Masculinity in Advertising

I feel it’s pretty safe to say that the way in which women are depicted in the mass media is an important topic now and for the past several decades. Overly skinny, digitally touched-up photos, advertisements and commercials have struck a nerve with many women, reaching beyond the “feminists” even. You would think that when advertisers decide to go with an ad that leans towards this “ideal” woman, that they do so by weighing the pros and cons first.

But what about men in the mass media?

That’s a topic you don’t hear discussed very often. But to be sure, there are plenty of advertisements of the ideal macho man out there, slamming beers, picking up women, bouncing pectorals, etc. And according to recent research from the University of Illinois, advertisers should think twice before engaging in these stereotypes as well.

For example, if a guy sees a commercial for a product depicting its user as a man’s man who is smooth with the ladies and smooth on the road in his sports car – in other words, a giant douche – it could turn the guy off of the product.

Like all of those Axe commercials. I won’t touch that line now and generally have the mindset of the following commercial.

Similarly, ads depicting guys as western cowboys – the grizzled stereotype – or the extreme sport athlete can also send out negative signals. After all, guys are just as different from each other as women are, and some of those ads might make them feel insecure or inadequate.

“A lot of ads directed at males are still dominated by ‘The Player,’ ‘The Beer Drinker’ or ‘The Buddy,’ ” said Cele Otnes, a professor of advertising and of business administration. “But those stereotypes don’t actually fit the vast majority of males. Advertisers and marketers need to broaden the spectrum, and create campaigns centered on more of the actual roles that men play – ‘The Dad,’ ‘The Husband’ and ‘The Handyman.’ Those types of ads weren’t easy to find at the time we were doing our research.”

And seeing as how the main shopper in 32 percent of U.S. households are men, it’s something that advertisers should start paying a little bit more attention to.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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