ASCI GenderNext Study Finds Ads Continue to Portray Gender Stereotypes

Brands may have recently made efforts to take a more progressive stance on portraying women in their ads, but research found that mainstream ad content continues to suffer from gender stereotyping issues.

The study by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and Futurebrands, titled Next Sex, also found that there are gaps between the way advertisements present women and the way women see themselves or want to be seen.

Lipika Kumaran from Futurebrands, who is the lead author of Next Sex said: “A detailed analysis of 600 advertisements revealed several overused and sometimes harmful stereotypical tropes. In fact, categories such as food, beauty and personal care, and automobiles seem to have their own set of representational stereotypes. “

Common examples

For example, for ads in categories related to food and household products, the analysis revealed a tendency to sensualize the act of eating by women or to mask the workload and demands placed on women. Often associating women with serving platters or cutting boards, and men with laptops or newspapers, these ads also tend to create a stark contrast between the tasks of women and men, adds the study.

In financial advertising, women are often portrayed as spendthrift and marginalizing the role of women in wealth creation. Likewise, in advertisements on automobiles and gadgets, the objectification of women, placing them in the passenger seat instead of behind the wheel, showing women as lower in the technological hierarchy or male celebrities defying and educating them. women were often portrayed.

Women interviewed also said they were fed up with the stories often run in advertisements, of which only emerge victorious after significant struggles. “Women interviewed at different stages of life and classes in the city emphasized that it is not they but others in their sphere who are lagging behind, and it is they who need empowerment,” said the report.


Santosh Desai, MD, Futurebrands Consulting, said, “As things change and brands move away from blatantly exploitative advertising, there are significant challenges as there are both subtle and non-subtle ways in which gender representations are biased. There is also a substantial gap between how gender is portrayed in advertisements and how women actually see themselves. Therefore, advertising, which was historically considered to be the most progressive means of gender representation, must catch up. “

The study recommends that brands follow “the SEA (Self-esteemed – Empowered – Allied) framework” to assess the representations of women in their advertising content. He suggests that ad creators consider aspects of what women think about themselves (self-esteem), how women relate to the situation they find themselves in (empowered) and how others are viewed. as partners in their progress (allies).

He also recommended the “3S screener” for evaluating ad scripts. “The filter can be used to examine aspects of subordination (where the woman is placed lower in the decision-making hierarchy), service (where the woman is seen in the service of others) and normalization (where female appearance or behavior is style / directed in mandatory projections that blur individuality), ”he said.

ASCI working group

ASCI will also consider actionable information from the results of the study. ASCI General Secretary Manisha Kapoor said: “The tools recommended by the study can help brands assess whether their ads can reinforce certain stereotypes. We will also set up a working group to review the results and see if specific guidelines are needed to tackle the issue of gender stereotypes. “

About Geraldine Higgins

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