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Consumer Well-Being / Publication Abstract

Can advertising benefit women’s development? Preliminary insights from a multi-method investigation

Feb 9, 2022

Gautham Vadakkepatt, Andrew Bryant, Ronald Paul Hill & Joshua Nunziato

Consumer Well-Being


We examine the interaction effect of country-level aggregate advertising spending and internet access on women’s development. We explain why this interaction effect either enhances or discourages women’s development. Our empirical analysis of aggregate advertising spending across forty-eight countries over five years uncovers a conditional effect. Advertising may have adverse consequences on women’s development when internet access is low. However, in conjunction with high levels of internet access, advertising corresponds to advancing women’s development. Through an experimental study, we show one possible mechanism for this development: on one hand, the growing trend of femvertising produces comments supportive of women’s empowerment. On the other, stereotypically-sexist ads elicit psychological reactance to objectifying messages. Both the celebration of messaging that supports women and the criticism of sexist stereotyping are now being widely shared online. To explore this phenomenon globally, we conducted a qualitative analysis of social media responses to Dove ads aired within multiple countries. We find that consumers amplified empowering advertisements across a range of different cultural contexts. These findings have implications for advertisers, marketers, and policy makers: such constituencies should consider how advertising can facilitate women’s development by providing marketplace conditions that promote personal evolution into unattained-but-attainable versions of the self.

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