Racism within Advertising

Advertising is the most widespread form of public communication in modern world societies. In order for an advert to be persuasive and effective the advertisement must communicate to the audience that it wants them to purchase and rely on their product. In his book Racism in the 21st century, Hall (2008) says classifications of humans from the 18th and 19th centuries were created by physicians with minimal knowledge about the biology of skin colour. Below is an early 1950’s advertisement for Fairy Soap from the N.K. Fairbanks Company. Slavery was very relevant for at least 50% of the time that N.K. was in business which played a huge role as to how this advert portrayed different ethnicities and who they aimed it at.

Racism 1

The advert quotes ‘why doesn’t your mamma wash you with fairy soap’. Straight away insinuating that she is dirty. The ad shows two children, one black and one white. The white child is holding the bar of soap, dressed in a white and blue dress. She is wearing a pair of sturdy leather shoes whilst her hair is clearly well kept. One could say that this displays wealth. However, the black child is clutching onto her ragged sleeveless dress, her knees are bowed and she is barefoot

Even though this is an advert for soap there is a more powerful and underlying meaning. The message portrayed here is that if you don’t use fairy you’re no better than an African American. According to Faulkner (1987) racism provides whites with an avenue of escape from their own negative self-image, no matter how little regard they receive from their self-peers, they can consider themselves “better” than any Black Person.

Furthermore, it also suggests that the only people who can afford to buy it are white citizens, as reinforced in the advert. Peter Lang (2015) states that African Americans and other non-white Americans were side-lined, because the advertising industry regarded them as being financially incapable to buy any advertised products.

Racism 2

In 2011, Dove the global Masterbrand were reported to have been racist within their campaign ‘visible care body wash’. Young dark skinned women found it to be racist due to the ‘before and after’ words. The advert shows a timeline starting from the left with an African American, Latina women in the middle and white woman at the end. This suggests that getting more visibly beautiful skin means having lighter skin. Furthermore, not only is it the colour of skin which is found to be an issue but also the models size. The model underneath the word ‘after’ is white, skinny and blonde. The ideological message sent to the audience is that women need to have a particular look, in order to be beautiful.

Racism within the media has been around for as long as most of us can remember and will probably remain within advertising for as long as it remains within society. In the 1950’s companies would have never apologised for making racist remarks as it was so common and deemed as acceptable back then. The fact that Dove apologised to the public for their error within their campaign shows how society has improved compared to 70 years ago and that it may have been a genuine mistake, however, we still have a long way to go.


Goldwert, L. (2011). Are new Dove ads racist? Critics say VisibleCare Body wash ads show white skin as desired ‘after’. Available: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/new-dove-ads-racist-critics-visiblecare-body-wash-ads-show-white-skin-desired-article-1.142788. Last accessed 17th Apr 2016.

Hall, R (2008). Racism in the 21st century. Springer- Verlag New York: Unknown. 60-62.

Montford, C. (2014). 10 of the most racist ads of all time in American history. Available: http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/12/16/10-of-the-most-racist-ads-of-all-time-in-american-history/. Last accessed 3rd Apr 2016.

Wonkeryor, E (2015). Dimensions of racism in advertising . New York: Peter Lang publishing. 31-32.

Wonkeryor, E (2015). Dimensions of racism in advertising . New York: Peter Lang publishing. 31-32.




Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

Advertisements use gender to attract their audience. Throughout history gender roles and stereotypes have been enforced, however there appears to be a difference in how men and women are portrayed. Certain techniques are used to stereotype gender roles, such as; beauty, power, seduction and association. According to Lukas (2002), when men and women appear in ads together, the women are usually depicted as a lot weaker compared to the male, either through composition of the ad or particular situations through the scene. Below is an advert from the 1950’s which supports Lukas’s point about women being lower and weaker. In the image, the woman is portrayed as a slave like figure towards the male. This is how women were stereotyped 70 years ago and even though it has improved, there are still similarities when it comes to adverts featuring both men and women.

Above, a more recent ad shows the male figure as topless and towering over the female, whilst she is looking up and grabbing him for support. Again, the woman is shown as the weaker sex within this advert.


One example of an advertisement which depicts a stereotypical way a man should be is the Old Spice commercial ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’. When reading the title, you see the ad is going to be about a desirable figure ultimately in association with a product. The commercial features a well built, attractive man surrounded by luxurious things that most viewers desire. Throughout the commercial, without it actually being stated, the ad cleverly creates the idea that if the viewer buys this product, you too will be as handsome and fortunate as the featuring model. Furthermore, we can see in the title the commercial is pushing gender roles on to the ideal man; strong, sexy, muscly and wealthy.

Whilst Men are shaped as powerful, dominating and attractive; women are also stereotyped in a similar way. Below is an example of a Carl Jr’s commercial featuring Paris Hilton in a sexy swimsuit whilst washing a car and eating a burger. In her book entitled Sex Stereotype, Courtney (1983) explains how the underlying advertising message for a product advertised in this manner is that the ultimate benefit of product usage is to give men pleasure.

The ad portrays the womanly figure as sexy and provocative. Instantly, when a viewer watches this commercial, they see it as sexually appealing to both sexes’. Men believe that by buying this burger they will get the enjoyment of watching sexy women washing their car whereas women will view it as eating the burger will make them look sexy and attractive like the two models.

Typically, most people think that women are sexualised when realistically both men and women are. It is just as sexist to call men womanizers as it is to portray a woman as shown in Carls jr’s ad. What agencies that create these ads are failing to understand is that portraying gender this way raises awareness and conflict within society on stereotypes and what the ideal male or female should look like. Chatila (2013) elaborates on this by saying People are not products. They have unique traits, emotions and capabilities. Instead of advertising to these needs, marketers tend to illustrate all the things an individual should be.


Chatila, R. Gender-Specific Advertising Perpetuates, Creates Stereotypes. Daily Wildcat. Print.Web. 22 October 2013.h

Courtney, A (1983). Sex stereotype. England: Lexington Books. P101-105.

Horovitz, B. (2014). Paris Hilton: Burgers and bikinis again. Available: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/07/24/paris-hilton-carls-jr-hardees-fast-food-restaurants-hannah-ferguson/13095483/. Last accessed 8th Apr 2016.

Lukas, A. (2002). The Gender Ads Project. Available: http://www.genderads.com/styled-16/styled/. Last accessed 9th April 2016.

Misstwees. (2015). A wise man once said ‘i don’t know, ask a girl’. Available: https://iloveleuven.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/a-wise-man-once-said-i-dont-know-ask-a-girl/. Last accessed 1st Apr 2016.

Sturrock, A. (2015). How old spice became new again. Available: https://ashsturrock.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/how-old-spice-became-new-again/. Last accessed 3rd Apr 2016.

Итальянские мужчины особенности характера Опубликовано. (2014). Вокруг Италии. Available: http://arounditalia.ru/italyanskie-muzhchiny-osobennosti/html. Last accessed 3rd Apr 2016.


Greenwashing in Advertising

With greater awareness that waste is potentially destroying our planet, companies are becoming more ‘green’ with their products. For many of the companies it is within their interest to genuinely provide customers with a ‘greener’ option, whereas there are others who are more greenwash than ‘green’. Certain companies are misleading their customers by claiming their products are environmentally beneficial and friendly, when in fact they aren’t.

A perfect example of this is Huggies brand ‘pure & natural’ by Kimberly Clark. The packaging alone proposes that the product is ‘green’ through the use of grass and leaves along with the claim they use organic materials. This deceptive advertising easily lures in mothers who have their mind set on ‘green’ products to not only benefit their babies but also the planet. During a Huggies press release Clark (2008) explains that ‘pure & natural’ diapers are a super-premium diaper that includes natural, organic materials to provide gentle protection for new babies, as well as initial steps towards environmental improvements, without sacrificing performance.


Nevertheless, there is also a lot that isn’t mentioned about the diapers. The products outer packaging is sourced from 20% post-concumer recycled materials. 20% in itself is pretty pathetic, there are companies out there using 100% recycled materials and have been for years. The packaging also states the diapers ‘feature a breathable outer cover that includes organic cotton’ but what it doesn’t tell us users is how much organic content is there? Is it certified organic? Where is it sourced from? They don’t mention the fact the nappy is still disposable which at the end of the day ends up in landfill. Acording to the Wired Fatherhood website,  Shiffert (2014) said that the average baby goes through 5,000 diapers before being potty trained. Because 95% of these diaper changes are disposable most of them end up in landfil. So how ‘green’ really are Huggies ‘pure & natural’ diapers? During a review for Baby Gear Lab, Juliet Surrier (2014) explained, we categorized this product as a green diaper in our selection, but in the end we felt it was really just pseudo-green, as it appears to be more of a marketing ploy to sell a higher priced version than a real attempt at creating a green diaper. Huggies are not out right saying ‘this is a green diaper’ but their campaigns and promotions are selling them this way.



Another example is Fiji water. Again, this product uses greenwashing techniques into misleading its consumers that if you buy this water you are helping reduce carbon emissions. On their website, Fiji water claims to have been a ‘carbon negative brand’ since 2008 which means that the production, packaging and shipping of the water removes more pollution from the atmosphere than it releases. However scientists have proven this statistic may or may not take place and if so, it will be decades to come.

Companies are simply using greenwashing techniques within advertising to maximise their profits. They are brainwashing their buyers into believing paying a higher price for a premium product will not only benefit them and their lifestyle but also the environment.


Chait, J. (2009). Huggies goes green!:well, at least goes greenwashing. Available: http://www.blisstree.com/2009/08/24/sex-relationships/huggies-goes-green-well-at-least-goes-greenwashing/. Last accessed 11th Apr 2016.

Chait, J. (2009). Huggies goes green!: Well, at least goes greenwashing Read more: http://www.blisstree.com/2009/08/24/sex-relationships/huggies-goes-green-well-at-least-goes-greenwashing/#ixzz46SmPobTK. Available: http://www.blisstree.com/2009/08/24/sex-relationships/huggies-goes-green-well-at-least-goes-greenwashing/. Last accessed 1st Apr 2016.

Lara. (2011). Fiji Fights Back Greenwashing Claim — Dismissal of Fiji Green Seal Case Affirmed. Available: http://brandgeek.net/2011/05/30/fiji-fights-greenwashing-claim-dismissal-fiji-green-seal-case-affirmed/. Last accessed 8th Apr 2016.

Spurrier, J. (2014). Huggies pure and natural review. Available: http://www.babygearlab.com/Disposable-Diaper-Reviews/Huggies-Pure-Natural. Last accessed 15th Apr 2016.

Wired Fatherhood / John A. Shifferet. (2013). Diaper run zero. Available: http://www.wiredfatherhood.com/tag/pure-natural/. Last accessed 15th Apr 2016.