Gender roles in advertising: measuring and comparing gender stereotyping on public and private TV channels in Germany

Silke Knoll and Martin Eisend

European University Viadrina

Josefine Steinhagen

Deloitte & Touche GmbH

Introduction

The social role of women and men has changed in many western societies over the past few years. At the same time, advertisers still depict women and men in tradition-bound roles to promote their products. The pervasive use of television, and its potential to influence audiences' attitudes and perceptions, have led to growing criticism of marketers lacking sensitivity to reflect the changes in gender roles in advertising. Researchers from various disciplines have shown interest in this topic and contributed to a large body of research on gender role portrayals in advertising over the last four decades. They have performed several content analyses in order to investigate whether gender stereotyping in television advertisements exists and how gender roles are depicted (e.g. Sengupta 1995; Cheng 1997). While the authors of these studies generally agree on the fact that television advertising uses stereotyped gender roles (Furnham & Mak 1999), they have failed to provide a measure of how and to what degree gender, in particular women, are stereotyped in advertising. Without such a measure, it would have been impossible to detect the changes in gender stereotyping in advertising over the years. Indeed, authors of previous studies are split in their evaluations. Some authors (e.g. Furnham & Skae 1997; Wolin 2003) consider that advertisements are moving towards a slightly less stereotypical stance, particularly in western societies (e.g. Furnham & Mak 1999), while other authors stress that women and men are still being portrayed in a stereotypical way, and that stereotyping is becoming even stronger (e.g. Ganahl et al. 2003; Milner & Higgs 2004).