Women in Serbian Advertising.
[Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]
This study is an attempt of valuable contribution to the gender issues literature since it explains portrayal and appearance of women in advertising within the context of Serbia, a country in transition. Having in mind this extremely turbulent and unique context, it is of particular interest to re-examine gender issues hypotheses based on the findings from western countries, due to the fact that knowledge gained from these contexts may not be fully applicable to the Serbian context.
The main aims of this work are to examine and explore: (1) the way women are portrayed in Serbian advertising; (2) where and why attitudes of men and women on different issues relative to the portrayal of women in Serbian advertising exist; (3) reactions of men and women on advertisements that reinforce gender stereotypes or that portray women in an offensive manner; (4) condition of women's portrayal according to different media; (5) repercussions of offensive portrayal of women on sales; and (6) importance of context and its impact on the way women are portrayed.
A combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods was used. In total, 114 respondents (57 males, 57 females) participated. Respondents had to answer on 35 closed-type attitudinal statements and had opportunity to give their comments and impressions in one open type question. In order to compare and contrast importance of context, 19 questions were adopted from two prominent studies conducted in Australia and USA. Therefore, this study was partially of comparative nature, as well.
It was found that Serbian advertisements do not portray women realistically, whilst women are generally portrayed with more bias than men. The results show that Serbian advertisements distort gender portrayal and do not realistically illustrate women in everyday life and activities. Female characters are found to be predominantly young, pretty and provocatively dressed, whilst naked bodies appear rarely. Even though insisting on youth and beauty in Serbian advertising is noticeable, the level of sexism is found to be generally low. Moreover, it was found that men and women differently process, store and recall advertising scenes they see and experience. An important finding as well is that different elements attract the attention of men and women. Men pay more attention to the scenes of beautiful women and tend to overestimate beauty they see, whilst women pay more attention to the scenery of relationships, happiness and harmony. The Serbian public consider the portrayal of women in advertising as an extremely important issue, whilst men attribute higher importance to the portrayal of women than to the portrayal of men. Foreign companies operating in Serbia should be aware of this fact since results show that in the case of offensive ad campaigns, a company risks losing one third of its actual customers.
As assumed, it was found that context plays an important role in the way women and men are portrayed in advertising. When arguing about gender issues in advertising, the Serbian context was found to be significantly different from the context of western countries. Quite the contrary to an overwhelming number of Western countries, in Serbia women are portrayed less offensively and more equal to men, whilst attitudes and reactions relative to different gender issues in advertising significantly differ.
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