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Gender role portrayals in television advertisements: Do channel characteristics matter?

Kathrin Karsay EMAIL logo , Jörg Matthes and Valerie Fröhlich
From the journal Communications


In the present study we investigated the role of channel characteristics with regard to gender role portrayals in television advertisements. Drawing on cultivation theory and social cognitive theory, we investigated six key variables in this line of research. We sampled a total of N = 1022 advertisements from four Austrian television channels: a public service channel, a commercial channel, and one commercial special interest channel for men and for women, respectively. Our results replicate well-known stereotypic gender role portrayals prevalent in television advertisements. The public service channel and the private channel did not differentiate from each other with regards to gender stereotyping. We found that a channel with a female target group aired advertisements containing the same or even amplified stereotypes compared to a male channel. The potential negative effects of stereotypic gender role portrayals in television advertisements are discussed.


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Variables and coding applied.



Short description

Gender of primary character

1 = Man

2 = Women

All conditions must apply to assess the primary character: 1) the primary character appears for at least three seconds (with a speaking part or in an important take); 2) the primary character must be clearly visible in order to identify age and gender; 3) the primary character must (appear to) be older than 18 years and must not be a child; 4) only humans can be primary characters; 5) there is only one primary character per advertisement.


0 = None

1 = Male

2 = Female

3 = Both

A voiceover is defined as an audio message from a narrator that is not seen in the advertisement.

Product category

Body products and cleaning

1 = yes / 0 = no

Technological products and cars

1 = yes / 0 = no

Product category refers to the advertised product, not the advertised brand or company.

Body products and cleaning: Body care / toiletries / cosmetics / beauty products; cleaning products; kitchenware.

Technological products and cars: Home entertainment; mobile phones / providers; computer / information / communications; automotive / vehicles / transportation / accessories.

Dominant setting

1 = Workplace

2 = Home setting

3 = Other indoor setting (not home)

4 = Outdoors

5 = In motion/transport (car, bus, etc.)

6 = Virtual space

7 = Other

The dominant setting is defined as the location where the character is shown. If several locations appear in the advertisement, the most prominent location will be coded. The location will be based on the character’s perspective: a waiter in a restaurant = workplace; guest sitting in the restaurant (= other indoor setting).


1 = 18–34 years

2 = 35–49 years

3 = 50 years or older

Based on following criteria, the age of the primary character is estimated: 1) age of the character is publicly known (e. g., primary character is a celebrity); 2) the content of the advertisement points toward the age of the character; 3) the character’s physical appearance indicates the age (e. g., grey/sparse hair, wrinkles).


1 = Fully dressed

2 = Partially dressed

3 = Mostly undressed

4 = Naked

If the primary character is shown with different clothes, the clothing with the highest degree of nudity will be coded.

Fully dressed: clothing that covers shoulders, thighs, and knees.

Suggestively dressed: clothing that reveals knees, upper thighs, shoulders, or cleavage.

Mostly undressed: underwear, swimwear.

Naked: undressed, naked; also includes suggested nudity (e. g., only wearing a towel, covered in bed sheets).

Note: The full codebook including all coding criteria may be obtained from the authors.

Published Online: 2019-04-12
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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