Sexism in Advertising

We asked our panel if they thought that sexism is still something that is prevalent in advertising today. We wanted to know which particular advertising campaigns sprang to mind when considering this. The big debate was whether advertisements aimed at a certain sex could be deemed as sexism?

The panel had mixed opinions on whether they thought that sexism existed in advertising, and if it did how much of a problem it really presented. Many felt that stereotypes and sexism could easily be confused, with advertising being known for largely conforming to stereotypes.

Some of the panel had the opinion that advertising companies were not sexist and instead were just targeting certain groups and stereotypes of people. This was to be expected and just a way of target marketing a product. “Personally I don’t think sexism is really in advertising at all. They are just appealing to their target audience.” (Andrew, 33, Edinburgh)

Other members of the panel felt that sexism was something that was seen in advertising and was a big issue that frustrated them and needed to be taken notice of.

The biggest culprit seemed to be women being portrayed in domestic situations in adverts, for example cooking, cleaning and looking after children. “The tendency to depict women in domestic situations is still pretty rife in advertising.” (Ian, 54, London)

This was seen by many as an outdated and an unfair portrayal of the modern woman. “I don’t think the portrayal of women in advertising is really relevant of true to the times and doesn’t in anyway depict women in a positive light.” (Zainab, 29, Birmingham)

However some panel members argued that this was just advertising reaching out to its target groups. A few female members of the panel suggested that women probably do pay more attention to baby adverts than men do and the advertising companies are just targeting the groups they think will be most likely and interested in buying a certain product.

Adverts and brands that were seen by the panel as being sexist included; Diet Coke with it only targeting females with the use of half naked men, Lynx guilty of doing the same but with women becoming almost slaves to men because of the way they smell after spraying the popular deodorant. Cereals were guilty of being purely targeted at women, especially Special K. Yorkie chocolate bars also came under scrutiny by our panel for their slogan ‘Not for Girls.’

Members of the panel did suggest that if they deemed a brand to be sexist they would be discouraged from purchasing their products. It was seen as a cheap and unintelligent way to advertise products. “I would be slightly put off a brand if they used sexist images or content.” (George, 23, Ipswich)

“Advertising does contain sexism but I think that it’s quite subliminal and quite dangerous because it develops certain views in society.” (Susie, 27, Birmingham)

Some of the panel felt that sexism was something that was deeply embedded into advertising and therefore was unlikely to change. Many commented that sex sells and this is something that will never change. “These days it’s almost accepted in some areas of advertising.” (Nikki, 38, Norwich)

Others felt that we are living in a world, which is too concerned with political correctness, and that we all need to lighten up and be able to take certain adverts with a pinch of salt. Many found adverts like the Yorkie Biscuit campaign to be humorous and intended not to offend women but be seen more as a joke.

“Sexism in advertising doesn’t bother me. There are roles that people have and people assume.” (Elaine, 48, Harpenden)

Other panel members felt that sexism doesn’t seem exist in advertising anymore and they were unable to recall any advertisements that they would consider sexist. “I hope that society has moved beyond that and I don’t really think that it exists now.” (Erica, 47, Hornchurch)


Sexism in advertising was something that many felt was far less common than it would have been twenty years go. It was seen as something that was being slowly eradicated over time.