Past Prejudices Evolve Into Present Promotions

I know that the premise of this blog is primarily based around Dr. Pepper 10’s advertising campaign and it’s sexist message. However, I believe it is important to recognize and address the numerous past examples of sexism within the media.

It should come to know surprise that advertisers play off of stereotypes and generalizations in order to sell a product. Part of being in advertising is establishing and identifying the target audiences/key publics that would most likely buy the advertised product/image and promote accordingly. However, there is an important difference between advertising with a specific audience in mind, and discriminating against another by using various forms of discrimination.

In much earlier times, before people began to speak out against advertisers use of obvious forms of “-isms,” advertisements incorporated blatant forms of sexism, racism, etc. in order to more closely identify with their targeted audiences. And so I present to you a collection of vintage prejudice at its finest:

My only question is, while the copy presented in these ads may have become more sensitized for the mass media in modern times, why are the images and themes involved still found in modern advertising? Modern advertisements may not be as straight-forward in their messages like depicted above, but they still play on the stereotypical gender roles that those examples show. Women are continually shown to be subservient, fragile, and delicate, whose sole purpose is predominantly housework and/or to sexually appeal towards men. While society may think that we have progressed from the sexist viewpoints of years past, a closer observation and analyzation of current advertisements shows otherwise.


The Bottom Line

Let me first start off by saying that this blog is just one small step at attempting to change a much larger and significant issue.

When I first starting thinking about what I intended to blog about, I knew immediately what issue I wanted to discuss. As an advertising and public relations student, I have been exposed to many tactics and techniques used within the industry. I also like to think that, over the course of my four years in the PR/A program at Chapman, I have developed a keen eye at identifying advertising that attracts attention, good or bad. What has always baffled, shocked, and appalled me in advertising (even before I became an advertising student) is the media’s portrayal of women. It’s not hard to find examples of this – just flip through any magazine or television channels and one is sure to come across an ad or commercial that reduces women to a stereotype, or even just a body part.

Image(Because women can’t handle the complexities of driving, of course)

Image(Where’s the product again?)

While the most obvious way to observe the way advertisers view women are through advertisements that use a woman’s sexuality to sell their product, another instance of sexism in the media has recently come to light. Recently, Dr. Pepper launched an ad campaign for their new diet soda, Dr. Pepper 10 (the commercial is available for viewing here). Since marketers realized they faced the hard task of selling a diet soda to men, they centered the entire campaign around the idea that the new diet soda should not be labeled as a ‘wussy, girlie’ drink like other diet sodas; instead, they deemed the new soda so manly that is “is not for women.”

On the surface, this commercial may not stand out in anyway to the average viewer. After all, there have been far worse instances of sexism in the past. But this way of thinking is a perfect example of just how desensitized sexism in the media has become in our society. This campaign reinforces gender stereotypes that our society has been trying to abolish for years. Its entire message rests on the assertion that women are too fragile and delicate to handle the ‘powerful’ taste of Dr. Pepper 10. Not only that, but the company is blatantly excluding its entire female consumer base.

It is for these reasons that I am asking Executive Vice President of Marketing for Dr. Pepper, James R. Trebilcock, to pull the commercial of the air and issue a formal apology for its sexist message.

I realize that it is nearly impossible to single-handedly change the entire media’s image on women completely; however, through this blog, I aim to highlight one particular example of sexism in advertising and the media and hope to raise awareness on just how prevalent this issue is in our society. If my blog can help take one sexist advertising campaign out of the mainstream media, it could help motivate more people to take a stand against this issue and introduce/expose more people to this issue.