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An examination of the portrayal of women in two different gender based magazines

By Leonie Roderick 8 Mar 2017 12: Marketing Week is taking this opportunity to look at two different advertising mediums and explore how the portrayal of women has evolved over the years. We speak to the CEOs of TV ad body Thinkbox and consumer magazine trade body Magnetic to take stock of their progress, where brands are still going wrong and what needs to happen next.

Over the course of the history of TV advertising, women have been defined in very narrow roles.

  1. As a result, people often default to perceived advertising norms.
  2. These awards only seem to get bigger and bigger.
  3. We can sometimes deal in stereotypes in ads, as in 30 seconds you need to portray something that connects. There have been some real strides in that recently, where ads show men in a much more nurturing rule.
  4. Digital advertising has recently come under fire for ads being placed in an inappropriate context.
  5. Over the course of the history of TV advertising, women have been defined in very narrow roles.

When I started in TV advertising, people were so dismissive about women. That was partly indicative of the problem — women were firmly placed in the domestic sphere, talking animatedly about cleaning and housework.

  • Editors are curators of what the right content is for their audience;
  • It needs to reflect the issues that the editorial content is reflecting — and of course not be blatantly sexist;
  • It shows a subdued audience controlled by a man talking to them on a screen;
  • They still play that human role;
  • We can sometimes deal in stereotypes in ads, as in 30 seconds you need to portray something that connects.

Of course, you also had the female sex object. This is a problem for both genders.

Lindsey Clay, CEO, Thinkbox

There have been some real strides in that recently, where ads show men in a much more nurturing rule. Brands face crackdown on gender stereotypes in advertising To me, possibly the most damaging part are the ads where women are there to just fill in the background of the scenery.

  • This was done in partnership with Simply Be, a clothing retailer for larger sizes;
  • The worst excesses have been removed, and we are much more sensitive as an industry.

Those have been the archetypes, but there are some notable exceptions that broken through. We need to stop featuring women as peripheral characters. I recently had to pick some quality ads for a film commissioned by the Museum of Brands looking into the changing trends of female representation in TV commercials.

It was launched for the Apple Mac, which was the start of the personal computer revolution.

How the portrayal of women in media has changed

It shows a subdued audience controlled by a man talking to them on a screen. Suddenly, a female athlete bursts through the door, wearing bright colours and carrying a hammer. The worst excesses have been removed, and we are much more sensitive as an industry. Are new ad rules the answer? Brands need to have upfront conversations with their agencies about their expectations. We can sometimes deal in stereotypes in ads, as in 30 seconds you need to portray something that connects. As a result, people often default to perceived advertising norms.

All it takes is for one person to do something different, and to suddenly start questioning that perceived wisdom. A great example of that is This Girl Canwhich did this amazing thing of featuring normal women. It might not seem revolutionary, but it was absolutely extraordinary because normally for any women to be featured in an advert you have to look like a goddess and have the best body in the entire word.

But nobody has a body like that, only a tiny percentage of the population. Sue Todd, CEO, Magnetic The portrayal of women within magazines has been completely in line with what magazine brands have always done and will continue to do. However, the content now reflects a general change happening in society.

Teen Vogue is a great example, which has taken up the mantle on political debates for a younger audience. A lot of the content is pro-active, and magazines campaign much more than they used to — Grazia went hard on the pay gap, for example, and had lots of editorial around it.

It has extended beyond print too. Red, Glamour and Marie Claire have awards to celebrate inspiring women. These awards only seem to get bigger and bigger. It reflects what their readers are interested in. Ad content is definitely moving away from classic stereotypes, which is partly driven by the brands and partly driven by native and advertorial.

There are a lot more partnerships and native content being developed. This was done in partnership with Simply Be, a clothing retailer for larger sizes.

And brands can also get closer to the content and tap into issues that matter to women. For it to be effective, it has to be done in the right tone. It needs to reflect the issues that the editorial content is reflecting — and of course not be blatantly sexist.

  • A great example of that is This Girl Can , which did this amazing thing of featuring normal women;
  • Suddenly, a female athlete bursts through the door, wearing bright colours and carrying a hammer.

Editors are curators of what the right content is for their audience. Digital advertising has recently come under fire for ads being placed in an inappropriate context.

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They still play that human role. Ultimately they have to make a judgement call. But advertisers are taking more responsibility as well. Outsmart, the marketing body for outdoor advertising, was also approached for an interview but refused to comment.