I think we all do it – no matter what nationality, gender, whatever you are… stereotyping is so common in everyday life, we hardly notice we’re doing it. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Since it happens daily, is it appropriate to use in advertising? Will stereotypes actually draw in the target audience through some sort of subliminal understanding?
An article posted on Media Awareness Network speaks of this issue: “Media stereotypes are inevitable, especially in the advertising, entertainment and news industries, which need as wide an audience as possible to quickly understand information. Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick, common understanding of a person or group of people – usually relating to their class, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, social role or occupation” (Media Awareness Network n.d.). A very strong definition – but in what ways are stereotyping negative? The article goes on to note that stereotypes are very general – which is absolutely true – and it is not fair to generalize any group of people.
Consider ads done by companies such as McDonalds and KFC. A somewhat recent television spot promoting Kentucky Fried Chicken features a black family gathering around a kitchen table to enjoy their hot meal – minus a father. What is this trying to say… are single mothers common in this culture? I think that this commercial is extremely stereotypical and could be viewed as inappropriate; yes, I’m sure this case is true in many African American households…. JUST as it is true in white, Hispanic, Asian, etc. households.
Another article, “Who’s responsible for the racist stereotypes in advertising?”, posted on Racialicious.com (love the name), speaks of the images that relate to certain races. “The stereotypical images were not always stereotypical. In fact, the multicultural agencies invented most of them. When minority representation in the media was virtually non-existent, the multicultural shops unleashed relevant and authentic depictions of fill-in-the-minority life” (racialicious.com 2007). The article speaks of walking a fine line between being able to capture the targeted audience’s attention rather than just diving into the closed-minded stereotypes. This doesn’t necessarily just deal with race alone – it also relates to gender, age and virtually any other category that can be created. I suppose it’s a part of human nature to place people in such groups, but as a marketing professional, it is important to be able to take in the big picture – a well-rounded idea may have the best chance of capturing the attention of the targeted audience… and then some.