Role of Ethnicity and Gender in Advertising

Free «Role of Ethnicity and Gender in Advertising» Essay Sample


Advertising occupies quite a significant place in the daily human life, although people are not even aware of this fact. Being primary motivational factor advertisement influences person’s everyday choices almost in each area of life starting from the soap’s trademark and finishing with the better university. Taking into account that everyone is characterized by different types of perception, the images and sounds advertisers could not be separated from society and the meaningful aspects of its developmental tendencies. A persuasive image can be created only on the basis of primary social values, aspirations, traditions or, even, stereotypes. That is why, when creating their messages, the advertisers used to address the universal and eternal themes, such as love and friendship, beauty and health, happiness and wealthy, etc. Traditionally, the majority of these notions are inextricably linked with the women as well as they are mostly considered as the embodiment of beauty and fashion, love and care, source of inspiration.  The majority of advertisements confirm this asssumption. However, it is worth to admit that the core values and everlasting themes have a range of ethnic differences. What is beautiful for European or American people can be offensive to representatives of Asian or Arabian society, especially when speaking about the gender context. Thus, the paper seeks to explore the role of ethnicity and gender in relation to contemporary advertising.

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Presenting the essential role of the ethnicity and gender in the marketing could not be full and persuasive without profound understanding the essence of mentioned notions. That is why the first step of the paper will be exploring and explaining the concepts of ethnicity and gender. Then the author will try to present their close interplaying as crucial components of advertising that influence each other as well as the appropriate marketing tendencies. I will look at the historical aspects that caused social changes related to the analyzed issue and transformation in their performance advertisement. By the means of the arguments, I will find I suppose to prove that ethnicity and gender play determining role for contemporary marketing tendencies.

The Essence of the Concepts and Their Place within Social Processes


The development of a global society is inevitably linked to a range of diverse factors influencing the general course of events as well as trends in separate areas. Ethnicity represents the fundamental and most meaningful social aspect that lays on the basis of majority political, economic, cultural, tourist and marketing world processes. The fact that a person who is individual with a distinct identity is the core element of each of them is the primary reason for such substantial effect. Being representatives of different cultures, religions and having particular hereditary and historical experience people can not perceive the things and events in the same way. If the individual’s identity is a quite narrow notion for analyzing global scale processes, the ethnicity implies “collective identity” that sociologists use to divide society into an appropriate ethnic group consisting of the people with similar values (Antweiler, 2015, p.27). Therefore, ethnicity refers to the people of the same heritage “who share a common, and distinctive culture” are transmitted from generation to generation (Jandt 2016, p.12). Language and religion are the core anchors of ethnicity.


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The fact that men differ from women in numerous aspects, including physiology, mentality, emotions and life’s tasks, is not new to anybody. However, the factor of gender is often underestimated, and people are used to perceive their sex as given, with all its characteristics, without any consideration regarding its influence on daily life. According to the psychological studies, gender is the sense of being male or female and it is one of the most important categories which help people to interpret their life and all events that had place in it (Kolasa-Holubiec n.d). If speaking, in other words, gender determines not only the people’s perception of themselves and their particular gender role, but it is also the prism through what person sees social environment, other individuals as well as things and phenomena.

Interplaying between the Ethnicity and Gender

At first sight, the two mentioned notions seem to be rather different and should be explored separately. This initial adjustment may be true if speaking about ethnic or gender context in politics, geography or sciences, except marketing, where these concepts could not be examined apart. Advertising is aimed at causing a motivational effect on personality. For this, advertisers mostly address the gender issues and themes of interpersonal communication. In order to achieve the expected results, they should create the message that will not conflict with the values of the target audience, but vice versa will coincide with them. Taking into account that each ethnic group has its individual approach to the socialization of male or female children, gender images could not exist separately from the ethnic details (Carter 2014). Especially the concept of ethnicity is close to gender in terms of women’s role in the society, with mothers used to be considered as the primary carrier of family, national and ethnic traditions.  Hence, depicting men or women without accounting ethnic peculiarities of viewers could not be successful and may even cause the opposite effect.

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Changing Role of the Ethnicity and Gender in Advertising

Turning Points in Ethnic Advertising

Advertising exists as long as the market itself, and advertisers unwillingly, like historians, reflect all trends and processes that have place in society. Provided that the primary purpose of science is to document and save historical data, advertising presents the profound essence of social environment trying to use it for actualizing its promotional products. Thus, when speaking about ethnicity, one can notice that first bright marketing decision aimed at ethnic diversity appears after activation of movements for the rights of minorities. Thus, the idea about an integrated advertisement for black and white people that advertising professional proposed to the television maker in The television series “Mad Men” (1960) became a turning point in America’s advertising industry (The Economist Group 2011).

Since the 1960s, the history knows numerous examples of ethnic advertising. McDonald’s company implying orientation on tastes of minorities is one of them. There are nearly 40% of minorities among its customers in America. In 2010 marketing group of McDonald’s investigated the preferences of African-Americans and found out that they liked caramel mocha sweeter and weaker than traditional, so the company started offering the blends of such kind everywhere and reach great success (The Economist Group, 2011). A similar decision was related to its mango and pineapple smoothies that become a big hit with Hispanics.

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Nestlé that is a huge food company may be an another example of changing marketing policy from unified to a multicultural one. Being aimed at attracting Hispanics, who are the largest minority in America, firm’s advertisers recruited a few of Hispanic mothers to blog on a new bilingual website (The Economist Group 2011). These women offered tips about healthy eating and parenting as well as Hispanics are younger than other Americans, and they have more children, spend more money on food.

It is worth to admit that the majority of transnational companies continue following such a tendency. Adapting their traditional list of offers to the environmental challenges, including ethnicity, gradually becomes one of the most meaningful advertising instruments.  Taking into account fast temps of globalization that promotes overcoming the state’s borders and active multicultural communication, the use of such an approach will become more intensive.

Reassessment of Gender Roles

The 1950s were the years of changes in different social fields and gender was among those areas. Two World Wars caused an intensive outflow of men, and a lot of women had to occupy their workplaces. It created new opportunities for the female population and made them reassess their gender roles. Thus, if in 1940 women occupied around 20 % of workplaces in the United States of America, today the indicator reached 50 % (Sheehan 2014). The same tendency can be observed in the other countries that were involved in the World Wars.

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The transformation of the traditional role of women called for an appropriate advertising feedback. Advertisers start making accents on female business style, simplification of housekeeping tasks and enjoyable leisure instead of prevailing domestic items. The advertising company of Persil, created by DDB in 2012, may be a bright demonstration of such a trend (Illustration #1. Crispy Fresh Prints for Persil Starch) (DDB 2012). In addition, women start working in marketing areas that also caused significant changes in advertising approaches as well as female has another perception and vision of reality than males. Bringing them to the promotional business could not pass unnoticeable.

Religion as Crucial Component of Ethnicity Determining Marketing Trends

The modern globalization opens numerous unique cultures that were unknown before or known partially to people. Such knowledge and new opportunities inspire not only travelers but firstly professionals among those advertisers are too. Creating advertisement aimed at the representatives from unique ethnicity or those who are invited to visit it or invest in its projects occupies leading place among the latest advertising trends. Fresh and bright images of Eastern, Asian and Arabian cultures become rather widespread, in spite of their strict religion rules that influence each sphere of life, especially gender. Thus, Judaists, being navigated by religious dogmas, campaigned against exploitation of women in advertising. Arab women promote the products that present traditional role of a keeper in the family and care of children. They are confined to modest attire and only in that appearance they could be depicted. Modern presenting of traditional context may be observed on the Dubai advertising photographers (Illustration #2) (Aramanstudio 2015).

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It is worth admitting that religious traditions place a considerable restriction on the marketing in a few areas of Islamic societies. For example, advertising of extremist groups, gun usage, and gambling is banned in Malaysia. It is interesting that along with this the women’s underwear and hygienic products are situated in the list of bans. Thus, advertising in a religious society needs sensitivity in order to avoid undermining of national dignity. Exploring the advertisement of controversial products in four geographically distant countries (Malaysia, New Zeland, Turkey and the United Kingdom of Great Britain) showed that religion and history, which are the basis of ethnic identity, play a more significant role for marketing than geographical disposition (Hersroni 2012).

Variety of Gender Items that Do Weather in Advertising

Despite numerous transformations related to the gender in society, a lot of stereotyped approaches remain and are still used in advertising. Thus, the portrayals of male masculinity, physical forces and emotional power alongside with female romantic nature, beauty and tenderness were actual for centuries ago and saved their actuality till nowadays. However, regarding the process of widespread social freedoms and refusing from numerous restrictions in demonstrating external appearance, individual desires and aspiration stereotyped accents gained new updated interpretations.

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It can be said especially about the stereotype of beauty, love and interpersonal communication that advertisers present today in the new light of openness, sexuality and sensuality, except the territories where ethnicity correlates this innovation. Where the culture of freedom of an individual’s choice is widespread, advertising stands out with numerous controversial images related to the different manifestation of such pluralism, including youth movements implying the distinguishing from others by the appearance and relations of sexual minorities. Moreover, if speaking about the cult of beauty that is quite urgent through the ages, it is worth to admit that social standard of attractive appearance changes in the society as well as in the advertising. In this regard, the shifting from the internal to external values should underline as the most distinctive feature of contemporary advertising.

Besides, advertisers today more often use the non-traditional images to attract the attention that also is nothing else besides reflection of the latest social trends of shifting traditional gender roles. For example, JC Penney and Philadelphia Cream Cheese portrayed the men who are taking care of their children and doing housework (Illustration #3) (Sheehan 2014, p. 94.). The pleasure the advertisers depicted on the illustration demonstrates sharing traditional women’s role with the men who consider its admissible tendency as a crucial part of modern society as well as the projection of male role on the new representation of women.

It is worth noting that the development of psychological science exploring the peculiarities of gender perception also plays essential role in contemporary advertising. Today advertisers are aware of aspects male and female focusing attention and by interpreting different elements, they broadly use this knowledge for creating a gender-focused advertisement.

Because of wide exploitation of women’s portrayal, some of the gender-oriented and associations of rights express the worry that such media approach can lead to “gender-based discrimination and hinder gender equality” (Brodolini, et. al. 2013, p.8). Similar warnings exist in the relation to ethnicity. Followers of this position claim that repeated addressing of selective portrayals of particular groups can cause adopting distorted beliefs about the depicted groups (Rubie-Davies, et al. 2013).


Advertising is inextricably linked to the social developmental tendencies. Gender and ethnicity are the primary aspects that could not be accounted for by the marketing professionals because only a correct social context can help create the persuasive promotional message. Thus, these factors play the determinative role in advertising and design the media trends by reflecting actual social issues and laying on the basis of core media messages.

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