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CHRONICLE Do you reflect society's ideals or shape them?
Sara Rosengren, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Stockholm School of Economics, describes in this chronicle how women are portrayed in advertising through the ages, and how "femvertising" has become a stronger phenomenon. Advertising that violates stereotypes make us feel better.
 
What does advertising say about our time?
By Sara Rosengren
It is not unusual for historians to find interest in advertising as a source for understanding the past.

Advertising is considered a valuable material for cultural analysis and cultural studies, as it provides information about the social and cultural conditions prevailing in the place in which it is created. Although the images of that advertising are doctored and skews the ideal rather than the reality, they provide an image of the times in which the advertising was created.

Take for example the way women are portrayed in advertising. If we look at 1921, we note the following: The advertising consists largely of illustrations and paintings. It is directed primarily to a prosperous upper class. And thus, it is primarily this social group that is depicted.
This becomes clear when browsing through the book that the Art Directors Club in New York brought out to highlight well-done advertising in connection with their first competition held in 1921
In the book, which showcases the nominees, there are a number of women portrayed. They have three primary roles: they are mothers, they are maids, or they are modern women. The modern women are shown moving in public places such as restaurants and ski slopes. They are metropolitans who read newspapers, write on typewriters and drive automobiles. But they do not smoke.

In the postwar period, advertising, and also the portrayal of women, changes. Photographs are becoming more prominent. Advertisements are aimed at a growing middle class. Housewives dominate. And nuclear families. Halfway to today, in the 1960s, it's the creative revolution, as portrayed successfully in the television series "Mad Men", that once again changes advertising. And towards the end of the 1960s, portrayals of women also change.
In the United States a cigarette for women is launched - Virginia Slims. The campaign's advertisements proclaim, "You've come a long way, baby". Advertising rides on the wave of female emancipation. On one of the photos, for example, a woman has taken place among the nation's founding fathers on Mount Rushmore.
This issue of smoking may seem like a detail, but it is interesting as an illustration of what appears to be a common thread for how the portrayal of women in advertising has developed. They have merely followed the changes in society, rather than leading them. It may seem paradoxical. The advertising industry lives on its creativity.

A meta-analysis of scientific studies of the advertising produced during the 1900s until today, clearly shows that the images of women in advertising has followed, rather than been at the forefront, the development of women's role in society. But perhaps this is about to change.
Today more and more advertisers, both across the Atlantic and here in Europe, are interested in how their advertising portrays women. We see more and more examples of what the industry calls "femvertising", feminist advertising and portraits of women in advertising have become more varied.
More and more advertisers also say that they want to shape, rather than reflect society's ideals. This also seems to pay off. Our studies show that people exposed to less stereotypical portraits in advertising are more likely to take it to heart. They also feel more connected and empathetic.

Those who invest in "femvertising" and norm-critical images in advertising seem to have done something right. What does that say about the contemporary times?
About this month's columnist
Sara Rosengren
Sara Rosengren is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden, and Research Director of the university's Center for Retailing. She is also a board member of the European Advertising Academy. Sara's research on marketing communication has garnered international attention with articles published in a number of the marketing world's leading research journals. She is a driven lecturer and highly appreciated for her chronicles and analyses in the trade press.

TIPS A digital magazine with the best articles from the newsletter 2015
In the digital era it is more important than ever to create an image of the brand with the right tonality. Keeping up with, and understanding visual communication can be the difference between failure and success.

Here in our e-magazine we have gathered
a lot of knowledge, wisdom and interesting
reading from the newsletters, or as we prefer to call them, our knowledge bank. Enjoy!
Hello modern woman, who are you?
Inspired by Sara Rosengren's chronicle we search our image collections looking for images of the modern woman. We found her when disregarding the stereotypes about the typical image of women, while realizing that the modern woman should not be an additional role for women to strive to fit in. Being a modern woman is instead a matter of freedom, to be just the person they want to be, whatever life choices they have made. This is reflected in our image selection below.
 
We continue to work to produce more images, featuring people of all different types and where stereotypes are challenged. You will see more of this in 2016!