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Male Advertising Stereotypes Backfiring

shopping . / Credit: Man Shopping Image via Shutterstock

Advertisers may want to rethink how they depict men in their advertisements. New research has found that typical depictions of men using overexaggerated male stereotypes actually has a negative impact on men's willingness to buy a product.   

"While partying and promiscuity are often depicted in advertising, some men find these images to be negative portrayals of their gender and are, in fact, turned off by them," said Cele Otnes, lead researcher and the Investors in Business Education Professor of Marketing at the University of Illinois. "So it’s important to recognize that some men may react negatively or be adversely impacted by such images."

Some men's negative reactions occur because they are offended by advertisements that depict these negative images. Men are mostly offended because they feel these ads do not depict them in an accurate and positive way, the research found.

"People build up certain offensive and defensive strategies when they look at ads," Otnes said. "So if a man is turned off by how males are portrayed in an advertisement, he'll say, 'I don’t want to be that guy' – and that’s the end of his relationship with that brand. So teasing out what’s offensive from a sociological or cultural perspective is important."

This research holds particular importance to companies and marketers who are looking to capture the male market. Additional research has found that men are the main shoppers in almost one in three households. Taking advantage of this market may be as simple as tailoring advertising campaigns that depict men in a more realistic way.   

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"A lot of ads directed at males are still dominated by 'The Player,' 'The Beer Drinker' or 'The Buddy,'" Otnes said. "But those stereotypes don’t actually fit the vast majority of males. Advertisers and marketers need to broaden the spectrum, and create campaigns centered on more of the actual roles that men play – 'The Dad,' 'The Husband' and 'The Handyman.' Those types of ads weren’t easy to find at the time we were doing our research."

This study was published in the book "Gender, Culture, and Consumer Behavior" (Routledge Academic, 2012) which was co-edited by Otnes and Linda Tuncay Zayer, of Loyola University.

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