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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Hair. What girls see first" . . ?

This advert for Axe’s hair product received a series of complaints for its sexist depiction of a woman as a pair of ample sized breasts on legs . . . and nothing else. The advert attempts to use humour to try and promote their new hair product, which has been shown to be an effective advertising tool (Chan, 2011). 244 university students were shown 5 different tv adverts, and then filled out a structured questionnaires in which they rated how humorous they thought the advert was, their liking of the advert and liking for the product and brand. Results showed that humour enhanced persuasiveness of the advert.

However, the advert came across as insulting and sexist as opposed to humorous. The portrayal of the man as a mop of hair on legs and the tag line ‘Hair. It’s what girls see first’, results in insinuating that Women’s breasts are what men notice first and foremost about women. I think this advert is not just insulting to women, but also to men, insinuating that physical attractiveness is incredibly important if you want to be deemed attractive.

Adverts like this, which rely heavily on sexual imagery and physical attractiveness, are particularly worrying due to the negative impact they can have on the body images of viewers. Howard, Donna and Stephen (1999) found that depicting women as sex objects in TV adverts can lead to negative impacts on body satisfaction. 108 university students were exposed to 15 sexist and 5 non-sexist ads, 20 non-sexist ads, or a no control condition. Results showed that women exposed to sexist ads judged their current body size as larger and revealed a larger discrepancy between their actual and ideal body sizes, than women exposed to the non-sexist and no ad condition.


Chan, F. Y. (2011). Selling through entertaining: The effect of humour in television advertising in Hong Kong. Journal of Marketing Communications, 17(5), 319-336.

Lavine, H., Sweeney, D., & Wagner, S. H. (1999). Depicting women as sex objects in television advertising: Effects on body dissatisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(8), 1049-1058.

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