Consumer-Take: Gender Targeting & Stereotyping In Digital Advertising


Megan Sullivan-Jenks discusses the findings of Choozle’s survey on gender stereotypes in advertising and the consumer perception of this recurring industry theme

Whether it is cologne or perfume, gender stereotyping is a common tactic used for many brands and products to portray their target audience through gender personalization in digital advertising. Take it a step further by layering in data targeting, and marketers have a fail-proof strategy. Or do they? Brands are consciously choosing to highlight and promote to one gender over the other, but the question remains: Does it really have an impact on the end consumer? Here at Choozle, we wondered: How do consumers respond to these kinds of ads? Are consumers aware of this gender stereotyping? Do they like having products for one gender over the other? Should the advertising industry even contribute to gender stereotyping?

We asked 500 men and women what they thought in a recent survey, Gender Stereotyping in Digital AdvertisingOpens a new window . Beyond what you’d expect, the results revealed some surprising implications for marketers and the future of digital marketing strategies. 

What we wanted to know

The increasing capabilities of data targeting have made it easier to stereotype and reach men and women in advertisements, but is it the best strategy and how does it influence the intended audience? We set out to measure gender’s impact on purchase intent.

We asked consumers

To answer these burning questions, we polled 500 people: A broad cross-section of 250 men and 250 women, ages 18 and older with U.S. residency and a household income between $0 and $200,000 plus. The survey defined “gender stereotype” and included examples of gender stereotyping in advertisements. We asked participants the following questions:

  • How do you perceive gender-specific ads?
  • Do the ads affect you?
  • What aspects of the ads promote stereotypes?
  • Do you find brands that break gender stereotypes more favorable?
  • Should the advertising industry be held responsible for breaking or reinforcing stereotypes?

What we uncovered

The results were mixed about gender representation in digital advertising and brands that break them gender stereotypes. Fifty percent of men and 68% of women said they would likely be affected by advertisements that break gender stereotypes. Thirty-six percent of total respondents said they like brands that break gender stereotypes in ads. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they sometimes prefer to buy products made for their gender, while 42% said they sometimes prefer products made for a gender other than their own. Thirty-seven percent of overall respondents agreed the advertising industry has a social responsibility not to promote gender stereotypes.


While some respondents expressed preference towards buying products advertised for their gender, a significant number also said they buy products made for a gender other than their own. Purchase intent could increase if advertisers—ones who make unisex products—create messaging and designs for that are inclusive of both men and women. The survey also confirmed that consumers like forward-thinking companies. Progressive ads can shape brand perception and help a company’s effectiveness. In the end, marketers, at lease those who wish to drive purchase intent, should think twice when using data to target by gender, as well as polarizing genders within the ads themselves.