Women in the Commodity Audience

Hi all,

I hope everyone’s had a great Spring Break so far!

In Eileen Meehan’s piece, Gendering the Commodity Audience: Critical Media Research, Feminism, and Political Economy, she notes that, in terms of television advertising, “The logic of profit should drive advertisers to demand shoppers regardless of the gender, social status, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.,” but points out the disregard advertisers tend to have for audiences that do not fit the mold of white, wealthy, young, and male. This form of the commodity audience displaces women and minorities to daytime soap operas and Lifetime, creating a disconnect between the goals of capitalism and the reach of patriarchal systems.

Meehan says that, though women have always worked and are viewed by the patriarchy as the main shoppers of the household, advertisers have just recently clued into their buying power, placing makeup and car advertisements on the same channel, or combining soap operas with more action-packed adventures. What are some real world examples you can think of where advertisers have brought women and/or minorities into the commodity audience (even just a bit)? Do you think it’s possible, according to this article, for advertisers to promote equality, and dismantling of the patriarchy while also feeding their capitalistic interests?

4 thoughts on “Women in the Commodity Audience

  1. Although, I agree that advertising content generated for minorities and women on channels like ESPN could bolster the popularity of these channels, I think it’s too idealistic to think that advertising agencies would do this. Having worked at an agency, I know that it’s all about what makes the client money. Companies want to be on channels where their primary audience is. For example, banks always ask to advertise on MSNBC, the Bloomberg Channel, all the sports channels, and primetime TV. The companies that are placing their advertisements up don’t care about the better good. They care about getting more of the same clientele that they already bring in. Ad agencies only follow clients’ wishes. I don’t think advertisers are trying to promote equality at all because companies that advertise to women and minorities will continue to want to play it safe and advertise to the newest, youngest women and minorities with disposable income. They are definitely not interested in paying millions of dollars to show on ESPN. I think that if we want these groups to be equally represented, you need to put people of minorities and women in the film and TV scopes as producers and encourage them to create great content for these channels for these minorities. Then, the advertisers will follow.

  2. I think that once women and minorities began getting more representation on these type of big television networks, the advertising then starts to represent those of minorities and women. Like for instance, the advertisements on BET were directed towards minorities, but shows like Black-ish being on bigger networks then causes for advertisements on TBS to not be so directly steered toward the typical mold of white, wealthy, and male. I don’t think that advertisers can promote equality because at the end of the day, everything comes down to making as much money as they can. However, I think that as people all around the world are fighting more and more for equality, these advertising companies will then almost be forced to bring women and minorities into the commodity audience in order to maximize capital. And as they are representing women and minorities more, thusly enhancing women and minorities equality in a sense.

  3. Ultimately, I don’t believe advertisers can truthfully display equal representation within media if making the most money is the objective. Humans are unique in that we all create our own meanings and realities. Humans have varying needs, wants, interests, and disinterests so it would be impossible to create anything that is truthfully all-inclusive. Advertisers have to look for their niches in order to have any impact on consumers, or else how else would consumers distinguish one message from the next?

    I believe that the progression of our culture towards desexualization of gender in itself is what has prompted media corporations to represent more than the commodity audience. The line between what makes a man and what makes a woman has blurred in our society today, as people are becoming more accepting and sensitive to the role that gender norms play.

    I think the most obvious case for advertisers “including” minorities within the commodity audience is within professional sports, which are dominated by players from minority populations, yet still controlled by the typical demographic that Meehan discusses.

  4. I think a great example of advertisers being more inclusive towards women and other minorities is Subaru. In the 1990’s they were being outclassed by nearly every other car company in America. Despite the fact that all wheel drive came standard in every car (something unusual for the time) they were still being outsold by other, flashier looking cars. In order to rebound, Subaru began researching on how to better target their current demographic. According to their findings five main customer types were doctors, IT professionals, outdoorsy types, teachers, and to their surprise lesbians. As a result, they ran ads that included subtle nods to the LGBTQ community with headlines like, “It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built.” Despite the initial backlash Subaru remained steadfast with their approach and by the early 2000’s they had become one of the fastest growing car companies in the US.
    I think an example like this one pretty much proves that promoting equality and advertising can coexist. The fact that the declining car company was using pro-LGBTQ advertising in the same era as the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and began succeeding speaks volumes to this idea. If an oppressed or hidden minority makes up a large portion of your customer base, then it’s probably a good idea to cater to them.

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