Gender-related clichés in advertising

The students analyse advertisements from different decades between 1950 and 2000 and list adjectives which relate to the illustrated women and men. They discuss the relationship between gender roles in society and in advertising.


  • to analyse stereotypes and gender roles in advertisements throughout the 20th century
  • to identify gender-stereotypes of young adults
  • to discuss the relationship between gender roles in society and in advertising

Material needed

  • a set of numbered adjective cards (Annex 1)
  • 5 tables, on each one is a poster with 3 pictures of advertisements. Each poster represents a decade between 1959 and 2000, see Annex 2
  • markers


Prepare 5 tables for 5 groups (1 table per group), each with a set of numbered adjective cards, a poster with pictures of 3 ads (related to a specific decade between 1950 and 2000) and markers.

Step by step description

  1. Students divide into 5 groups and take a seat at one of the 5 tables.
  2. Playing with adjectives: The participants examine the advertisements and list 10 adjectives which relate to the illustrated men and women in the advertisements. After the group work the lists of adjectives are collected on a poster.
  3. Debate: The debate about the adjectives is open for the key questions: What is the relationship between gender roles in society and in advertising? Do advertisements just reflect the ‘reality’ in society; or do they ‘influence’ the shaping of realities in societies?

Background information:

The numbered adjective cards are based on a study by Best and Bennet (1975) (see Reference / original source of the method). They used them to identify gender-sex-stereotypes of young adults. The adjectives which are numbered with odd numbers are related to stereotypes about men; and the adjectives which are numbered with even numbers are related to women. Surprise! The outcomes of the posters are likely to show this trend!

Reflection with the students / questions for debriefing

  • What do you consider to be the major differences between role stereotypes and gender-related clichés in advertisements of the 1950s and the ads nowadays?
  • How would you describe the concept of manhood and womanhood in the 1950s and throughout the following decades? In which way did gender-roles change?
  • When do you suppose that these changes happened? Why?
  • What is the concept of womanhood and manhood about nowadays?

Reference / original source of the method

This activity was developed and facilitated by Gülesin Nemutlu-Unal during her workshop „Pretty Pink vs Brave Blue: Gender-related clichés in advertising“ at the aces Kick-Off Meeting 2012 in Laško, Slovenia.

The gender adjective cards (Annex 1) were based on the following article: „Awareness and expression of sex stereotypes in young children“; Williams, John E.; Bennett, Susan M.; Best, Deborah L. Developmental Psychology, Vol 11(5), Sep 1975, 635-642.

Further tips and resources

There is a vast source of material about advertisements on the Internet, e.g. It is very rich in content, categorises the ads by topics and also gives a historical browse option.

A website about a project which is fully dedicated to gender stereotyping in advertising is

Annex 1: Numbered adjective cards

Annex 2: Posters with pictures of advertisements categorized by decades