Six stereotypes of women in advertising

Ahead of International Women's Day, The Museum of Brands examines the the evolution of the female role model in advertising.

Six stereotypes of women in advertising

The Museum of Brands is shining a spotlight on the portrayal of women in advertising with a series of talks, an exhibition and a film. 10 from 50: Changing trends of female representation in TV commercials was produced by Lindsey Clay, the chief executive of Thinkbox.

Clay said: "Advertising is a key part of popular culture and a reflection of social norms. The progress that has been made in our advertising of the portrayal of women mirrors how society has developed.

"Initiating debate is an excellent way to judge how far we have come from women being glued to the kitchen sink in ad breaks – and how far we still have to go."

Karin Kihlberg, museum manager at The Museum of Brands, has identified six stereotypes of women in advertising; which range from the domestic obsessive to sex object (see below). She believes that the representation of women in advertising has shifted considerably: "At a time when gender balance is the subject of many a debate in the media, in business and more recently in government, we feel it’s important to look at the evolution of the female role model in advertising and how this feeds into our day to day lives".

Six stereotypes of women in advertising

Domestic obsessive

Example: Shake n vac

Description: Unnaturally energised by issues to do with home, often cleaning. Used to be referred to in the industry often as 2 Cs in a K

Selfless nurturer

Example: Oxo mum

Description: Self-sacrificing, maternal, subsumes own needs for those of others

Sex object

Example: Lynx ads in the 1980/90s

Description: The ultimate in one-dimensional desirability

Unattainable goddess

Example: Special K

Description: Physically perfect object of desirability but for women rather than men. Aspirational, unattainable ideal

The fraught juggler

Example: Asda's controversial Christmas ad

Description: Busy working mum with too much to do. Frustrated and not happy

The bit part

Example: Cadbury’s "Yes sir I can boogie"

Description: Supporting or background character for the male protagonist(s). There to provide visual variety

You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Get a team licence 

 Give your teams unrestricted access to in-depth editorial analysis, breaking news and premium reports with a bespoke subscription to Campaign.

Find out more

Market Reports

Get unprecedented new-business intelligence with access to Campaign’s new Advertising Intelligence Market Reports.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now