NEW YORK: Marketers and agencies need to constantly evaluate their portrayals of women in advertising and not adhere to standards that may be outdated before a message moves into public distribution, a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

Kate Pounders, an assistant professor at the University of Texas/Austin’s Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, suggested that attitudes towards gender portrayals have changed in a wide variety of ways.

“We are witnessing a cultural shift of significance, where women expect diversity, realism, and inclusion in marketing campaigns – with regard not just to body size and shape but also to ethnicity, ability, and gender (transgender and genderqueer/non-binary),” she wrote.

Pounders’ Are Portrayals of Female Beauty In Advertising Finally Changing? contribution further proposes, “Cultural shifts are not static; they are characterized by fluidity and continual evolution.

“As such, there is no one ‘right’ answer or response, because there always will be markets that respond differentially to a given strategy or tactic, and market preferences are in unceasing change.”

With research that focuses on the role of emotion and identity in the context of communication-strategy effectiveness and health communication, Pounders examines the consumer as the receiver of information about social causes and health issues.

At the macro-level, she studies the unintended consequences that advertising and marketing communication have on consumers and society at large.

Social media, Pounders asserted in her JAR paper, provides insights into both perspectives in that they enable means “for consumers to express displeasure with the actions of companies and brands with which they take issue.

“To gain and maintain the trust and respect of consumers, therefore, brands must be cognizant of this evolution and be proactive in understanding and incorporating aspects of this shift that have an impact on the brand.”

One useful tactic for marketers would thus be to keep a close watch on the digital conversation. “Consistent social media monitoring would assist in this endeavor,” Pounders states.

At the wider level, a shift in hiring practice is needed, she proposes, as “most of the creative employees in agencies are men, incorporating a female creative professional’s viewpoint would offer unique insight”.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff