Stereotyping in Ads Causes Disconnect with Young Women
By George Anderson
An article on the BusinessWeek web site, says that marketers have gotten it wrong. Creating ads that portray young women with all the negative qualities associated with the weaker species (self-centeredness, aggression, dominating behavior, lack of emotional attachment, etc.) does not appeal to the targeted audience. It makes them question where advertisers got the idea that this is how they see themselves or that it is something they aspire to.
The technique used in ads employed by companies such as Reebok, Sketchers, and Armani Exchange is known in current adspeak as “advancing backwards.”
As the authors of the article (Catherine Small, Heidi Dangelmaier, Michelle Cuello, Victoria De Jesus, Stella Shi, Silvia Faschi, and Dianna Blanchard of 3iYing — a firm specializing in marketing to girls and young women between the ages 15 to 25) point out, “advancing backwards” is advertisers’ attempt “to put an innovative female edge into their ads by reversing and recycling old-school gender clichés”
An example of “advancing backwards,” according to authors, is an ad by Trojan’s Elexa condoms and other sexual enhancement products that position the product from the “female perspective.”
According to the Trojan web site, Elexa products were designed for women to encourage them to celebrate their sexuality while providing them a lifelong sexual journey on their own terms.
The authors argue in using the advancing backwards approach, Elexa ads take the position that women are saying to men, “‘You got yours, now I get mine.’ Elexa girls demand enhanced physical performance from their mates. There’s nothing fun, or happy, or intimate about the Elexa sensual portrayal. It’s really not even sexy. It’s domineering and resentful. It is ‘I’ focused, not ‘we’ focused. She’s a girl version of the guy we would never want to date.”
Moderator’s Comment: Is the portrayal of women in ads and commercials removed from who most women are or wish to be? Do you agree that young women, in
particular, are being portrayed as the female equivalent of the men they “would never want to date?” Are men portrayed any less realistically in ads targeted to them?
– George Anderson – Moderator