Two-thirds of British men believe negative advertising stereotypes are a source of lasting psychological damage, according to eye-opening research from media agency UM.
The MANdate study, conducted in conjunction with mental health charity the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) and publisher Joe Media, found 64% of male respondents believe negative portrayals in advertising can cause real damage.
Men rally against ‘harmful’ stereotypes
A substantial majority of men polled (75%) feared that their mental wellbeing was endangered by social media where the pressure to conform to traditional stereotypes such as being strong or behaving like a ’lad’ can overwhelm.
In all 46% of men aged under 35 viewed entrenched societal cliches and both detrimental and dangerous to individuals.
An overwhelming majority of 90% also cited portrayals of men as ’mean to women’ was harmful, with 79% disturbed by depictions of men as being sex-obsessed.
Reacting to the findings UM decision sciences manager George McMahon said: “Men, especially those under 35, respond best to representation that breaks through stereotypes. It’s absolutely in the best interests of advertisers to take greater responsibility.”
Brands must do better
CALM CEO Simon Gunning commented: “On average, 13 men take their own life every day in the UK. That is unacceptable. The reasons for suicide are many and complex but much more must be done to understand people’s needs and provide the support and accessible services for those who are struggling.”
To counter prevailing attitudes 56% of men aged 18-34 believe the best way to promote positive perceptions of masculinity is to normalise the importance of seeking outside help.
A further 44% of respondents would like to see more done to communicate the message that it's ok to fail.
Sensing a shifting public mood many brands have already taken steps to weed out stereotyping in their communications as well as respect the unintended consequences of their messaging.
Among these are consumer goods giant Unilever which has already pledged to end the regurgitation of stereotypical portrayals and work with more businesses run by women and minority groups to improve diversity.
As far back as 2018, the Advertising Standards Authority outlawed adverts depicting a man relaxing while a woman was shown carrying out housework as a clear mark in the sand that such gender portrayals were no longer acceptable.
As part of these efforts, the advertising industry launched the Unsterotype Alliance, a grouping of companies prepared to act in concert to deliver root and branch reform of casting, roles and writing in advertising.