Gender bias in Advertising

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Advertising has a lot of gender bias and discrimination.

Take, for example, the stark contrast between the portrayal of men and women in
advertisements selling perfumes, scents or deodorants.
In ads for perfumes for men, the man is generally shown to be dominant and more appealing to girls due to the perfume. Meanwhile, for women, they are portrayed to look more appealing regardless of the perfume being in effect or not.

In an article called “Selling Sex or Scent?”, it is said that “When you look at a majority of
woman’s perfume ads the woman is intoxicatingly beautiful and sexually appealing, often scantily clad or over made up with of a look of submission or ultra sensuality twisting her features into an expression of lust or desire.”

In Gucci’s ads for the scent ‘Envy’, the women are shown to be using raw sexuality more
than the smell of the perfume

An article in “The Women’s Foundation” describes this situation quite well. In the year 2017, at the Cannes Lions Festival, research on “Unpacking Gender Bias in Advertising” was revealed. It was done by the Geena Davis Institute and J. Walter Thompson, using the Institute’s GD-IQ – an Automated Analysis Tool, funded by It was developed to analyse audio and video media content through machine learning and audio-visual processing technologies from Google and the University of Southern California.

The results were interesting, to say the least. The analysis revealed that there were twice as many male characters in ads than female characters, 25% of ads featured only men while only 5% of ads featured only women, and 18% of ads featured only male voices while less than 3% of ads were featuring female voices only.

Additional research was conducted, supporting the automated analysis, by the Geena Davis Institute. It revealed that there were discrepancies in the casting, directing, and acting for men and women.It varied for age, humour, objectification, intelligence, location and work. Women in ads are mostly in their 20s while men are in their 20s to 40s. This meant that male characters were far more diverse than female characters when it came to age. Men are almost twice as likely to be funny than women in the ads. One in ten female characters were shown in sexually revealing clothing – six times the number of male characters. When it comes to characters for whom intelligence is an integral part of their character (e.g., a doctor, a scientist), men are 62% more likely than women to be shown as smart. Women were 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen while men were 50% more likely to be shown at a sporting event. One in three men were shown with an occupation as compared to one in four women.

Madeline Di Nonno, the dynamic CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media,
said , “By changing the narrative, the images we use, the stories we tell about women, we can dramatically change the way the world values women and how women and girls see themselves.”

Furthermore, Brent Choi, Chief Creative Officer of J. Walter Thompson New York, observed: “What this research shows is that our industry has tent-pole moments, amazing actions or campaigns when we all rally around women, but when it comes to creating our ‘regular’ ads for our ‘regular’ clients, we forget about them.”

Those trends of female presence and portrayal in ads had not changed in the last decade.

It’s time to step up now. Don’t be that guy.

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