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Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea

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Abstract

Gender representations in television advertisements have been a subject of academic research for many years. However, comparatively few studies have looked into television advertising’s gender representations in Confucian societies, particularly from a comparative perspective. This study compares the representation of males and females in 1,694 television advertisements from Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. It uncovers stereotypical gender representations related to age (females were predominantly young, males were middleaged), clothing/nudity (females were more suggestively dressed, males were fully clothed), work (females were depicted more often at home, males were typically depicted in the workplace), authority (males were used for voiceovers more than females, with males being the so-called “voice of authority”), and beauty (more females than males advertised for the cosmetics/toiletries product category). Overall, gender representations were highly stereotypical in all three cultures, which may be due to a shared common cultural background based on Confucianism. In terms of the degree of gender stereotyping, Hong Kong was more gender-egalitarian than Japan and South Korea; this finding is consistent with results from Project Globe’s gender egalitarianism index and the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) by the United Nations, but not with Hofstede’s masculinity index. These results suggest a relationship between gender representations and some gender indices. Finally, this article discusses the possible effects of stereotypical gender representations on audiences in relation to social cognitive and cultivation theories.
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ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society, 28(1), 27-41
27
Gender representations in East
Asian advertising: Hong Kong,
Japan, and South Korea
Abstract
Gender representations in television advertisements have been
a subject of academic research for many years. However,
comparatively few studies have looked into television
advertising’s gender representations in Confucian societies,
particularly from a comparative perspective. This study
compares the representation of males and females in 1,694
television advertisements from Hong Kong, Japan, and South
Korea. It uncovers stereotypical gender representations related
to age (females were predominantly young, males were middle-
aged), clothing/nudity (females were more suggestively dressed,
males were fully clothed), work (females were depicted more
often at home, males were typically depicted in the workplace),
authority (males were used for voiceovers more than females,
with males being the so-called “voice of authority”), and beauty
(more females than males advertised for the cosmetics/toiletries
product category). Overall, gender representations were highly
stereotypical in all three cultures, which may be due to a shared
common cultural background based on Confucianism. In terms
of the degree of gender stereotyping, Hong Kong was more
gender-egalitarian than Japan and South Korea; this finding is
consistent with results from Project Globe’s gender
egalitarianism index and the Gender-related Development
Index (GDI) by the United Nations, but not with Hofstede’s
masculinity index. These results suggest a relationship between
gender representations and some gender indices. Finally, this
article discusses the possible effects of stereotypical gender
representations on audiences in relation to social cognitive and
cultivation theories.
Keywords
Television advertising, content analysis, gender
representations, Confucianism, comparative research
1. Introduction
Gender representations in television advertisements have been a
subject of academic concern for many years (Eisend, 2010; Furnham &
Paltzer, 2010) because they can potentially affect society and limit
Michael Prieler
prieler@hallym.ac.kr
Professor. School of
Communication.
Hallym University. South Korea.
Alex Ivanov
aivanov@cityu.edu.hk
Assistant Professor.
Department of Media and
Communication.
City University of Hong Kong.
China Creative Media Centre.
Shigeru Hagiwara
hagiwara@rikkyojogakuin.ac.jp
Professor. Department of
Contemporary Communication.
St. Margaret’s Junior College.
Tokyo. Japan
Submitted
August 22, 2014
Approved
December 20, 2014
© 2015
Communication & Society
ISSN 0214-0039
E ISSN 2386-7876
doi:
10.15581/003.28.1.27-41
www.communication-society.com
2015 Vol. 28(1),
pp. 27-41
How to cite this article:
Prieler, M., Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara,
S. (2015). Gender representations
in East Asian advertising: Hong
Kong, Japan and South Korea.
Communication & Society 28(1),
27-41
Authors thank Dr. Emmanuel
Chéron, Dr. Dianne Cyr, and Dr.
Florian Kohlbacher for commenting
on an earlier draft of this article.
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society 28(1), 27-41
28
women’s opportunities (Bandura, 2009; Gerbner, 1998; Smith & Granados, 2009). This type
of research began in the United States in the 1970s (Dominick & Rauch, 1972; Silverstein &
Silverstein, 1974) and was followed by a great number of articles. Comparatively few studies
have examined gender representations in television advertising in Confucian societies
(Arima, 2003; Bresnahan, Inoue, Liu, & Nishida, 2001; Cheng, 1997; Kim & Lowry, 2005; Siu
& Au, 1997). This should be a particularly interesting arena for studies on gender, as
Confucianism is based on a clear division of genders. The purpose of this study is to analyze
how gender is constructed in television advertisements in the Confucian societies of Hong
Kong, Japan, and South Korea and to discuss the possible effects of such representations.
1.1. Confucianism and advertising’s effects on culture
Although Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea differ in various aspects, they all share a
common cultural background based on Confucianism (Ko, Kim Haboush & Piggott, 2003;
Nyitray, 2004). The Confucianism legacy has often been blamed for the continuing low
status of women, rigid gender role divisions, and male dominance in these cultures. In
Confucianism, a clear division between husband and wife exists (and, more generally,
between male and female members of society). The husband is the dominant partner and is
expected to show responsibility and benevolence to the latter, who is subordinate in the
relationship and is expected to show obedience, loyalty, and respect (Hyun, 2001). Confucian
societies seem to be particularly interesting venues for gender research because scholars
claim that the patriarchal Confucian philosophy has exerted a negative impact on women,
and it has been blamed for both historical and contemporary gender discrimination.
Although economic development is challenging these traditional values and the status of
women has improved (Cheung & Holroyd, 2009; Kendall, 2002; Liddle & Nakajima, 2000),
women in Confucian societies still face large cultural disadvantages.
Advertisements are sources of meaning in a culture because they tell the audience not
only stories about products but also about social roles, goals, and values (Pollay, 1986).
Following the social constructionist approach (Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Hall, 1997),
advertising images are constructed (Goffman, 1976) as part of larger social processes that
construct and encourage some meanings of dominant groups over others (Ibroscheva &
Ramaprasad, 2008). For example, advertisements construct and represent gender in
accordance with traditional hierarchical gender relations in society (Luyt, 2011). Thus, they
recreate stereotypes and hamper change because once such practices become habitual,
others expect such behaviors, which are perpetuated by society (DeLamater & Hyde, 1998).
Such gender expectations are not natural, timeless or universal but are socially, historically
and politically situated. Gender is what we agree on in a particular social context (Bohan,
1993).
Two theories on media effects that draw from the assumptions of social
constructionism are social cognitive theory and cultivation theory. Social cognitive theory
(Bandura, 2009) claims that social behavior is learned through direct and vicarious
observation, such as watching television. People model their behaviors based on these
observations, including information about gender roles. Cultivation theory (Gerbner, 1998)
makes the related claim that television plays an important role in creating (distorted) views
of reality (particularly for heavy viewers). Watching television produces the viewer’s
worldview, that is, images of social behaviors, norms and values. Empirical research
supports these theories: A meta-analysis confirmed heavy viewing to be associated with
gender role stereotyping and that TV teaches gender role stereotyping (Oppliger, 2007).
Relating more specifically to this research, the same effect was found for television
advertisements (Garst & Bodenhausen, 1997; MacKay & Covell, 1997). Although our content
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society 28(1), 27-41
29
analysis cannot possibly examine media effects, this sort of content analysis is an important
first step in understanding the possible impact of media (Riffe, Lacy & Fico, 2005).
1.2. Literature review, hypotheses, and research question
The study of gender representation in television advertisements has a long history (Eisend,
2010; Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). English language studies on Asian countries began in the
1990s, including studies on Singapore (Lee, 2004; Siu & Au, 1997; Tan, Ling & Theng, 2002;
Wee, Choong & Tambyah, 1995), Malaysia (Bresnahan et al., 2001; Tan et al., 2002; Wee et al.,
1995), China (Cheng, 1997; Paek, Nelson & Vilela, 2011; Siu & Au, 1997), Indonesia (Furnham,
Mak & Tanidjojo, 2000), and the Philippines (Prieler & Centeno, 2013). There have also been
several studies on Hong Kong (Furnham & Chan, 2003; Furnham et al., 2000; Moon & Chan,
2007), Japan (Arima, 2003; Bresnahan et al., 2001; Furnham & Imadzu, 2002; Milner &
Collins, 2000), and South Korea (Kim & Lowry, 2005; Moon & Chan, 2007; Paek et al., 2011;
Prieler, 2012). However, there is no comparative study of all three cultures to date, which
makes this multicultural study even more timely. In the following review, we outline the
most common gender representations in detail, including the gender of the primary
character, age, setting, degree of dress, voiceover, and product category (Eisend, 2010;
Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). However, our main emphasis will be on previous studies on Hong
Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
Most previous research has studied the gender of the primary character in television
advertisements, which some have interpreted as an indicator of the importance, relevance,
and recognition of the respective gender (Gerbner, Gross, Signorielli & Morgan, 1980;
Signorielli & Bacue, 1999). Most studies in Hong Kong reported a predominance of male
characters (Furnham & Chan, 2003; Furnham et al., 2000), while studies on South Korea
showed a predominance of female characters (Kim & Lowry, 2005; Paek et al., 2011; Prieler,
2012). In contrast, Moon and Chan (2007) reported no statistically significant differences for
both cultures. The results for studies on Japan were mixed, with one study showing more
male characters (Furnham & Imadzu, 2002), two showing more female characters (Arima,
2003; Milner & Collins, 2000), and another nearly no differences (Bresnahan et al., 2001).
Despite the mixed results of previous studies in East Asia, more studies found male
predominance (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). Thus, we suggest the following hypothesis:
H1: There will be more males than females in all three cultures.
The age of the primary character is another widely studied variable. Most studies
report a predominance of females in the younger age segment (under 35), while more males
were found in the middle age and older age segments (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). In a meta-
analysis, Eisend (2010) found that the odds of females being younger were three times
higher than they were for males. Research on Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea all
reported more females than males in the younger age segment (Furnham & Chan, 2003;
Furnham & Imadzu, 2002; Furnham et al., 2000; Kim & Lowry, 2005; Milner & Collins,
2000; Moon & Chan, 2007; Prieler, 2012; Prieler, Kohlbacher, Hagiwara, & Arima, 2011).
Considering these findings, we suggest the following hypothesis:
H2: More females than males will be represented in the young age segment in all three
cultures.
The degree of dress of male and female characters in television advertisements has
been investigated in comparatively few studies, most of which were conducted in the United
States (Fullerton & Kendrick, 2000; Lin, 1998; Nelson & Paek, 2008) and showed that more
females than males were wearing suggestive dresses. A comparison between British and
Chinese television advertisements revealed more nudity in British ads than in Chinese ones
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society 28(1), 27-41
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(Hao, 2011). In a multicultural study of Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, South Korea, and the
United States, Nelson and Paek (2008) found that nudity differed among the seven countries,
with US and Chinese ads showing the lowest levels of nudity and German and Thai ads
showing the highest levels. Overall, all studies to date have shown more females in states of
undress and more males fully dressed. Thus, we suggest the following hypothesis:
H3: More females than males will be suggestively dressed in all three cultures.
The nature of the setting is regarded as an important indicator of gender bias (Nassif &
Gunter, 2008). The existing literature reports that setting is a variable that largely produces
highly stereotypical results and clear gender divisions. Most often cited is the association of
females with a home setting (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). A meta-analysis shows that the odds
that females will be depicted at home (vs. at work) is approximately 3.5 times higher than
they are for males (Eisend, 2010). Findings on South Korea were stereotypical, with more
females at home and more males at work (Kim & Lowry, 2005; Prieler, 2012), while findings
in Japan showed more females at home but a similar number of males and females at work
(Bresnahan et al., 2001; Furnham & Imadzu, 2002). Finally, the results for Hong Kong were
mixed, with more males at home in one study (Furnham et al., 2000) and more females at
work in another study (Furnham & Chan, 2003). Considering these findings, we suggest the
following hypothesis for the most common gender representation related to setting:
H4: More females than males will be shown in the home setting in all three cultures.
The predominance of male voiceovers is one of the most consistent findings in the
literature (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010). Voiceovers are interpreted as the “voice of authority”
in giving advice and recommendations, a quality that women are presumed to lack
(Silverstein & Silverstein, 1974). In more than 70 studies, we have found only three studies
with more female voiceovers one on Turkey (Milner & Collins, 1998) and two on South
Korea (Paek et al., 2011; Prieler, 2012). However, there was a study on South Korea that
reported more male voiceovers (Kim & Lowry, 2005). Thus, the findings are mixed. The
exception of these three studies is even clearer when considering that Furnham and Palzer
(2010) reported an even more pronounced dominance of male voiceovers in Asia. This
finding is in line with all studies on Hong Kong and Japan that reported male voiceovers of
more than 60% or 70% (Arima, 2003; Bresnahan et al., 2001; Furnham & Chan, 2003;
Furnham & Imadzu, 2002; Furnham et al., 2000). Thus, we suggest the following hypothesis:
H5: There will be more male than female voiceovers in all three cultures.
The product categories used by different genders are important variables for
determining whether products are associated with respective genders and to what degree
these associations limit gender portrayals. For example, the association between females
and the cosmetics/toiletries product category emphasizes the importance of beauty for
females in society. This association is reported in most previous research (Furnham &
Paltzer, 2010). One study in South Korea linked phones and home entertainment with males
and cosmetics/toiletries and household products with females (Prieler, 2012). Another study
found non-technical products to be associated with females (Kim & Lowry, 2005). In Japan,
males were associated with technical products and females were associated with
food/drinks and personal care products (Bresnahan et al., 2001). However, a different study
on Japan showed surprisingly similar gender associations for body products (Furnham &
Imadzu, 2002). The same finding was true of a study in Hong Kong (Furnham et al., 2000),
while another study led to rather stereotypical results, with more females associated with
body and home products on Chinese language television channels (Furnham & Chan, 2003).
Considering that the majority of studies found an association between females and the
cosmetics/toiletries product category, we suggest the following hypothesis:
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society 28(1), 27-41
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H6: There will be more females than males in advertisements for the
cosmetics/toiletries product category in all three cultures.
Previous research has indicated that gender representations vary by culture (Paek et
al., 2011). This finding is in accordance with social constructionism, which suggests that the
construction of gender and its meanings are based on their social context (Bohan, 1993). For
example, some research has indicated a relation between Hofstede’s masculinity index and
gender predominance (Milner & Collins, 2000); a higher score in Hofstede’s masculinity
index increases the likelihood of a male voiceover (Paek et al., 2011). Hofstede’s masculinity
index (2001) shows Japan as the most masculine culture (associated with greater gender
differentiation) with a value of 95, followed by Hong Kong (57), and South Korea (39). In
contrast, the results from the newer Project Globe (Emrich, Denmark & Den Hartog, 2004)
show a tendency toward more gender egalitarianism in Hong Kong (score: 3.47) than in
Japan (3.19) and South Korea (2.50). South Korea had the lowest score of all 62 investigated
cultures. Similarly, the Gender-related Development Index by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP, 2014) ranks Hong Kong 49th, Japan 79th, and South Korea
85th. On the other hand, the common cultural background of Confucianism strongly shapes
gender relations (Ko et al., 2003; Nyitray, 2004) and may lead to a similar construction of
gender even though traditional Confucian values were challenged in these cultures (Cheung
& Holroyd, 2009; Kendall, 2002; Liddle & Nakajima, 2000) and all of them have been
developing differently in recent years. For example, Hong Kong was influenced by the influx
of Western culture and people as a British colony (Moon & Chan, 2007). We formulate the
following research question based on these mixed findings:
R1: Are there differences in the degree of stereotyping in advertisements in Hong Kong,
Japan, and South Korea?
2. Method
2.1. Sample of advertisements
The sample recording was conducted in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea during one
week in April 2012. In Japan, we recorded all five main commercial television stations: Fuji
TV (market share: 18.7% in 2009), NTV (18.6%), TV Asahi (16.9%), TBS (14.6%), and TV Tokyo
(7.0%). In South Korea, we recorded the three main commercial television stations that
broadcast television advertisements: KBS 2 (12.2%), MBC (11.6%), and SBS (11.2%). In Hong
Kong, we recorded TVB Jade (55.8%). However, we did not include the second major
television station, ATV Home, after a pretest resulted in only five ads during a 12-hour
coding test (WARC, 2012). After investigating the definitions of prime time in the three
cultures, we decided to record from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., which was the most inclusive
approach. To produce a representative sample, the recordings between 7:00 p.m. and 11:00
p.m. were divided into one-hour blocks, and the television channels were randomly
assigned to these time slots (Cheng, 1997). We did not control for duplication because
viewing repetitions represent the reality of television viewing (Arima, 2003). This led to 709
television advertisements in Hong Kong, 775 in Japan, and 550 in South Korea. Of these
advertisements, 624 included primary characters in Hong Kong, 628 in Japan, and 442 in
South Korea. These groups served as our samples.
2.2. Coding procedure
Our unit of analysis was the primary character in each television advertisement. We first
analyzed whether there was a primary character in the advertisement and then identified
the primary character’s gender (0 = no primary character, 1 = male primary character, 2 =
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
ISSN 2386-7876 © 2015 Communication & Society 28(1), 27-41
32
female primary character). A primary character was defined as 18 years or older and
appearing on camera with either a speaking role or prominent exposure for at least three
seconds. When several characters appeared in an advertisement, we followed a method
from previous research (Nassif & Gunter, 2008; Prieler & Centeno, 2013) that was adapted
during our coder training and pretests. The coders selected the primary character as the
character who (1) was central to the story, (2) appeared in close ups for the longest period of
time, (3) appeared for the longest period of time, (4) provided substantial information about
the advertised product or service, (5) used or held the product, and/or (6) had the more
extensive speaking part (in this particular order of decision criteria).
Our project was bilingually organized, with three bilingual student pairs (one male and
one female, speaking English and the respective local language) from each studied culture,
and did not include any researchers. Coders were blind to the hypotheses and were trained
on the coding manual for approximately ten hours. To produce comparable coding results,
the coding manual was developed using comments from all three cultures, and one of the
authors supervised the coder training process in all three places. Intercoder reliability
coefficients for the pilot test and the final sample were measured by Krippendorff's alpha
coefficient. After the coders finished a pilot test consisting of 50 television advertisements
that were not included in the final sample and reaching a reliability of above α = .70 for each
reported variable, they began independently coding the sample. All variables in the final
sample had alpha values above .70, which Hayes (2005) regards as sufficient if the intercoder
reliability was corrected by chance, all coders coded all units of the culture, and
disagreements between the coders were resolved, all of which were true in our study.
2.3. Variables
2.3.1. Age
Characters’ age in the advertisements were estimated to be (1) 18-34 years; (2) 35-49 years or
(3) 50 years and older.
2.3.2. Setting
The following settings were coded: (1) workplace (inside); (2) home (inside residential space);
(3) other indoors (e.g., store, restaurant, car, bus, train, etc.); (4) outdoors, and (5) other
(artificial, etc.). If several settings appeared, the dominant setting was coded.
2.3.3. Degree of dress
Degree of dress was adapted from the previous literature (Fullerton & Kendrick, 2000;
Nelson & Paek, 2008) and coded as follows: (0) fully dressed was defined as wearing
everyday dress, such as walking shorts, but excluded short-shorts and underwear; (1)
suggestively clad was clothing that partially exposed the body, such as sleeveless or tight
shirts, short-shorts/mini-skirts or clothing that exposed the cleavage or chest areas; (2)
partially clad was clothing such as under-apparel, lingerie, bikinis, and briefs; and (3) nude
was bare bodies or those wearing translucent under-apparel or lingerie, including actual
nudity or suggested nudity, such as holding a towel or linen so that genitals were concealed.
2.3.4. Product category
Based on the results from a pilot test, eleven categories were selected for this study: (1)
cosmetics/toiletries, (2) pharmaceuticals/health care products, (3) drinks, (4) foods/snacks,
(5) restaurants/coffee shops, (6) retail outlets, (7) home entertainment, (8) mobile
phones/providers, (9) finance/insurance/legal, (10) fashion/clothing, and (11) other.
Prieler, M, Ivanov, A. & Hagiwara, S.
Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong-Kong, Japan, and South Korea
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3. Results
This study used chi-square tests to analyze the sample of television advertisements,
including primary characters. We were interested in assessing both the overall significant
differences between males and females for each category and subcategories that
contributed to this significance. Thus, we computed the adjusted standardized residuals
(ASRs) as post-hoc tests to break down the results. In turn, we attempted to answer each
hypothesis while simultaneously addressing RQ1 regarding differences in the degree of
stereotyping between the cultures. To analyze such differences, we calculated odds ratios by
collapsing the categories into dichotomous variables, such as (1) being ages 18-34 and (2)
being the remaining ages (Knoll, Eisend & Steinhagen, 2011). We performed significance
tests between the odds ratios of the respective cultures using z-tests with the formula: z =
δ/SE(δ), where δ is the difference of the log odds, and the standard error is the square root of
the sum of the separate standard error squares. The separate standard errors of the log OR
is the square root of the frequencies’ reciprocals (Altman & Bland, 2003).
Table 1. Relationship between gender and miscellaneous variables
Hong Kong
Japan
χ2;
Odds
ratio
South Korea
χ2;
Odds
ratio
Female
(n = 371)
Male
(n = 253)
Female
(n = 372)
Male
(n = 256)
Female
(n = 172)
Male
(n = 270)
n
%
n
%
n
%
n
%
n
%
n
%
Age
18-34 (1)a
317
85.4
161
63.6***
264
71.0
94
36.7***
99.13***
(df = 2);
4.21
127
73.8
116
43.0***
40.48***
(df = 2);
3.74
35-49 (2)
38
10.2
67
26.5***
95
25.5
95
37.1**
37
21.5
125
46.3***
50+ (2)
16
4.3
25
9.9**
13
3.5
67
26.2***
8
4.7
29
10.7*
Degree
of Dress
Suggestively
Dressed (1)
122
32.9
9
3.6***
171
46.0
4
1.6***
164.44***
(df = 2);
22.89
85
49.4
4
1.5***
156.68***
(df = 2);
56.83
Partially Dressed
or Nude (1)
20
5.4
18
7.1
26
7.0
8
3.1*
4
2.3
1
0.4
Fully Dressed (2)
229
61.7
226
89.3***
175
47.0
244
95.3***
83
48.3
265
98.1***
Setting
Home (1)
80
21.6
53
20.9
96
25.8
41
16.0**
32.87***
(df = 4);
1.82
68
39.5
38
14.1***
65.56***
(df = 4);
3.99
Workplace (2)
12
3.2
54
21.3***
28
7.5
32
12.5*
0
0.0
32
11.9***
Other Indoors (2)
110
29.6
44
17.4***
71
19.1
36
14.1
54
31.4
63
23.3
Outdoors (2)
103
27.8
86
34.0
52
14.0
76
29.7***
27
15.7
93
34.4***
Others (2)
66
17.8
16
6.3***
125
33.6
71
27.7
23
13.4
44
16.3
Product
Category
Cosmetics,
Toiletries (1)
145
39.1
48
19.0***
101
27.2
15
5.9***
102.57***
(df =
10);
5.98
27
15.7
13
4.8***
112.49***
(df =
10);
3.68
Pharmaceuticals,
Health Care
Products, Food
Supplements (2)
33
8.9
28
11.1
31
8.3
8
3.1**
9
5.2
16
5.9
Drinks (2)
23
6.2
25
9.9
36
9.7
60
23.4***
44
25.6
17
6.3***
Foods, Snacks
(2)
81
21.8
50
19.8
52
14.0
37
14.5
26
15.1
8
3.0***
Restaurants,
Coffee Shops (2)
18
4.9
19
7.5
0
0.0
3
1.2*
2
1.2
10
3.7
Retail Outlets (2)
6
1.6
10
4.0
7
1.9
4
1.6
13
7.6
10
3.7
Home
Entertainment (2)
7
1.9
11
4.3
14
3.8
5
2.0
4
2.3
14
5.2
Mobile
Phones/Providers
(2)
0
0.0
5
2.0**
14
3.8
8
3.1
7
4.1
39
14.4***
Finance,
Insurance, Legal
(2)
29
7.8
21
8.3
31
8.3
68
26.6***
13
7.6
91
33.7***
Fashion,
Clothing,
Accessories (2)
9
2.4
2
0.8
10
2.7
4
1.6
13
7.6
21
7.8
Other (2)
20
5.4
34
13.4***
76
20.4
44
17.2
14
8.1
31
11.5
N = 624 (Hong Kong), 628 (Japan), 442 (South Korea), * p < .05; ** p < .01; ***p < .001.
Note: The significance levels for differences between sub-categories are based on post-hoc tests using adjusted standardized residuals.
a Numbers in parentheses indicate which categories were combined for computing the odds ratios.
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34
In terms of numerical gender representations, advertisements in South Korea
employed more male than female primary characters (61.1% vs. 38.9%; χ2 = 21.729, df = 1, p <
.001), whereas advertisements in Hong Kong and Japan employed more female than male
primary characters (Hong Kong: 59.5% vs. 40.5%; χ2 = 22.314, df = 1, p < .001; Japan: 59.2% vs.
40.8%; χ2 = 21.427, df = 1, p < .001). Thus, Hypothesis 1, which proposed that there are more
male than female primary characters in all three cultures, was rejected. As these findings
already indicate, the results between Japan and Hong Kong were similar and showed no
significant difference, whereas the results for South Korea were significantly different.
In regards to age (see Table 1), significant differences between genders were found
across three cultures (Hong Kong: χ2 = 40.014, df = 2, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .253; Japan: χ2 =
99.132, df = 2, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .397; South Korea: χ2 = 40.481, df = 2, p < .001, Cramer’s
V = .303). Overall, 85.4% of females and 63.6% of males belonged to the young cohort (18-34
years) in Hong Kong (ASR = ±6.3), 71.0% of females and 36.7% of males in Japan (ASR = ±8.5)
and 73.4% of females and 43.0% of males in South Korea (ASR = ±6.4). Thus, Hypothesis 2,
which stated that there would be more females than males in the young age segment, was
confirmed for all three cultures. In contrast, more males than females were found in the
middle age and older age segments (see Table 1). These findings were consistent between
the three cultures and no statistically significant differences were found (see Table 2).
Table 2. Results of z-tests between odds ratios of each culture
Variables
Hong Kong - South
Korea
Hong Kong - Japan
South Korea - Japan
Primary Charactera
6.61***
0.08
6.55***
Age
-0.38
-0.86
-0.42
Degree of Dress
-4.52***
-3.82***
1.59
Setting
-4.38***
1.96*
2.50*
Voiceovera
-3.08**
-1.43
-1.67
Product Category
-0.73
-2.24*
-1.06
* p < .05; ** p < .01; ***p < .001.
a Since an odds ratio cannot be calculated for primary character and voiceover, we have performed a z-
test on the proportions.
Significant gender differences in the degree of dress and strong associations between
gender and type of dress were found in all three cultures (Hong Kong: χ2 = 78.076, df = 2, p <
.001, Cramer’s V = .354; Japan: χ2 = 164.442, df = 2, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .512; South Korea: χ2
= 156.677, df = 2, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .595). A higher percentage of females (32.9%) than
males (3.6%) were suggestively dressed in Hong Kong (ASR = ±8.8), Japan (46.0% vs. 1.6%,
ASR = ±12.2), and South Korea (49.4% vs. 1.5%, ASR = ±12.3). These findings supported
Hypothesis 3. In contrast, more males than females were fully dressed. Only a few ads
showed primary characters that were partially dressed or nude. Whereas chi-square tests
showed significant results for all three cultures, the degree of stereotyping was nevertheless
highly varying. Females were 5.9 times more likely than males to not be fully dressed (vs.
fully dressed) in Hong Kong advertisements, whereas females were 22.89 times more likely
than males to not be fully dressed in Japanese ads and 56.83 times more likely than males to
not be fully dressed in South Korean ads. Between the latter two cultures, however, no
significant difference was found.
Regarding the setting, gender differences were found in all three cultures (Hong Kong:
χ2 = 72.800, df = 4, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .342; Japan: χ2 = 32.868, df = 4, p < .001, Cramer’s V
= .229; South Korea: χ2 = 65.559, df = 4, p < .001, Cramer’s V = .385). Advertisements showed
more females than males at home in Japan (25.8% vs. 16.0%, ASR = ±2.9) and in South Korea
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35
(39.5% vs. 14.1%, ASR = ±6.1), whereas no significant gender differences were found for Hong
Kong (female: 21.6%, male: 20.9%, ASR = ±0.2). Thus, Hypothesis 4, which stated that more
females than males would be shown in the home setting in all three cultures, was not
supported. In addition, ads showed more males than females in the workplace in all three
cultures. More specifically, in Hong Kong, 21.3% of males and 3.2% of females (ASR = ±7.2)
were shown in the workplace. In Japan, 12.5% of males and 7.5% of females (ASR = ±2.1) were
shown in the workplace, and in South Korea, 11.9% of males and 0.0% of females (ASR = ±4.7)
were shown in the workplace. The gender differences regarding the home led to significant
differences between the cultures. Females were 1.03 times more likely than males to be at
home (vs. not at home) in Hong Kong advertisements, whereas females were 1.82 times more
likely than males to be at home in Japanese ads and 3.99 times more likely in South Korean
ads.
In terms of the voiceover, more male than female voiceovers were used in Hong Kong,
Japan, and South Korea, which becomes even more obvious after removing ads featuring
both male and female voiceovers or having no voiceover (Hong Kong: 13.9%, Japan: 32.6%,
South Korea: 28.5%). However, these gender differences were statistically significant only for
Hong Kong (n = 537, 62.9% male voiceover, 37.1% female voiceovers; χ2 = 35.980, df = 1, p <
.001) and Japan (n = 423, 58.4% male voiceovers, 41.6% female voiceovers, χ2 = 11.917, df = 1, p
= .001), but not for South Korea (n = 316, 52.2% male voiceovers, 47.8% female voiceovers, χ2 =
0.620, df = 1, p = .431). Thus, these results do not support Hypothesis 5 stating that there will
be more male than female voiceovers in all three cultures. Significant differences between
the proportions of male and female voiceovers were only found between the results for
Hong Kong and South Korea.
Finally, gender differences in advertised products were significant for all three cultures
(Hong Kong: χ2 = 52.421, df = 10, p < .001; Cramer’s V = .290; Japan: χ2 = 102.575, df = 10, p <
.001; Cramer’s V = .404; South Korea: χ2 = 112.487, df = 10, p < .001; Cramer’s V = .504). More
females compared to males were included in the advertisements for the cosmetics/toiletries
product category in all three cultures (Hong Kong: 39.1% vs. 19.0%, ASR = ±5.3; Japan: 27.2%
vs. 5.9%, ASR = ±6.8; South Korea: 15.7% vs. 4.8%, ASR = ±3.9), supporting Hypothesis 6.
Investigating possible cultural differences, we found only significant differences between
Hong Kong and Japan (Table 2). Females were 5.89 times more likely than males to advertise
for cosmetics/toiletries products (vs. other products) in Japan, whereas they were only 2.74
times more likely in Hong Kong.
Based on the dominance of the cosmetics/toiletries product category (especially in
Hong Kong), we have controlled the removal of advertisements for cosmetics/toiletries to
see if this leads to significantly different results. This was the case for the variable numerical
gender representations. While the results for South Korea were similar, the predominance
of females in Japan and Hong Kong disappeared and was ceased to be statistically significant
(Hong Kong: 52.4% vs. 47.6%; χ2 = 1.023, df = 1, p = .312; Japan: 52.9% vs. 47.1%; χ2 = 1.758, df = 1,
p = .183). In contrast, the removal of the cosmetics/toiletries product category led to nearly
identical results for the other variables. This was true for the age differences between males
and females, with more females outnumbering males in the 18-34 age segment, and males
outnumbering females in the 35-49 age segment. However, for the 50+ age group, significant
gender differences emerged only in Japan. In addition, the results for dress were the same,
with significantly more females being suggestively dressed and more males being fully
dressed in all three cultures. Finally, the setting and the voiceover led to nearly identical
resultsonly the workplace setting in Japan showed no gender differences and significantly
more male than female voiceovers were also found in South Korea (56.1% vs. 43.9%; χ2 =
4.268, df = 1, p = .039).
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4. Discussion
Overall, all three cultures employ stereotypical gender representations in television
advertisements. Thus, the construction of gender was similar among the cultures and
confirms highly stereotypical gender representations, as expected for Confucian societies.
One variable that was not in accordance with traditional gender depictions was the gender
of primary characters, with more females being represented in Hong Kong and Japan.
However, this result matches previous studies on Japan (Arima, 2003; Furnham & Imadzu,
2002). One reason for this result may be that females are the main target group of most
products and advertisers tend to use spokespersons of the same gender as their target
group for their ads (Whipple & McManamon, 2002). The product type was found to be a
significant predictor of the gender of the primary character, with female-oriented products
most often promoted by female primary characters (Paek et al., 2011). This connection could
also be seen in our sample after the removal of ads for the product category
cosmetics/toiletries, which led to no significant numerical gender differences in Japan and
Hong Kong.
This study shows that females in TV advertising in all three cultures are depicted as
younger, wear less clothing, and are more frequently used in advertisements of
cosmetics/toiletries than males. From a social cognitive theory viewpoint, such
representations may solidify gender stereotypes (Oppliger, 2007). For instance, the
imbalance of age has been perceived as a stereotype of a “double standard of aging” for
many decades (Sontag, 1997). It appears that not much has changed even though most
industrialized societies are increasingly aging. Such underrepresentation of older females
may shape society’s consciousness by implying that older women are not as highly esteemed
as younger ones (Gerbner, 1998; Gerbner et al., 1980). These underrepresentations may also
influence how older people perceive themselves (Donlon, Ashman & Levy, 2005) and how
younger people perceive them (Gerbner et al., 1980). Gender differences in the degree of
dress can be interpreted as a form of sexual objectification of females, which could lead to
anxiety, shame, depression, and eating disorders (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). For
example, research in Belgium has shown that viewing female models who were scantily
dressed had more negative effects on body esteem issues compared to viewing models who
were more fully dressed (Dens, Pelsmacker & Janssens, 2009). Finally, the product
association of cosmetics/toiletries with females emphasizes the importance that society
assigns to female beauty and contributes to their sexualization (Luyt, 2011), which has been
linked to negative thoughts about one’s body (Dens et al., 2009).
Gender representations for setting and voiceover yielded mixed results. Whereas more
males were shown at the workplace in all three cultures, more females were shown at home
in Japan and South Korea. These findings confirm gender divisions in Confucian societies.
However, in Hong Kong, more males were found at home, which confirms findings from a
previous study (Furnham et al., 2000). More male voiceovers were employed in all three
cultures. However, this difference was not statistically significant in South Korea, which is
in line with previous research that found a predominance of female voiceovers in South
Korea (Paek et al., 2011; Prieler, 2012). However, after removing ads for the
cosmetics/toiletries product category, in South Korea significantly more male than female
voiceovers were found in the sample. Overall, such predominantly stereotypical
representations construct a certain gender image and may teach the audience about gender
expectations that are attached to specific places and typical activities in those places. Such
representations may reinforce the association of a specific gender with authority within
society (Bandura, 2009) and define socially acceptable modes of behavior (Carter & Steiner,
2004). For example, research has found that viewing stereotypical advertisements decreases
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interest in jobs traditionally associated with the opposite gender (Smith & Granados, 2009)
and thus supporting traditional gender divisions in Confucian societies.
Although the majority of findings were generally similar, confirming expectations in a
Confucian society, some differences in the degree of stereotypical gender representations
between the cultures were found. The order of the odds ratios for the gender of the primary
character, degree of dress, and setting followed the order of Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea.
The findings for product category also showed Hong Kong to have the smallest degree of
gender differences. Although several of these differences were not statistically significant,
this order indicates a tendency in the data. Comparing these results with the results from
Hofstede’s masculinity index, the Project Globe’s Gender Egalitarianism index (Emrich et al.,
2004), and the United Nation’s Gender-related Development Index (UNDP, 2014) shows that
our results resemble the rankings of the latter two, but not of Hofstede’s masculinity index.
Thus, the results of this explorative study indicate that there may be a relationship between
some gender indices and stereotypical gender representations in television advertisements.
Future research should further examine these findings.
In summary, nearly all gender representations in this study were highly stereotypical,
indicating that advertising agencies construct gender along traditional Confucian ways.
Such representations are problematic not only from a social responsibility standpoint, as
women are pressured to follow such gender images (Zhang, 2012) and gender stereotyping
may have potentially adverse effects on women (Oppliger, 2007; Smith & Granados, 2009),
but also from a business perspective. For example, the overwhelming representation of
scantily dressed women may increase women’s negative attitudes toward such ads
compared to ads without nudity (Dianoux & Linhart, 2010). Similarly, the predominance of
male voiceovers is based more on tradition rather than actual effectiveness because female
voiceovers have proven to be at least as effective as male ones (Whipple & McManamon,
2002). Moreover, product associations could be less restricted because although targeting
one gender may make sense in the short term, ultimately companies must often target both
genders (Milner & Fodness, 1996). It is surprising that marketers and their advertising
agencies around the world still portray gender in stereotypical ways even though research
has found that both men and women are highly critical of sexism and traditional sex roles in
advertising (Lysonski & Pollay, 1990; Van Hellemont & Van den Bulck, 2012). Women do not
feel adequately portrayed in advertising, and this perspective may lead to negative company
images and even to boycotting a firm’s products (Ford & LaTour, 1996). This phenomenon
clearly shows that advertising practitioners should rethink their own traditional stereotypes
in using gender in advertising. Finally, the advertising industry in many countries is still
dominated by males, which may also have an effect on gender representations, as shown in
another context (Lauzen & Dozier, 1999). Perhaps a higher percentage of females employed
in ad agencies and clients’ marketing departments may lead to more diversity in advertising
content itself.
5. Conclusion, limitations, and future research
This study has found stereotypical gender representations for nearly all investigated
variables. Nevertheless, this study can provide only limited conclusions based on the
characteristics of content analysis. Specifically, this study cannot describe the possible
effects of gender representations on the audience and possible consumer responses. Thus,
we suggest that more studies investigate whether gender representations are interpreted
differently and have different effects in different cultural settings. This study has also found
possible associations between the degree of gender stereotyping and some gender indices
a topic that should be further investigated in future research using predictive methods and
including more countries. Although our sampling is in accordance with most previous
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research (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010), our study included only advertisements shown on
primetime television, which limits the inferences that can be drawn for the full day of
television programming and for other media. Consequently, we suggest further research
that would compare different parts of the day and include a cross-media comparison of
gender representations. Our study was also limited in its focus on television advertising.
Although TV still attracts the lion’s share of advertising budgets around the world, future
studies should not only include other traditional media (such as print and radio) but also
look at new media advertising. Despite these limitations, this study was able to show that
gender representations are still highly stereotypical in Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea.
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... The most common type of stereotyping occurs with regard to the physical appearance of the female characters who are almost always shown to be beautiful and young (Ahmad, 2002;Ashfaq & Shafiq, 2018;Aullette et al., 2009;Chalupova, 2011;Lauzen & Dozier, 2005;Luif, 2014;Poerwandari et al., 2014;Prieler, 2016;Prieler et al., 2015;Scott, 2011;Shanahan et al., 2008;Steinke, 2005;Wood, 1994;Zheng, 2011). Also, this depiction is carried over to a preoccupation with youth and beauty whereby the females are shown to be only concerned about their physical appearance (Wood, 1994). ...
... Contrary to the depiction of females, males are not always shown as being very young (Ahmad, 2002;Prieler et al., 2015). Work is shown to play a major part in the lives of men (Ahmad, 2002;Kharroub & Weaver, 2014;Kiran, 2016;Luif, 2014;Prieler, 2016;Prieler et al., 2015) where they are frequently shown to be displaying the qualities of being ambitious and successful (Lauzen & Dozier, 2005;Prieler et al., 2015). ...
... Contrary to the depiction of females, males are not always shown as being very young (Ahmad, 2002;Prieler et al., 2015). Work is shown to play a major part in the lives of men (Ahmad, 2002;Kharroub & Weaver, 2014;Kiran, 2016;Luif, 2014;Prieler, 2016;Prieler et al., 2015) where they are frequently shown to be displaying the qualities of being ambitious and successful (Lauzen & Dozier, 2005;Prieler et al., 2015). Further, in stark contrast to women, men are shown to be more successful as they grow older (Ahmed, 2012;Carter & Steiner, 2004;Lauzen & Dozier, 2005). ...
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... Product Category. Based on previous research (Prieler, 2016;Prieler et al., 2015;Prieler & Centeno, 2013), the 18 product categories in Table 1 were investigated. ...
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... In addition, showing women with lower facial prominence (and thus more body prominence) than men coincides with the criticism that women are more sexually objectified. Previous research has shown that Japan is highly stereotypical for gender representations in general and also for sexual objectification of women in particular (Prieler et al. 2015). Previous research has also indicated that sexual objectification of women could lead to anxiety, shame, depression, and eating disorders, among other problems (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997). ...
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... Likewise, to reiterate their role as entertainment, this has also been the case with numerous commercials featuring K-pop stars. Again, especially female ones: in 2012, it is telling that Korean women were 57 times more likely than men to not be fully dressed in television commercials, in contrast to 23 times and 6 times in Japanese and Hong Kong television commercials respectively ( Prieler et al. 2015). ...
... In addition, showing women with lower facial prominence (and thus more body prominence) than men coincides with the criticism that women are more sexually objectified. Previous research has shown that Japan is highly stereotypical for gender representations in general and also for sexual objectification of women in particular (Prieler et al. 2015). Previous research has also indicated that sexual objectification of women could lead to anxiety, shame, depression, and eating disorders, among other problems (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997). ...
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