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Gender Equality

Welcome to Transformative Topics Newsletter for March 2024. In recognition of Women’s History Month, we draw attention to the work by Catherine Coleman, Lauren Gurrieri and Linda Tuncay Zayer, who explore gender inequalities in relation to advertising, representation, and consumer culture.

In the spirit of our transformative topics newsletter and its 'behind the scenes' storytelling, Catherine, Lauren, and Linda reflect on the lack of progress in gender equality in advertising, calling for a greater focus on impacts, and what motivated their research on these topics.

Advertising has a persistent gender problem. As marketing and communication scholars, we had each been researching the topic of gender and advertising for some time. Catherine and Linda have a stream of research on TCR and gender, as well as research examining advertising professionals’ practices regarding gender and, for example, have previously published work mapping the institutional dynamics as well as the ethical considerations of advertising professionals regarding gender portrayals. Lauren has a stream of research examining the nexus of gender, advertising, and representation, for example, having published on controversial gender advertisements that transgress taboos of gender violence as well as how advertising can position women’s bodies as sites of control. We were struck by the long history of critiques of sexist and stereotyped advertising practices by scholars and the lack of traction to address the problem within industry. However, in recent years this has begun to shift as a result of social movements and activism by women and allies within and outside of the industry. For us, it was important to examine where changes are occurring, where problems remain and what opportunities exist to progress gender equality in advertising and, further, to advocate for a stronger focus on impact.

They offer insights into their experience of bringing a TCR angle to gender and advertising research and advocating for an impact agenda, culminating in their paper in the Journal of Advertising, “Driving Impact through Inclusive Advertising: An Examination of Award-Winning Gender-Inclusive Advertising.” (Zayer, Coleman and Gurrieri 2023, equal authorship).

Impact is central to the work that we all do. We strongly believe that there is a duty to go beyond the ivory tower to disseminate and use our knowledge to drive change in the advertising sector. Towards this, we collaborate with groups such as SeeHer and ShEqual to enable this. Our work with these change collectives inspired us to consider how impact is conceptualized in advertising. Taking inspiration from prior TCR work on impact, in this paper we conducted an analysis of award-winning gender-inclusive advertising campaigns to identify four mechanisms of impact. Further, we expanded the definition of inclusive advertising to include social impacts as an outcome and further developed the concept of inclusive advertising through our proposed Inclusive Advertising Spectrum.

We hope our body of research emphasizing impact can guide and inspire scholars and practitioners with directions to impact social change on a range of marketing and societal challenges in need of transformative solutions (Gurrieri, Zayer and Coleman 2022, equal authorship), such as sustainability, healthcare, and social media practices, as well as other intersecting inequalities including class, race, sexuality, age, and ability.

We encourage you to read their articles:

Lauren Gurrieri, Linda Tuncay Zayer & Catherine A. Coleman (2022) Transformative Advertising Research: Reimagining the Future of Advertising, Journal of Advertising, 51:5, 539-556, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.2022.2098545

Abstract: The 50th anniversary of the Journal of Advertising launch is an opportune moment to dialogue among the past, present, and future and offer a fruitful vision for the possibilities of advertising. In this paper, we advance a new subfield that we call transformative advertising research (TAR). TAR examines problems and opportunities across the advertising system with the goal of transforming it toward better outcomes, namely cultivating individual, institutional, and societal well-being. We present a conceptual framework on TAR, informed by institutional theory, that highlights the transformational insights revealed in the intersections and interactions between institutional actors at the micro level, advertising institutions at the meso level, and sociocultural forces at the macro level and the resulting well-being outcomes. To illustrate our framework, we focus on a long-standing topical issue within advertising—gender inequality—that holds significant implications for well-being. In conceptualizing advertising as an institution, (1) we propose a new subfield of advertising we name TAR and (2) we present a framework that reveals the system complexities within the advertising ecosystem and allows for a clear vision of potential transformative outcomes, which (3) can guide and inspire scholars and practitioners with directions to engage in social change.

Linda Tuncay Zayer, Catherine A. Coleman & Lauren Gurrieri (2023) Driving Impact through Inclusive Advertising: An Examination of Award-Winning Gender-Inclusive Advertising, Journal of Advertising, 52:5, 647-665, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.2023.2255233

Abstract: Utilizing a qualitative thematic analysis of submission materials for 18 award-winning, gender-inclusive campaigns at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, this research reenvisions inclusive advertising with a strengthened focus on impact. While existing literature has largely focused on identity categories and inclusive representation, we identify four mechanisms for impact (perceptual, conceptual, instrumental, and political) and scalability (across micro, meso, and macro levels) as salient themes in the award-winning and shortlisted campaigns that are recognized by the industry as gender inclusive. Theoretical and managerial contributions include (1) identification of how social impact is conceptualized in award-winning inclusive advertising and how impact functions through awards, (2) development in the definition of inclusive advertising to include social impacts as an outcome, and (3) a reimagining and expansion of the concept of inclusive advertising through a proposed Inclusive Advertising Spectrum, which encompasses representation, storytelling, and social impacts.

For those interested in teaching their students how to improve advertisements and marketing so that it has more accurate, equitable, inclusive representations of women and girls, check out the new SeeHer certificate.


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