Late Night Commercials

Late night television provides a variety of commercials that construct gender stereotypes. These stereotypes can be recognized through the speech, the actors, and the environment in which they take place. All these factors individually compose gender construction and affect the minds of viewers today. Recognizing these gender stereotypes will assist the viewers minds, by allowing them to be more opened minded, and dismantle the barriers that media has formulated.

Late night commercials contain several gender stereotypes today. Most of these stereotypes are portrayed through image, “between the years 1967 and 1998 we found that images of men and women have generally remained stable over the 3 decades observed” (Ivory, 17). The women and men they advertise have the “perfect look.” For example, `they can be easily witnessed in the Bowflex commercial. Bowflex commercials are very prevalent in late night commercials, and the men they portray have the perfect body; they are built, tall, and dominant. The women that were showed were lean and beautiful. The unique part of this commercial was that the man in the commercial was the only one working out, while the woman just observed him in the background. In my opinion, this commercial supports the gender stereotype that men are the hard workers while the women are almost submissive in a sense. Gender stereotypes in society are all around us, and that is because people are very judgmental. Their opinion about someone usually derives from his or her first impression. If that Bowflex commercial had the lady working out and the muscular male in the background, one might feel as if they wouldn’t advertise the commercial, because most men who watch this would either think it was a female’s exercise machine, or it was just not masculine for the man to use the machine at all. This seems to be one of our biggest issues with society. Men are commonly portrayed as the powerful or dominant gender.

The problem with late night commercials is that personal image and negative gender roles are so common. Not only do these commercials impact adults who view them, but also they seem to play a role in the, “construction of social reality for children” (Shehad, 59). Quite frequently, women are advertised just for their looks. A common trait in late night commercials is that women are usually advertised behind men, and when they are advertised, they are usually good looking. Predominantly, men have the leading role in these commercials, and when women have the leading role for the advertisement, you can usually bet that they are using sex appeal to grab the attention of the viewers. This realization led me to my next conclusion, if men are commonly the leading role for male advertisements and women are usually advertised in late night commercials for sex appeal, that the majority of the audience has to be male (late viewers).

Another type of commercial prevalent in late night commercials is debt settlement commercials. One might ask them self why they believe these types of commercials are being aired at such bizarre hours, and this is because of stress. People who have money-related problems, usually are very stressed, especially during these difficult economic times. These individuals who are stressed have a difficult time sleeping, therefore banks and debt settlement commercials are common during these hours. During the day, one would assume most of these people with money problems are working long hours or searching for a job, and during the night they are stressing over how they will start making some money. These advertisers use strategic advertising methods such as time, in order to target their market consumers. After recognizing these different types of commercials during the night, my research led me to recognize the various factors that actually go into advertising during the night.

A unique way of visualizing commercials is to think about what the advertisers truly care about, either their profit or the happiness of their consumers. One of the most powerful tools in media, that advertisers use, is deception. An article written by Tamara Piety, Commercial Speech and Gender Inequality, introduced me to this advertising weapon. Tamara discusses a Dove commercial, and analyzes the power of speech. The commercial advertises their “Campaign for Real Beauty,” The simple words they use such as “real, and true beauty” in a convincing, yet sympathetic manner, distorts the viewer’s minds. This commercial is unique, because they try and break the gender stereotype in advertising by expressing what beauty really is, in actuality. One way of analyzing gender stereotypes is by analyzing advertisers true mentality. Do the Dove advertisers actually care about real beauty? This first step is questioning the advertisers integrity and speech. For example, in the financial assistance commercials, why do the advertisers always express how “we care about your future, or we are here to help every step of the way?” Do they actually care? The reason this is related is because all of these advertising methods construct gender stereotypes. Their speech and the actors they use represent what they believe is a hard working man, or a beautiful woman. They construct what they believe is true in society about gender, This is also referred to as mainstreaming, “this means that heavy television viewing may blur the differences in people’s perspectives…resulting in the perception that television mirrors the real world” (Desmond, 8).

Gender stereotypes are present in all forms of media today, but why? In an article written by Jackson Glascock, he composed a study that determined, “females were generally depicted in lower-paying, less prestigious occupations (Glascock, 7). Thus, males are more likely to be the bosses, possibly causing this trend in media. Despite the fact we are studying gender stereotypes, female gender deconstruction seems to be more common than males, possibly for this very reason. Glascock claimed from a study he read that only, “44% of females were employed outside the home.” With less dominant occupational roles for women, there seems to be an obvious likely-hood for more gender stereotypes, especially when, “female characters are less likely to have upper-level positions than male characters” (Smith, 1). Glascock also analyzed how there is, “traditionally more emphasis has been placed on women’s physical appearance.” Not only does appearance seem to be a leading factor with women in media, but so does age. Glascock analyzes the age category for women and men in media, coming to the conclusion that a dominant percentage of women are between the ages of “20-30 years old.” Men seem to have broader age differences where as with women, “advertisers seem to believe women are more attractive when they are young and unmarried” (Kwangok, 5). The women portrayed in them are young and attractive. The men in the commercials tend to contain a more dominant role, unless the female’s sex appeal is being used to capture the eye of the viewer (typically male).

An interesting way of approaching this study in late night commercials was not to view them, but just listening to them. This idea was influenced by an article written by Adrian Furnham. His study concluded that women were predominantly used as voice-overs, “52%.” This was interesting, because the majority of voice-overs seemed to be predominantly female in late night commercials. Men are less likely to be in voice-overs, unless the product happens to be advertised for men. Women on the other hand contain the capability to intrigue both sexes. For example, in most late night commercials, women are used as a tool to intrigue men (an example would be “Live Links.” The seductive whispering, of the women’s voice is used to capture the male’s attention, but they also can intrigue women with a tool se associated with “commonality.” Whether the women’s voice is advertising shampoo, or any female product such as make up, women possess the capability to advertise and basically “recommend” a product to other women. Males on the other hand, cannot advertise products targeted to women, they would “feminine”, and wouldn’t be women wouldn’t be able to associate with him. Gender stereotypes seem to be present in today’s media (specifically late night television), and the majority of it seems to derive from routine. Late night commercials have a common trend, a “stereotypical male character…independent, dynamic, active, noisy, muscular,” where as the stereotypical woman is, “dependent, submissive, sexual, overly emotional” (Bresnahan, 4).

The environment of the commercial also plays a leading role in gender construction. Most people can recognize whom the commercial is targeting through the characters environment. For example, in one of the Live Links commercials, there is an actor lying on top of a piano, in a dimly lighted room, with candles burning. Just that description of the environment can lead an individual to the assumption that the actor was female. The very environment in which these actors take place in the commercial, immediately tell the audience what the actor is doing and what gender is doing.

Randomly, low budget auto mechanic commercials are shown at late hours. In a Ramsey Power Auto Mechanic Commercial, there are three individuals under the body of a car repairing it. This commercial immediately constructs an environment where males are targeted; you would never see a commercial where women are under the body of a car repairing it. According to Ferderico Fernandez, “through gender stereotypes, people may unconsciously from beliefs about men’s and women’s behavior as well as their skills in society.” This unconscious assumption made by individuals is where gender stereotypes are made. People don’t allow themselves to recognize what is truly going on in the commercial, immediately assuming that the advertisers message is reality. That’s where the environment comes to play; the first thing you recognize besides the character is the environment, which structures the commercial. The environment is used to relate where men and women should exist in society.

Late night commercials provide common beliefs and behaviors that the advertisers believe are true in life. Their misinterpretation of reality strongly impacts the lives of the viewers in a negative way. They construct roles in today’s world that are necessarily true. Unfortunately, the majority of commercials that have gender stereotypes in late night commercials are negatively impacted how men and women should act in society. These commercials construct roles of how people should act or what they believe only harming the expansion of the individual’s imagination. Not only do these commercials subconsciously affect what we belief, they limit what is accepted in society. Gender construction in late night commercials can basically be summed up in one phrase, dominance and submission. Media has constructed what gender should be like, it’s power is so strong that, “television and television advertising are confirmed to be one of the main agents of socialization” (Fernandez, 13). With such an immense impact on the minds of viewers, these commercials limit what can be achieved today.


1. Piety, Tamara R.
Commercial Speech and Gender Inequality. 2009

2. Glascock, Jack. Gender Roles on Prime-Time Network Television: Demographics and Behaviors. 2001. Sex Role on Television

3. Furnham, Adrian. Saar, Alexandra. Gender-role stereotyping in adult and
children’s television advertisements: A two-study comparison between
Great Britain and Poland (1-19) 2006. European Journal.

6. Smith, Siobhan. The Portrayals of Women, Minorities, and Work in Primetime Television. International Communication Association. 2009.

7. Kwangok, Kim. Television Commercials as a Lagging Social Indicator: Gender Role Stereotypes in Korean Television Advertising. Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 11/12, December 2005

8. Shehab, Ali. Gender and racial representation in children’s television programming in Kuwait: Implications for Education. Society for Personality Research. February 1, 2008.

9. Bresnahan, Mary. Players and Whiners? Perceptions of Sex Stereotyping in Anime in Japan and the US. Asian Journal of Communication. July, 2006

10. Fernandez, Frederico. Gender Stereotypes in Spanish Television.
Sex Roles. 2007

11. Gender stereotypes: do you subscribe to them or challenge them?