Portrayal of Men and Women in U.S. Spanish-Language Television Commercials

Article excerpt

While numerous studies have analyzed women's portrayals in U.S. general market television as well as depiction of both sexes in several foreign countries, no data have been published regarding gender depictions targeted to the growing U.S. Hispanic market via Spanish-language television. A content analysis of 162 prime-time commercials from a Spanish-Language television affiliate in a major U.S. market revealed depiction of women is most likely to be in traditional sexstereotypical roles. In only a few cases was a male character cast as a parent or performer of household chores, and never as a homemaker. Some of the commercials appeared to be "re-treads" of general market creative edited for the Hispanic market.

Introduction

Hispanic Market and Media. According to the U.S. census bureau, more than 30 million Hispanic Americans live in the United States, comprising more than 11 percent of the nation's total. It is estimated that there will be 40.4 million Hispanic Americans in the year 2010.1 The Hispanic-American population is projected to exceed the African-American population in the early twenty-first century to become the largest ethnic group in the United States. In response to this growth, Spanish-language television has emerged as the most important medium by which advertisers attempt to reach the Hispanic segment of the population, with an estimated 80 percent of U.S. Hispanic advertising budgets earmarked for television.2

Hispanics are gaining in economic affluence and buying power,3 and the growing subculture has become a lucrative target for marketers as companies attempt to capture the Hispanic dollar. Ad spending to Hispanic consumers has increased steadily and was projected to gain another 17 percent in 1997 to $1.4 billion.4 A few hours spent watching Univision or Telemundo, the two major Spanish-language television networks,s will reveal a variety of major advertisers including Procter & Gamble, AT&T, and Sears, many with specially produced Spanish-language spots targeted specifically to the Hispanic audience.

Though interest in the Hispanic consumer market is growing and revenues for Spanish-language television are climbing, little research has been done regarding Hispanic advertising and specifically Spanish-language television commercials. A review of the literature revealed no formal content analyses of images contained in Spanish-language television commercials.

Theoretical Framework. The theoretical foundation for this study resides in (1) cultivation theory, (2) acculturation theory, and (3) the dual-role theory of ethnic media.

Cultivation Theory. Cultivation theory suggests that over time, people who are exposed to a particular view of the world on television, begin to accept this world as reality.b As an example, even brief exposure to sexstereotyped advertising has been found to play a role in reinforcing gender stereotypes in society.7 Gender stereotypes in advertising are believed to influence society's "perception of appropriate sex roles" and in some cases reinforce negative notions about the role of women in society.8 Therefore, it is appropriate to investigate the level of sex role stereotyping and the nature of gender portrayal in the rapidly growing and influential medium of Spanish-language television advertising.

Acculturation. Spanish-language television plays a critical role in the assimilation and integration of Hispanics into U.S. society.y When immigrants come to the United States they bring with them the language, customs, values, and traditions of their home country. Little by little they begin to blend native traditional values with dominant U.S. cultural values. This process is known as acculturation. As Hispanics mix into U.S. society, they are exposed to many agents of acculturation which help them learn about U.S. culture. Spanish-language television assists in the acculturation process by bringing American culture to the Hispanic population "who might otherwise be linguistically and culturally isolated from American society. …