Stereotyping in Advertising - The Good, The Bad and The Funny!

By Deborah Hopkins

The other day, those of us in the writing department were sitting around discussing some radio commercials that had been forwarded to us. It was a series of four spots that were presented as an example of the value of selling the benefit of the product, instead of the product itself.

What I really loved about the commercials was the way they engaged the listener, as the clever copy required that you mentally connect a few dots to follow along. Also they made me laugh. I really love that.

They also played off some male/female stereotyping that created quite a discussion. I am starting to wonder if those of us in the advertising industry are just a little too sensitive about stereotypes. Yes, busty blondes pitching beer and dumb-dumb dads misused to sell household products are offensive, but mostly because they are tired and old, and don’t really portray the human condition in a realistic way.

However, when a commercial playfully exploits certain general characteristics that can be identified with, in each of the sexes, and coaxes some real life humor out of a situation to which most of us can relate, is there really any harm done?

I maintain that if a commercial doesn’t make those responsible for creating it, just a little uncomfortable, then, creatively speaking, maybe we haven’t gone quite far enough to tell our advertiser’s story.

Poking fun at stereotypes is what makes many of our revered television sitcoms great.

Maybe it is more acceptable in advertising to spoof stereotypes than we in the industry realize.

And while we’re on the topic of stereotyping, when you see writers sitting around yakking, it’s important to note that we’re not necessarily goofing off, sometimes we’re actually working!

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