. The notions of ethnic primes (Forehand and Deshpande 2001) and cultural cues (Appiah and Lui 2009) seem to enhance the communicative value ethnic minorities have within TV adverts. This is because ethnic primes or cultural cues should make represented ethnic groups more mindful of their ethnicity thereby being more receptive to the adverts message. Furthermore advertisers can easily control ethnic primes in order to communicate the preferred message with little resistance (Forehand and Deshpande 2001). In sum, if ethnic minorities are to be truly represented on TV commercials, just having an ethnic actor is only half the job. The actor needs to be within a complementary setting.

Yet this does not stop minorities like black actors being represented in a variety of settings, which do not compliment their ethnicities. The following section pays greater attention to a black people and the issues of representation they face in advertising.

The Black Minority

The problem with representations of black people in the media in general is that they are socially constructed one-dimensional representations that portray a distorted image. Furthermore, ethnic minorities representations tend to reflect whites' attitudes towards ethnic minorities. Consequently this reveals more about whites perceptions of ethnic minorities instead of how ethnic minorities see themselves (Bristor et al 1995). In other words, the representations of black people in the media seems to be promoting racism as they are represented based on stereotypes. Bristor et al (1995) describes Racism to occur when one group of people hold a belief that they are superior to another due to dissimilarities between their culture and biological heritage. One group therefore labels the other group inferior leading to unequal treatment (Bristor et al 1995). Bristor et al (1995) argues that the media offers a more subtle yet unconscious form of racism evident in the unequal representation of ethnic minorities in TV commercials.

The minimal representation of ethnic minorities suggests that minorities are insignificant as a group and therefore not as well represented. However, Gray (1987) research on black people on prime-time sitcoms revealed that the media's racial bias is a result of the media taking black people for granted. Nonetheless representations of black people have improved over the years as they are represented in a wider variety of roles. Many negative character roles (servant, porters, maids) in TV adverts have largely been absent.

However a new dominant form of black stereotyping has emerged. Bristor (1995) research found out that black people were represented in the media as athletes. It must be said that Bristor (1995) research analyzed adverts before the finals of the NCAA basketball finals. And since basketball in the U.S is predominately a black dominated sport, this may have influenced the inclusion of more African -American characters in the adverts shown just before an NBA basketball final. Nonetheless Bristol (1995) found that black people were stereotyped to be athletically and physically endowed compared to whites who were represented in the media as more intellectual.

Bristol (1995) believes such representations of black people are positive when compared to how black people were represented in the media two decades earlier. However like any stereotypes, it limits the scope of blacks actors take commercials relating to sports or any other physically tasking activity. However Bristol et al (1995) suggest that other physical attributes of black people are also salient in TV adverts. Bristol et al (1995) found that black people with lighter skin were preferred to darker ones in TV adverts. Interestingly, within black communities, those with lighter black skin were considered more superior. Nonetheless, advertisers should recognize that the black minority consists of a variety of skin colours that expect some level of representation in the media.

Using black celebrities like Michael Jordan to endorse big brands creates the impression of equality and black success not only in TV commercials but also in society as a whole. On the other hand it re-affirms that black people have accepted the stereotypical image of the athletic black man.

Interestingly Bristol (1995) found that black people were also represented as connoisseurs of fast foods. Bristol (1995) found several adverts of fast food companies like Burger King portrayed black people as employees serving predominately white customers. Several connotations can be derived from such representations. One may argue that Black people are portrayed as employees who add value to society. On the other hand they could be depicted to earn low wage and therefore have lower status in society. In contrast Bristol (1995) claimed that there are rare occasion where a white TV character had a low wage or lower social status compared to an ethnic minority.

The issue here does not concern itself with the truth of the stereotypes but rather its asymmetry because such stereotypes offer sometimes negative and myopic views of both ethnic minorities and whites, which does not exist in reality (Branthwaite and Peirce 1990). Such stereotypical representations in commercials can have an adverse effect on society as a whole as it can influence viewers who have little to no contact to black people or other ethnic minorities (Humphrey and Schuman 1984). Furthermore, Bristol (1995) uses Cultivation theory to explain the long-term effects television has on viewers. It goes to explain that viewers are more likely to believe television as an accurate representation of reality and therefore enough exposure to such stereotypes may help legitimize ill representations of minorities.

Furthermore, with the power to reach a wide audience Monk-Turner et al (2010) believes the television to be a cultural artifact that narrates the story of society. Cultivation theory therefore warns that TV content must be monitored to ensure such ill representations don't filter into the psyche of viewers. To prevent this unrepresentative portrayals of ethnic minorities within society, TV commercials can play its part by depicting black people and other minorities in a wider variety of appealing roles like managers and other respected professions.

Screen presence

Bristol (1995) claims that the level and quality of black representation on TV commercials are influenced by several factors.


Tokenism according to Hogg et al (2008) is a relatively insignificant or small positive gesture towards a minority group. Such gestures are an attempt to neutralize any accusations of prejudice and tactics used to excuse or justify engaging in more significant positive acts towards the minority group (Hogg et al 2008). Bristol (1995) claims that 122 out of 270 TV adverts analyzed included black people whom had minor screen presence relative to white characters. This is because black people held a token role within these adverts because their role within the storyline was not obviously apparent. As if they were included just for decorative purposes. To discourage tokenism, Monk-Turner et al (2010) advises that adverts must highlight the similarities between whites and other minorities rather than their differences. Hogg et al (2008) warns that tokenism can have adverse effects on the self-esteem of actors from minority groups. This can therefore discourage other minorities from auditioning for more significant roles in TV adverts.


Another way of reducing ones screen presence is by denying the character his/her sense of identity by objectifying them. Bristol et al (1995) found black characters were often objectified in TV adverts. In one case, Bristol et al (1995) describes a Black basketball player shot from the neck down thereby emphasizing his super machine-like body. Whilst the camera never shows the characters face, the voice-over attempt to describe the character by announcing " you know the one that jumps so high." (Bristol et al 1995 p53). What this adverts suggest is that the Identity of the character is unimportant. What is important however is his physical prowess, what his body is capable of achieving. By leaving out the characters face from the advert is promotes the stereotype that all black people are athletic and physically superior.

Camera distance

There are other subtle ways TV adverts can minimize the presence of minorities. One way is by giving minorities character roles, which are passive compared to white people. In addition the distance from the camera also influences a characters presence. For example the closer a character is to the camera the greater the characters importance. Bristol et al (1995) found that black actors found themselves further away from the camera in TV commercials compared to white characters. All in all, Bristol (1995) found that even though half the adverts researched had black actors, their screen presence was comparatively minimal. Despite this Bristol (1995) points out that some white characters also had low presence on TV. Bristol (1995) however fails to offer an objective way to measure the level of presences, which will prove useful to identify any growing trends concerning the level of representation on ethnic minorities in adverts.

Ultimately, despite the catalogue of evidence that point to the ill representation of black people and other ethnic minorities on TV adverts, one may argue that this may be less obvious to those who it least affects and since adverts are created predominately by advertising agencies who hire mostly white employees one might see why ethnic representation in TV commercials remains an issue (Bristol et al 1995).

The following section talks about how diversity in advertising agencies play an important role in diversity on screen.

An agency perspective

The representations of ethnic minorities are greatly influenced by the advertising agencies that create these adverts. Rotfeld (2003) claims that advertising managers have a myopic view of the world, as they believe their personal views represent the views of their customers. However, when the average advertising manager is an upper middleclass white male living in the suburbs and his target audience is working class black or Asian consumer, the manager is unlikely to share the same world-view. Consequently, there has been a raise of specialist ad agencies that target ethnic minorities specifically by hiring the employees from the same ethnic minority they are targeting. Rotfeld (2003) however believes this is inherently discriminatory because it assumes people with the same physical traits such as skin colour think alike.

Copywriter (1999) however argues that such an arrangement has its benefits as it allows large advertising agencies to sub-contract ethnic sensitive work to firms specialized in targeting minorities. These so-called specialist agencies have been labeled "targeted agencies". However this has created "ghetto" where undervalued advertising work resides. In addition, these targeted agencies are sometimes not allowed creative freedom as they are told to simply rewrite an existing campaign with an ethnic "twist" (Copywriter 1999). Segmenting advertising agencies into mainstream and ethnic specific agencies ultimately justifies discriminatory hiring based on ethnic origin. Agencies could claim that, in order to produce good work, they need to hire people with the same ethnicity as their clients target audience, as they are more likely to understand what their customers needs. This holds further truth when reminded of the advise the Roman philosopher, Cicero gave about the art of persuasion; "If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words" (Lip 2002 p 182).

Wilkes and Valencia (1989) however argue that general advertising campaigns may not be sensible as some ethnic minorities may not be culturally aware or have the required level of English to fully understand the adverts message. Therefore having different variation of adverts for minorities proves to be a viable option. This does little to remedy the poor hiring record of ethnic minorities in advertising agencies especially since 90% of people who work in the advertising sector in the UK are from a white background (theguardian 2011).

Despite the majority white people have, there is a rapid growth and demand of mixed race actors who in the media industry are known as "ethically ambitious". This is because their ethnicity is not readily apparent. Horwitz (2004) believe is increase in actors of mixed ethnicity is a response the growing number of interracial marriages and the children they produce. A TV channel like Nickelodeon often uses presenters and actors of mixed ethnicity because having ethnically ambiguous actors means anything but black, white or Asian and therefore are less likely to raise concerns of ethnic representation. Horwitz (2004) found that actors of mixed ethnicities were more capable of playing several roles, which their physical features could accommodate.

The growing demand of mixed race actors reflects the growing mixed race population in the UK in recent times. According to the guardian(2007), mixed race people are the fastest growing ethnic group in the UK expected to grow by 93% between 2001 and 2020 making up 2% of the entire British population. This goes to show the importance of representing not only existing groups but also rapidly emerging ones because they will soon use TV as way to understand their own identities.


This literature review has discussed issues of gender and ethic representation in advertising. Gender representations were found to be synonymous with the ill portrayals of women as men on TV are represented in more diverse and favorable number of roles. Ultimately, the issues of gender representation on TV advertising prove to be coherent across the world regardless of cultural differences. The old saying, " its a man's world" seems to hold value here. Men have always enjoyed a dominant edge over women in many walks of social life and if advertising objectives is to reflect the established social conscience, then changing traditional representations of gender and ethnicity in advertising faces a long uphill struggle.

Ethnicity on the other hand is offers a similar opposition, whites versus ethnic minorities. This opposition has existed in society for a long time but the media is fueling today. We see whites portrayed more favorably than those of ethnic origins. Attempts by advertising agencies to include ethnic minorities in adverts more often than not leads to tokenism where an ethnic minority function on the advert is for decorative purposes only. Ultimately ethnic representations are lagging behind the advancements ethnic minorities have made over the years. Adverts therefore have a responsibility to reflect a more accurate picture of both gender and ethnic minorities to create a cohesive image in the minds of the viewer.

Research questions

The literature review started its journey by discussing issues of ethnic and gender representations on television advertising. This highlighted salient issues of representations as adverts not only promote but also to create stereotypes which have no bearing to real life. This literature review also highlighted a gap in research. There seems to be little written on the representation of men in adverts. This may be because men are represented more favorably which therefore relinquished the need for focused research on the matter. Despite there being a wide range of literature on ethnicity and advertising, most of this work has been focused on the United States and Australia. There lacks sufficient research on European nations such as the UK. However there are some cultural similarities between the United States and the UK such as an established black population. However there also exist dissimilarities, which should be recognized. Once such dissimilarity is that ethnic minorities in the U.S are more segregated than those in the UK who find them selves in a more inclusive and integrated society. With these issues in mind, this dissertation is able to describe its purpose. This study will look to:

Identify changes (if any) of how television adverts have represented ethnicity, gender and age over in the last decade.

Research MethodResearch context-

This study will analyze adverts from 2001 and 2011 based on submissions to The British Television Advertising Awards. Each year will have about 800 adverts of which a sample of 52 will be selected. The adverts will be selected on the following criteria;

Adverts will need to be selected from a broad range of product categories.

Advertised brands will need to exist in 2001 and in 2011. This is to allow comparison to see if anything has changed.

Animated adverts will be eliminated from the sample, as they have no human actors from which data can be derived from.

Research approach

The nature of this study requires a content analysis. A content analysis is the study of communication content such as written audio or visual to identify trends and patterns (Alston and Bowles 1998). In other words, content analysis is a technique of summarizing multimedia by quantifying various elements of the content (Krippendorff 2004). Content analysis should produce results that are both valid and reliable. Reliability can only be derived if the research methods used are replicable. This means different people should get the same results by using the same research method used to collect and analyze data (Li and Kuo 2003). In addition Roffe et al (2005) claimed that content analysis relies on a set of procedures, which need to be followed when recording data. The procedures relating to this study will be detailed in the following section. Content analysis tries to quantify and make sense of meanings and relationships of concepts then makes inferences from the media text in question. Media text can come in the form of books, essays, and interviews and in this case adverts (Li and Kuo 2003).

Content analysis in not only useful in identifying what media contains but also proves effective in highlighting what isn't in the adverts (Alston and Bowles 1998). For instance, if this study was to highlight the total absence of a particular ethnicity in all adverts in 2001, it may help paint a better picture of advertising in that year and help the researcher towards other relevant questions which looks to investigate the absence of a certain ethnic group that year..

Data collection method

The adverts that are to be analyzed will be collected from an online database of adverts. The database has been created by the History of Advertising Trust and as of 1977 has built a collection of every entry made to the British Television Advertising Awards. This database is categorized by the year in which the adverts were first aired on UK television. This offers easy access to a population of adverts from which a sample could be derived. Within each year, a total of 800 adverts were available. It is from this population of 800 adverts that a sample of 52 adverts will be randomly selected from 2001 and 2011. The only prerequisite for selection was that the adverts had to contain human characters. Adverts with animated characters have no chance of being selected, as they are unlikely to offer credible data on ethnicity, age or gender. This automatically reduces the population size without compromising a healthy population from which the sample could be selected. Consequently a sample of 104 was randomly selected from a population of about 1600.

The data collected will be predominately based on the lead character. This is to prevent complexities when recording data especially since some adverts have many people whom are present but add no real apparent value to communicating the message of the advert. Microsoft Excel will be used to record data on a spreadsheet consisting of several variables, which will help answer the research questions relating to ethnicity, gender and age. Dummy variables were used to codify qualitative information. A binary coding method will be use "1" to represent and presence of an attribute or measure whilst a "0" signifies the absence of the measure in question. Once all the variables have been recorded, cross tabulation will be used to create a contingency table from the multivariate excel spreadsheet. Results will be cross tabulated according to age, ethnicity and gender. This will be useful in identifying relationships between two or more variables. This will allow graphs to be drawn to better illustrate data in a pictorial form thereby making it easy to interpret.


In order to record data, the following variables and procedures will be used and will be coded using Microsoft Excel.

Product representative(Male / Female)

A product representative is classified as someone who held, touched or demonstrated the product offering.

This variable records the gender of the main characters. In the event where there seems to be multiple product representatives from both sexes, the product representative will be determined by the character that offers more information on the good being advertised.

Level of involvement(High, medium, low)

High involvement suggests the character in question has the lead role, as he/she is the one demonstrating the product or providing information about the product or appears longest Medium involvement suggests the character does not fulfil the requirements of high involvement but however holds a role, which supports the lead character. He/she might provide some information but is not as informative as the lead character. He/she will have less screen time than the lead character Low involvement; suggest the character adds little to the message, value and quality of the advert.

Occupation(Domestic, non-working, professional, celebrity)

Domestic occupations relate to jobs within the home such as cooking, cleaning, gardening etc. Non-working occupations relate to activities, which do not have apparent long-term careers prospects like dancing in a nightclub or walking down the street. Leisure activities also fall under this category. Professional occupations relate to recognized activities, which have long-term career prospects. These include office workers, doctors, teachers etc. Celebrities fall under the occupational category. This is an important category because celebrities tend to be popular brand ambassadors used in adverts and it is not uncommon for them to be used in adverts. As brand ambassadors, they also play tend to be the lead characters in adverts. We expect more women to fall under the category of domestic and nonworking whilst men should dominate the professional category.

Setting(Domestic, workplace, studio, outdoor, Leisure, Diverse, other)

This describes where the advert is taking place. Domestic or home setting also considers outdoor parts of the house such as the garden to be part of the home. The workplace constitutes places where business takes place. A studio setting is an artificially constructed place designed to serve the specific purposes of the advert. An outdoor setting is anywhere out in the open with no apparent physical boundaries. Leisure constitutes a place where is a place where people use for free time or enjoyment. Diverse settings in an advert are one where the advert has multiple settings. This may include settings both in the workplace and in a domestic setting.

Age(0-10), (11-19), (20-29), 30-39), (40-49), (50+)

Age refers to an estimate of the most dominant characters age. We expect majority of characters to be aged in groups (20-29) and (30-39) because these age groups tend to have the ability to play wider range of character roles.


Objectification relates to character roles that exist to arouse sexual pleasure. For example characters considered attractive in revealing clothes create sexual appeal and are therefore considered to be objectified. Objectification does not only consider the main character but also any other character that seems to be objectified. This is because objectified characters do not often have lead roles but instead exist in the advert for decorative purposes.

Product Category

There were eleven product categories. Personal care consisted of products that were advertised to improve hy7gine and appearance such as cosmetics. The Household category induced kitchen appliances, furniture and DIY products or any other product that was advertised to be used in the home. Food and beverage consisted of edible products including chocolates and confectionaries and all beverages except alcoholic drinks. Fast foods had its own category as industry leaders like McDonalds.

Advertising spent almost 50 million in 2011 according to

The Alcohol category includes all drinks with any alcohol content.

Electronics considers all electronic appliances excluded those found in the kitchen, which will fall under the household category. Cars include any four-wheel vehicle and also motorbikes. The Children category considers any product targeted at children ages below 12 years old ranging from child clothing to toys.

The Clothes category focuses on clothing aimed at people in or over their teenage years. Financial services consider banking, insurance, pensions and debt advice services. The Other category includes all products and services that could not be categorized.

Camera distance(Near, mid-range, far)

Camera distance records how far the lead character is positioned form the camera. It is expected that characters that are positioned close to the camera are likely to be the lead character. This is because characters closest to the camera tend to have greater importance compared to characters further away from the camera.

Article name: The Representations Of The Sexes In The 1970s Media essay, research paper, dissertation