Is it a WoMan’s World? Gender Stereotypes and Social Role Inequalities in Commercials


  • Kincső Szabó Corvinus University of Budapest



stereotype, gender role, advertising, visual representation, rhetoric


Gender representation is a very complex system, which, according to a wide body of research, is never static, but rather ever-changing, due to the mediated visual artefacts channelled through advertisements. Research has shown that marketers most often prefer to show females as desirable creatures in decorative roles, while men are typically featured as authoritarian and independent (Reichert & Carpenter, 2004). A growing interest in ‘non-stereotypical gender role representation’ placed gender under a different light (Chu et al., 2016). The intention of the present paper is to contribute to the enrichment of the identified gap by identifying the expected gender inequalities, the illusional visual portrayals, and the possible negative effects that can come into existence in society.

Therefore, the present research aims to explore the changing frequency of male and female presence and the gender role representation with a special focus on the various trait descriptors, physical characteristics, and clothing styles, all of which either strengthen or break stereotypes. Focusing on the interval between 2015 and 2019, the aim is to contrast two main pillars: the first pillar represents six randomly selected commercial advertisements of different international product brands (Audi car, Ariel detergent, Johnson and Johnson’s Baby products, Activia yoghurt, Nike sports accessories and Advil painkiller medicine), while the second pillar is based on the five latest Epica Award-winning Grand Prix Films, juried by two hundred international journalists. 

The research hypothesis suggests that mass-targeted commercial advertisements are more likely to be stereotype-consistent, while jury-targeted commercials, which compete for a professional creative prize, are rather stereotype-inconsistent. The proper operationalization of the collected data required a descriptive method, which offered enough room for the characterization of actions, stylistic features and body language featured in the commercials. Therefore, the qualitative research is built on Charteris-Black’s (2019) visual rhetorical content analysis. Results indicate that while the award-winning commercials are more likely to be stereotype-inconsistent, those commercials that are presented for the mass are rather stereotype-consistent.