Exploring Male Stereotypes in Advertising This International Men’s Day

Happy International Men’s Day! Conceived back in 1991, the day was created to celebrate boys’ and men’s achievements and contributions to society — and take a closer look at men’s issues around the world.

One of these issues is how men are portrayed in advertising. So, to mark the occasion — and because we work in the advertising industry after all — we’ve used our emotional testing tool UnrulyEQ to measure consumer reactions to two ads that caused a huge stir in the press, to see how audiences really responded to them.

Philadelphia: “New Dads”

The first is Philadelphia’s “New Dads” campaign, which was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last year as one of the first spots to be penalised under their new gender stereotyping rules.

The ad features two hapless fathers who get so distracted by some Philadelphia bagels on a conveyor belt that they don’t notice their babies circling on the belt.

The spot was banned after receiving 128 complaints from viewers, who were incensed that it portrays men as incapable of looking after children.

The ad scored below average across all key business metrics, including 26% for purchase intent versus a 31% UK norm, as well as 22% of viewers saying they wanted to find out more after watching the ad versus a 31% UK norm.

Brand recall also scored very low (possibly a good thing), with only 21% of viewers able to recognise Philadelphia as the brand after watching the ad.

The spot wasn’t completely lost on viewers, though. Some found it funny, with 6% finding the content hilarious, compared to a 2% UK norm, while 7% found it heart-warming, which is just over the UK norm of 6%.

Gillette: “Believe”

The second ad we tested was Gillette’s short film entitled “Believe”, which references bullying, the #MeToo movement, toxic masculinity and sought to shift their famous slogan from “The best a man can get” to “The best men can be”.

The ad caused a huge stir when it was released, receiving mixed reviews from critics, fans and consumers alike. It has now amassed over 35M views on YouTube, over 800k likes, over 1.6M dislikes and has become one of the most memorable ads of recent years.

Looking at the results, the ad achieved some impressive scores across the board, scoring 22% for inspiration compared to a 10% US norm, and 14% for pride compared to a 5% US norm.

After viewing the ad, three-quarters of consumers could name Gillette as the brand behind the film, which is no mean feat, and it scored a huge 46% for purchase intent compared to a 39% US norm, despite calls from many fans across social media to boycott the brand after viewing the ad.

It did, however, also score highly for disgust (14% vs a 5% norm), and this is likely down to some viewers not agreeing with the message that Gillette portrayed throughout the ad.

In conclusion

Ensuring you’re aware of the gender stereotypes you’re portraying in your ads is essential and can be make or break for an ad, and as we’ve seen in Gillette’s case, taking a gamble and coming out with a strong stance against a specific stereotype, in this case against toxic masculinity, can have a significant impact on how your brand is perceived.

We tested both these ads using our content measurement tool UnrulyEQ, which uses a combination of audience panels, facial coding and machine learning to measure viewers’ emotional responses to advertising.

Click here to find out more.