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10 July 2019

Stereotypes Still Prevail in Award-Winning Commercials

Stereotyped images of minority groups (for example women, elderly and ethnic minorities) in the media can reinforce stereotypical perceptions of these groups in society. A study in Communication Research Reports analyses how gender, age, and ethnicity are represented in Dutch award-winning television commercials and shows that stereotypes still exist in advertising, even in a progressive country such as the Netherlands.

Take aways

  • Even though The Netherlands is considered to be one of the most progressive countries in the world, some minority groups are still stereotyped in Dutch award-winning television commercials:
    • Women and the elderly are underrepresented;
    • Women are less portrayed in working roles than men, especially in commercials that won a best-commercial award (“Gouden Loeki”)

Study information

  • Who?

    246 television commercials, with a total of 552 main characters

  • Where?

    The Netherlands

  • How?

    Researchers viewed positive award-winning commercials (‘Gouden Loeki’) and negative award-winning commercials (‘Loden Leeuw’) and wrote down the gender, age, and ethnicity of up to four main characters in the commercial. Additionally, researchers noted the gender of the voice-over, if the main character was portrayed as working, if the main character was portrayed as parent, if the main character was portrayed as frail, and in the case of ethnic minorities if there was an exaggeration of minority culture.

Facts and findings

  • In award-winning television commercials, women and seniors were generally underrepresented, and the underrepresentation was stronger in positive award-winning commercials.
  • Women were less present as voice-overs and were less portrayed in working roles in positive award-winning commercials than in negative award-winning commercials.
  • Contrary to earlier research, in award-winning commercials the presence of ethnic minorities was comparable to their presence in Dutch society. Nonetheless, the stereotyped tactic of exaggerating minority culture was present in both positive and negative award-winning commercials.