Whose Ad Is It Anyway? Content Analysis of Representations of Women in Advertising onTelevision By: Alex Jaime
INTRODUCTION When doing my analysis, my main focus was tocompare if and how women are portrayed differentlyin certain ads based on whom the ad is intended for.I believe this is important for communication andmedia studies so that we, as a society, can makeeducated decisions about what we’re being toldinstead of simply accepting it all at face value. That being said, the question is: Are women portrayed differently in ads geared toward male viewers vs. female viewers?
PREVIOUS FINDINGS It was extremely difficult to find any previousresearch done on my specific question. Many studieshave been conducted on how men are portrayeddifferently than women in the media. However, myquestion is asking something completely different,which is why I chose to further investigate.
EXPECTATIONSI expect to find that women are portrayeddifferently in ads geared toward male vs. femaleviewers.I am curious to research how this is done. Iwould expect that women in “men’s” ads are morepromiscuous than in “women’s” ads. I am also guessingthat the woman is more of a prop in a man’s ad. (Forexample: I don’t think the woman would be the “hero”of the ad.) Although I expect to find differences, Ialso expect to find society’s definition of “beautiful”women in both types of ads along with some othersimilarities.
METHOD I chose to do a content analysis because of myresearch topic. In order to do some quality research,I knew I was going to have to look at the content oftelevision ads just like we had to do for class. I choseten commercials to analyze (5 geared toward maleviewers and 5 geared toward female viewers). Then, Icoded these commercials in two separate charts andanalyzed them in my conclusion.
Here are the links to the 10 commercials I choseto analyze:MEN’S ADS1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paYE628HkHQ&feature=plcp2)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DnQypXp54Q (0:03-0:22)3)http://www.youtube.com/user/oldspice?v=dOFj9toF4Ho4)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zvau8bNwu04&feature=related5)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvIzHgWtwTU&feature=fvwrelWOMEN’S ADS1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ac8Kr6NQm3A&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL3A6D41CA0F01F7D42)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00AkiTghwJM3)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFbeP6YqHzg4)http://www.youtube.com/user/gillettevenus?v=QrLSdHy-pzE5)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvZFGdcSlQU
Men’s Ads Commercial Commercial Commercial Commercial Commercial #1 #2 #3 #4 #5Product Being Sold Speed Stick Digiorno Pizza Old Spice Bud Light Axe (Touch)MainCharacters& Man& Woman, 3 Men & 1 Man & Multiple Man& Multiple Man & MultipleTheir Relationships Co-workers Woman, Women, No Women, No Women, No Husband& Wife relationship relationship relationship and the man’s 2 friendsLocation Office (Public) Home (Private) Home (Private) Backstage Vacant Building and Public areas (Public) (Private)Sound/Image Sound- Sound- Sound- Sound- Sound-Representation Character’s Character’s voices Character’s voices Character’s Voiceover voices and a and a voiceover. and a voiceover. voices and a Image- voiceover Image- Image- voiceover. Sexual Image- Casual Sensual Image- Professional SensualPurpose/Message To impress a To impress friends “I am the best” To be smooth To impress & woman & control a Overly self- with the ladies “touch” a woman woman confident; To impress women
Women’s Ads Commercial Commercial Commercial Commercial Commercial #1 #2 #3 #4 #5Product Being Sold Gucci Perfume Affresh washer Swiffer Gillette Venus Weight Watchers cleanerCharacters & Man &Woman, Woman 2 Women, No Multiple Women WomanTheir Relationships In sexual relationship and Men relationshipLocation Abandoned city Home (Private) Grocery Store Bed (Private) and On a set and Bedroom (Public) Party (Public) (Private)Sound/Image Sound- Sound- Sound- Sound- Voiceover Sound-Representation Music Character’s Character’s voices Image- Glamorous Character’s voices Image- voices and a and a voiceover. and a voiceover. Sporty& Sexual voiceover. Image- Casual Image- Casual& Image- Casual FitPurpose/Message To be in control Woman cleans it Women clean it all Anything can Self-confidence, all happen! “I can!”
Results The first commercial targeted for men was selling a deodorant called “SpeedStick”. The commercial had a total of two main characters, a man and a woman. Itwas set in an office and they were donating blood. The man was clearly afraid ofthe needle in the beginning of the commercial (which would lead him to sweat), buttried to play it cool because he was in front of the woman. At the end of thecommercial, the man stated, “Guess I’m a giver” and the woman replied with, “I lovegiving!” Obviously, the purpose of this ad was to sell the deodorant. However, in myresearch I am looking at how the women are portrayed. In this commercial, thewoman was easily impressed and even stated that she loved giving. This issomething, in modern day life, could be taken very sexually. Therefore, in thiscommercial, the woman was portrayed as gullible and “easy” which in turn helps sellsthe product. The second commercial targeted for men was selling Digiorno Pizza. Thecommercial had a total of four main characters, a man and his wife along with histwo friends. It was set at the household of the husband and wife. The husband wasin the backyard with his two friends and they all wanted to order pizza. To do this,he called his wife, who was inside their house. This made the assumption that thewife would drop everything she was doing to make him and his friends the pizza. Heeven said the words, “Make it snappy!” The woman in this commercial was portrayedto be completely controlled by her husband.
Results Continued The third commercial targeted for men was selling Old Spice. The commercialhad numerous characters, but one main man. In the entire commercial he wasrepeating phrases of self-confidence (for example, “I am the best”). This gave offthe message that if you wear Old Spice, you too would have confidence and success.When the women appeared in the commercial, he was talking about having the bestcar. Again, the women were impressed which in turn sells the product.The fourth commercial targeted for men was selling Bud Light. The commercial hadnumerous women, but one main man. It was set backstage of a concert. The man wasinstantly greeted by half-dressed, promiscuous women because they all thought hewas a part of the band. After they asked him to sign their stomachs, they foundout he was, “just here for the Bud Light.” Up until they knew that, the women wereall over him. This portrayed the women to be judgmental and promiscuous.The fifth commercial targeted for men was selling Axe (Touch scent). Thecommercial had numerous characters, but one main man. The commercial had nowords the entire time, and instead showed very sexual scenes. The man used Axeand had various women’s clothes falling off. This clearly sent out the message thatif you wore Axe, women would be ripping their clothes off to “touch” you. Thisportrayed women to again, be promiscuous and “easy”.
Results Continued The first commercial targeted for women was selling Gucci perfume. Thecommercial had two main characters, a man and a woman. In the beginning of thecommercial, the woman was driving a sporty car at a fast pace. After she stoppedthe car, she had a vision of a sexual encounter with a man. The woman in thiscommercial was portrayed as beautifully promiscuous, however, she was in control.She was in control of the car and she initiated the sexual encounter. The second commercial targeted for women was selling Affresh washercleaner. The only character in this commercial was one woman. She was scrubbingthe shower clean when the washing machine appeared in the bathroom. It was angrythat it hadn’t been cleaned yet, and the woman responded with “I’ll clean you next.”The product was intended to help the hassle of cleaning washing machines. Thewoman was portrayed as a very competent human being with a mindset of “I will doit all.” The third commercial targeted for women was selling Swiffer. The commercialhad two main characters, both women. One woman was shopping in the grocerystore and the other woman worked there. The worker recommended the Swifferproduct to the other woman and claimed it would work better than anything she’stried before. This instantly portrayed both women to be the “cleaners” of theirhouseholds. Again. the woman was portrayed as a very competent human being andin-charge.
Results Continued The fourth commercial targeted for women was selling the razor, GilletteVenus. There were multiple men and women in this commercial, but the point wasvery straightforward. With this razor, romance, confidence, and just aboutanything can happen! The women were portrayed to be very beautiful, glamorousand self confident. The fifth commercial targeted for women was selling Weight Watchers. Thecommercial had one character; singer Jennifer Hudson. She talked about how beingon Weight Watchers made her believe in herself. Now she is able to say “I can!”Therefore, the woman in this commercial was portrayed to be strong, selfconfident, and beautiful.
Conclusion After conducting a content analysis on representations of women in advertisingon television, I have found that I was both right and wrong with my expectations.To make it easier, I compiled sets of words for the two types of ads I analyzed.HOW WOMEN ARE PORTRAYED IN:Men’s ads - easy, gullible, controlled, judgmental, promiscuousWomen’s ads- in control, competent, glamorous, self confident, strong These findings mean that there is definitely a difference in how women areportrayed in ads geared toward male viewers vs. female viewers. In most of themen’s ads, the women were used as props/tools to help sell the product, whereas inthe women’s ads, they were selling the product themselves. However, I thoughtthat the “promiscuous woman” would only be found in men’s ads. I was surprisedwhen I really watched just how promiscuous the woman in the Gucci ad was. Theonly difference was that she was viewed as “in control”. I believe that my findings were for the most part similar to my expectations,which is because of the way women are portrayed in the media everyday.