Stereotypes in advertising

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Stereotypes in advertising
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Stereotyping is based on common beliefs which lead to social categorization. There are two types of stereotypes: functional and dysfunctional. Functional is when it is treated as a normal process to understand, guide our beliefs. Because of these stereotypes, it is easier to adapt to the culture of a particular country (e.g. German punctuality). Dysfunctional stereotyping is when individuals are wrongly judged and classified as part of a group. Such a categorization affects our perception of people (e.g. Poles are thieves).

Advertising shows simplified reality. It needs to include a brief message and draw people's attention. Therefore, in advertising are used stereotypes which can be easily recognized. Some stereotypes are common in several European countries as a German sense of humour being incomprehensible. The Spanish branch of Volkswagen used it by writing in one of the commercial “People see this and smile. At least, they understand German humour”(M. de Mooij 2010, p. 51-52). However, there should not be used strong national stereotypes in advertising as it may be insulting[1].

Gender stereotyping

The most popular is gender stereotyping. There are companies which decided to show how powerful are stereotypes and how they influence people behaviour and perception[2][3]:

  • ‘Like a girl’ commercial made by Always. The expression ‘like a girl’ is normally accepted in everyday language. It is used to insult someone fragile or to emotional. In this commercial women, boys, men and girls were asked to run or fight ‘like a girl’. The first group acted in a silly way while young girls behaved with confidence, they fought as hard as they could. For girls, making something ‘like a girl’ means being themselves and do their best. Obviously, the media and stereotyping still not influenced their perception of womanhood.
  • Gender stereotyping is also used in Pantene commercial ‘Labels against Women’. This ad shows criticism of women who behave in commonly ‘male’ way in the workplace. For example, when a man is called boss in the enterprise, a woman is labelled as bossy.


Using stereotypes, especially gender ones, is criticized worldwide. It has a negative effect on both women and men[4]. Many studies claim that it has a bad influence on how people are perceiving themselves and others. The Advertising Standards Authority is working to introduce strict regulations concerning this problem. New regulations are going to restrict advertising where gender stereotypes are being used (e.g. women shown only as housewives or men failing to do parental or household tasks)[5].



  1. M. de Mooij 2010, p.51-52
  2. A. Coscia 2014, p.5-6
  3. M. de Mooij 2010, p. 51-52
  4. M. Zawisza-Riley 2019, p.54-55
  5. G. Datar 2018, chapter 3

Author: Anna Woroń