Advertisers guilty of stereotyping while being out of touch

From advertising depicting domestic goddesses, damsels in distress, fashion and beauty-fixed shopaholics right through to bumbling and clueless dads and dithering old folk, the roll call of stereotypes is long and, let’s face it, downright embarrassing.

Some within the advertising industry would argue that this is part of a much wider malaise that has taken root, and that advertising as we know it has lost a lot of its mojo in a highly fragmented media landscape, but that’s a much bigger argument for a different day.

Depending on who you talk to, the blame lies at the feet of creative agencies that should know better, marketers lacking in ambition who prefer to play it safe, restricted advertising budgets, or an industry that may be in danger by straying a little too far from the real world.

A combination of all of the above is also plausible.

Two different pieces of research over the past two weeks suggest that advertisers and their brands are failing to reflect the many changes in Irish society in recent years and they have strayed into the lazy world of stereotyping.

The first piece of research, The Family Fallacy, is from creative agency Folk Wunderman Thompson, and calls on advertisers to get their act together when it comes to depicting families.

According to the agency, the traditional Irish family structure now accounts for just 36pc of Irish households. “In its place, a rich tapestry of diverse family structures has emerged, including child-free couples, same-sex families, step families, divorced parents and single parents. Families in Ireland are no longer defined solely by blood or marriage.”

Advertising, however, is not reflecting this.

The Folk research noted that more than 40pc of respondents believe that families are poorly represented in advertising, with this figure jumping to two-thirds of same-sex families and nearly half of divorced and so-called blended families.

In addition, research shows that 64pc of people in Ireland believe the portrayal of family structures in advertising is stereotypical while 63pc believe brands should play a role in normalising non-traditional family structures in their advertising, rising to 68pc for single-parent families.

While women have always been the victims of stereotyping in advertising, rules introduced by the advertising regulator in the UK in 2019 put an end to much of it (not all). Here in Ireland, the ASAI also cautions against “sex stereotyping” by upholding the equality of men and women.

The second piece of research comes from market research firm RED C and it too shows advertisers have let men down in their depiction of them. Published at an advertising industry seminar about marketing to men earlier in the week, attendees heard that most men feel advertisers are not “credibly aligning with more modern male values” and in failing to do so they are not “connecting with them at a deeper level”.

The RED C research showed that just 12pc agree that the media representation of masculinity today actually reflects their own views while there is “widespread frustration with male depiction in advertising” and that “mono-dimensional stereotypes are no longer the best route” for advertisers.

It would be wrong to suggest that all advertisers resort to stereotyping, because they don’t. But if consumers feel that a chunk of advertising is not representative of them or their circumstances, then it’s time they took note. Otherwise they are just wasting their money while alienating a sizeable chunk of their existing and potential customer base.

Brian O’Driscoll will be just one of several keynote speakers. Photo: Getty

Sporting chances

Brian O’Driscoll will be just one of several keynote speakers who are lined up for the ‘Who Won Sponsorship 2023’ series which is organised by ONSIDE and the Marketing Institute on November 22 in the Aviva Stadium.

Other speakers include Gerry Nixon, from Vodafone; Padraig Power, from IRFU; Tom Boyle, from Manchester City; and Rory Sheridan, from Diageo. Tickets are still available and for more information visit

Jameson goes global

The Irish Distillers-owned Jameson Irish Whiskey has launched a new global advertising campaign, called ‘Must be a Jameson’.

Narrated by Peaky Blinders and Oppenheimer actor Cillian Murphy, this is the first campaign for the brand that has been created by Ogilvy, which picked up the global account this year.

The campaign has launched in the USA with a full roll-out of the campaign globally in 2024.

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