The changing role of women in Advertising

Posted on November 26, 2011


Over the years women’s role in advertising has not had much of a change, women back in the 50’s were portrayed as house wives, who had nothing better to do than to keep the children fed, the dishes dry and to be pretty for their husbands. The Folger’s coffee ad featured a typical house-wife, in a cute low neck dress, making a fresh brew for her husband in the morning and serving it to him while he was shaving in the bathroom, to which the husband says “Beautiful wife, lovely coffee”.

In the 60’s women’s role in advertising started to change, from being the goody house-wife to a girl-next door type fantasy, this strategy appealed to most viewers as the society was now beginning to open up because of the Hollywood effect. Even though sex wasn’t directly present in advertisements it still had an underlying theme.

And by the 70’s, sexual demeanor had gradually started to prevail in the media, for instance like the Bell and Howell projector ads showcasing a young lady with large breasts with the slogan “Sabrina demonstrates the world’s finest projection equipment” even though both the product and the model did not have an relevance with each other, the ad caught the attention of many businessmen, who clearly had an eye for the “product”. This type of marketing strategy only objectifies woman as brain dead beings with the only purpose of selling merchandise.

A study on Liverpool based Trigon Foods examined how the company increased sales by featuring 70’s glamour model, a young woman by the name of Big D, which obviously related to the size of her breasts, by placing her almost naked pictures behind their peanut pack. Within a year the corporation reported a significant rise in sales by 35%, which proves my thesis that marketers would use just about any part of a woman’s body to sell their products and/or increase sales of the same. The whole notion of using provocative images of women for ads is to send out an ideology of an artificial ideal of what most men fantasy about.

The focal point of every ad is based on a certain part of a woman’s body, their goal is to bring to attention either her lips, legs, breasts and/or butts and frequently in such images the head or the face is missing, this is my opinion only showcases her external curves not her intellect. For the purpose of explaining my analysis, I examined an ad from the mid 70’s for Jovan Musk Colognes, which featured gorgeous long legs of a woman with a man’s hand placed on her in a suggestive manner with the slogan “Now you don’t have to be born with it”. The phrase itself sounds blatantly demeaning towards woman indicating that with just cologne any man get can acquire any woman he wants. Jovan’s erotic marketing approach increased their sales from $1.5million in 1971 to $77million by 1978; this proves that sex will most definitely sell anything.


We live in a world where the media plays a major role in defining what is beautiful and what is unacceptable. The society too follows on the same path of superficial beauty, over a period of time this way of thinking penetrates deep within our approach making our view on beauty very subjective.

This type of representation especially that of women is clearly one sided, but the media still tends to use them as a tool to market products because of their male pleasing roles.

There is a common pattern of stereotyping of women in advertising, such as creating an artificial image of their real body with use of digital software that could virtually change any part of a female body. Secondly, all women in the ads are depicted as tall, long legged and slim waisted, even though in reality that characteristic applies to only about 5 % of females. Due to this typecast in the media, society often expects women to be nothing short of the expected standard which is why 75% of normal women feel overweight and 50% of all women are dieting. This idealized image forces people to view women as mere object of perfection while assessing female body at eroticized value.

Media plays a major part in misrepresenting the role of women. Due to the level of nudity and sexual connotations attached with almost every ad and merchandise, the true characteristics of women have changed from a homemaker, intellectual to sultry object of lust. This depiction of women in advertising is rather dangerous as it has sexualized the role of women in society. For the last 4 decades the advertising world has constantly used women as tools for marketing, this method sure gets the attention of possible consumers but it also creates a negative environment for women.

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