Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Behind every great Christmas, there's a sexist advert

Asda’s Christmas advert attempts to use source credibility to engage a targeted female audience and persuade them that in the stressful run-up to Christmas, Asda will make their lives easier and help make family Christmases perfect. By featuring an attractive, but relatively ‘normal’ looking woman shopping at Asda for Christmas food and presents, the source credibility is enhanced (Chaiken, 1979; Brock, 1965) in the hope that this will persuade the public to buy Asda’s products.

However, despite these intended aims, the advertisement is problematic due to the benevolent sexism depicted. Traditional gender stereotypes are promoted by featuring the mother shopping, cleaning, cooking and looking after the children and the house, whilst the father confirms to his gender stereotype by having no involvement in the Christmas preparations (presumably because he is at work earning to provide for his family) apart from moving the Christmas tree, a physically demanding job that the female was too weak to do. The strapline behind the advert: ‘Behind every great Christmas, there’s mum’ attempts to give recognition to hard-working mothers, but instead suggests that (presumably due to traditional gender roles) men or fathers don't play a role in contributing to Christmas. 

This advert may have successfully encapsulated Britain in the fifties, but in today’s modern society it is likely to aggravate and offend women (by suggesting that their role is one of a committed housewife) as well as stay-at-home dads, gay parents, single parents, and couples who share household duties, by suggesting that they do not conform to a ‘normal’ family Christmas. 

Such sexist advertisements have been shown to reduce the likelihood of purchasing a product. Jaffe (1991) showed adult women print advertisements for financial services, which either depicted a career woman making a decision about investing funds (modern portrayal) or a woman in a nurturing role focusing on her family’s financial security (benevolently sexist portrayal). The participants who had been exposed to the modern portrayal indicated an increased likelihood of using the financial services, compared to those who viewed the sexist advertisement.  

Brock, T. C. (1965). Communicator-recipient similarity and decision change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 650.

Chaiken, S. (1979). Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion. Journal of personality and social psychology, 37, 1387

Jaffe, L. J. (1991). Impact of positioning and sex-role identity on women's responses to advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 3, 57-64.

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