Men react negatively to depictions of 'ideal masculinity' in ads
The male response to depictions of ideal masculinity in advertising is typically negative, a University of Illinois marketing expert has found.
The finding may help advertisers and marketers in targeting this increasingly fragmented consumer demographic.
Cele Otnes, a professor of advertising and of business administration who studies how marketing and advertising shapes consumption, said that men who compare themselves to the hyper-masculine or over-exaggerated male stereotypes in advertising and popular culture experience a range of emotions, including feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability.
"While partying and promiscuity are often depicted in advertising, some men find these images to be negative portrayals of their gender and are, in fact, turned off by them. So it's important to recognize that some men may react negatively or be adversely impacted by such images," said Otnes, the Investors in Business Education Professor of Marketing at Illinois.
According to the research, which was co-written by Linda Tuncay Zayer, of Loyola University, Chicago, six themes emerge from the analysis that reveal how men respond to ad depictions of ideal masculinity.
Half of the themes - skepticism, avoidance and indifference - are negative, while the others - enhancement, striving and chasing - skew positive, with men seeing advertising as more of a motivational tool to enhance a certain aspect of themselves.
Although much research has examined the negative impact of advertising depictions on women and children, very little is known about the impact on men, Otnes noted.
"The research is a first step toward developing an in-depth understanding of the responses and meanings appropriated to masculinity by Generation X consumers," she said.
It also holds implications for advertisers and marketers, who can use the contributions from the research to "employ masculine themes in advertising more effectively and ethically," Otnes suggested.
The study was published in the book "Gender, Culture, and Consumer Behavior," co-edited by Otnes and Zayer.