Advertisers turning off men and women

Advertisers are alienating men and women because they continue to use outdated gender stereotypes in their advertising, new research has found.

Men and Women

Advertisers are alienating men and women because they continue to use outdated gender stereotypes in their advertising, new research has found.

Brands are failing to market effectively to men by using unrealistic depictions of “ideal masculinity” that make men feel inadequate and vulnerable, US research found.

The research from the University of Illinois found that men who compare themselves to hyper-masculine or exaggerated male stereotypes in advertising and popular culture experience a range of emotions, including feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability.

Cele Otnes, the professor of marketing at Illinois who co-wrote the research, says: “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. So it’s important to recognise that some men may react negatively or be adversely impacted by such images.”

Otnes adds that although there has been much research into the negative impact of how advertising depicts women and children, very little is known about the impact on men.
UK ad agency Creative Orchestra has separately found that the majority (86%) of UK marketing professionals think their industry doesn’t understand female consumers, who account for 85% of consumer spend.

Adverts showing women chatting around a kitchen table are patronising and likely to “turn off’ or disengage many women consumers, respondents said.

Marketers also say that advertising agency creative departments, where the majority of workers are usually men, need to to employ more women to address the issue. More than half of respondents said that ad agencies should hire and equal number of men and women.

Some brands are, however, changing the way they advertise in an effort to aviod gender stereotypes and connect better with consumers.

Drinks maker Diageo, for example, recently said that it will target more of its marketing at women after admitting that it previously focused too much on men. It is also starting to work with all female creative teams at its creative agency BBH.

Matt Barwell, consumer marketing director for Diageo Western Europe, the drinks giant, told Marketing Week that focusing on women turns previous insight “on its head”.

He said: “We haven’t been as good at marketing our brands to women as we need to be. Historically we’ve had the same belief that says if you target men then the women will follow but having been married for 15 years I know from experience that that’s not the case.”

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here