Women in Advertising

I remember I was sitting in my marketing class this last year, the teacher asked, “Has there been advertising campaigns that have stuck out to you?”


I raised my hand. She called on me.


“The tide commercials,” I answered. 


“Why?” she asked.


“Because their shift of using fathers cleaning laundry rather than mothers,” I said as I hear the boys, who sit behind me, begin to whisper. 



These boys, just like me, have been shown Tide commercials, our whole lives. Tide commercials in the past have always depicted a woman doing laundry for their sons and husbands. The boys behind me don’t understand that seeing these commercials their entire lives has created the assumption that a woman’s role is household duties, like cleaning laundry. Women in advertising have been shown in ways that have created a societal expectation.


Perception of Women in Advertising

Women can only portray certain characters in advertisements. Can you guess a few?


A domestic woman. Women are expected to cook and clean, and of course do laundry. This has been a narrative that has been told for decades. A narrative that makes it clear that women are expected to stay home while their husbands work. 


The nurturer. Women’s sole purpose on earth is to have and care for children. To be great wives and mothers. When the truth is that a lot of women are not made to be either. The expectation that women should have children can cause harm to not only women but also the children born to an unwanting mother. 


Sex-objects. This can be seen in fashion ads, commercials, or even a Burger King ad. Women can wear too much or too little. A woman can be a slut or a prude. A women’s worth is determined by her size, what she wears, how much makeup she has on, or how she speaks to men. A woman can never be too easy but also never too hard to get. A woman cannot talk too soft or speak too loud. Women are expected to be how men want them to be. 

Burger King Ad Super Seven Incher

The sidekick. Women are never the protagonist; they are just there for the butt of the joke, to be in the background, or give support to the male main character. You may want to act like Pam, from The Office, was necessary, but you’d be lying to yourself. Pam is there specifically to support Jim’s character development; that’s it. Pam is not funny and never was funny because she is a W-O-M-A-N. Women are never funny, and if they are they’re considered annoying. 


Each of these character types have been played by women for decades, creating a societal perception of what a real woman is like. 


What type of woman would I be if  I never got married, never had kids, had a full-time career, and my goal was to advance in my career rather than settle down. I wouldn’t be a real woman; that’s what. 


Sometimes Advertisements Reflect the Industry


Maybe advertising is so damning for women because women aren’t the ones who make them. 


Women make up to 70% of those who work in advertising, but only 30% are executives. The advertising industry struggles with sexist behavior and gender bias. As sexism is represented in the ads, sexism also wanders the halls of agencies. 


Women wanting to excel in the industry are expected to deal with the grabby hands and demeaning language. 


Women have the option to either tell them no and lose their job or don’t say anything, keep their job, and possibly have a chance to succeed in the industry. 


Not only are women being silenced but are slapped in the face with the ad campaigns that re-affirm the sexism they are facing every day in their industry. 


25% of women have personally experienced gender discrimination and 23% have personally witnessed sexual harassment in the advertising industry.  


Yes, there have been ads like Tide, but the process is too slow. 


Enough is enough. 


All that I can ask is to be better and do better for future generations. The demand for change is now.


What a happy Friday blog. Deep breathes. See you next week at 4 pm MST. 

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Courtney Reiber