The Reification of Race and Gender through Advertising: From Production to Consumption

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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Research has demonstrated that advertisements continue to portray stereotypical images of race and gender, which act as a form of reification; however few researchers have asked how viewers perceive such images. Furthermore we know little about the role played by those involved in the development of ad campaigns that incorporate racial and gendered stereotypes. My research looks to build on the previous research that demonstrated differences in racial and gender representations and the use of stereotypes in advertisements to ask 1. How advertising executives understand their role in this reification process and 2. How consumers perceive these stereotypes in ad campaigns. In depth interviews were conducted with current advertising executives who were asked to explain their perceptions of racial and gender representation within the industry, before responding to six ad campaigns that demonstrated stereotypical views associated with race and gender. I then gathered information concerning consumer views and compared their perception to that of the advertising executives. Approximately 30 surveys were distributed amongst college students between the age of 18-24, which identified their demographics and questioned their views on the impact of advertisements. Similar to the executives, they were then asked to respond to the same six images and respond based on how it affected their views. In the final stage of my research, from the initial survey I took a sample of the respondents, approximately 8 students representing White, Hispanic, Asian and African American groups, both male and female, and asked them to elaborate on their answers from the survey. From my findings, two main themes that contributed to the reification process were, White Habitus Environment and Image Relevance with an acceptance towards stereotypes, both within the production and consumption of advertisements.


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