Examples of Gender Targeting in Advertisements

While some brands shy away from gender targeting, these examples show how thoughtful gender targeting enables brands to incorporate their brand purpose into targeted campaigns, promoting a more inclusive, loving, and just society for all.

Targeted advertising leads to greater engagement and returns, increased revenue and brand reach. An advertising campaign without a target audience is a shot in the dark. To reach a product’s target audience, advertisements must resonate with them. Gender targeting is one of the areas of advertising that can be extremely effective, if done well. 

Recently, advertisers have tended towards gender-neutral or gender-inclusive advertisements to avoid coming off as sexist, insensitive, or politically incorrect. Advertisements that cross into the territory of harmful gender stereotyping include images of men incapable of changing a baby’s diaper or a woman unable to lift a heavy bag. 

However, by avoiding gender targeting all together, advertisers are spending more than necessary on products that could benefit from a gender target. Here are some great examples of gender targeting in advertisements used to promote positivity along with brand recognition:

Gender-Positive Advertising

One effective initial step to counteract negative gender targeted advertisements is to make the ads gender-positive. This includes advertisements that promote body positivity, strength, and self-acceptance for women, as well as for men. Here are some companies who are doing this especially well:

Always “Like a Girl” Campaign

Always, the feminine hygiene product brand, was one of the pioneers of positive gender targeted advertising. In their #LikeAGirl campaign, they show the power, strength, resilience, and belief in themselves that girls feel and how women lose that as they age.

The advertising message is that their products will help women to always feel strong, resilient, and able to achieve anything as they did when they were children — that girls can grow up to be anything they want to be. This is particularly effective targeted marketing because it reaches key emotional vulnerabilities while creating an environment of change and empowerment. 

Dove’s “Real” Campaign

Dove has done gender-targeted advertising for both men and women particularly well, focusing on the weak points of past gender-targeted advertisements for both. 

For women, Dove’s wildly successful “Real Beauty” shows women of all shapes, sizes, and ages with a full spectrum of skin tones. The message is one of body positivity, inclusivity, and acceptance. 

Dove targets women by making them feel good about themselves. The deeper sentiment tackles the advertising practices of tearing women’s body’s and self-confidence down. 

Likewise, for men, Dove’s “Real Men Care” campaign shows men taking care of children, and each other. The message seeks to tackle the toxic cultural portrayal that men should not demonstrate emotions, care for children, or want to show their softer side. 

In both campaigns, Dove turns gender targeted advertising into a message of acceptance, promoting positivity and acceptance across genders.

Aerie “Real” Campaign

Aerie extends gender targeting to include women with disabilities. The women’s fashion brand showcases real women, from olympic gymnasts and singers, to women with a variety of disabilities, through their #AerieReal campaign. In it, these women are photographed without makeup in the Aerie range. 

The message is simple, but powerful: we accept everyone as they are, and believe in you as you are. This campaign is especially effective as women respond emotionally and all know the pressure to look perfect or put-together from a young age. These ads pull on emotions of acceptance, inspiration, and belief in being who you are. 

Gillette “It Takes a Real Man” Campaign

Gillette has recently stepped up to tackle harmful long-standing gender stereotypes that
“boys will be boys”. The men’s grooming products brand takes on everything from bullying to abuse with the phrase, “we believe in the best of men…because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow”. 

This is particularly brilliant because it not only lifts up men for positive attributes, but it resonates with women as well. With women making the majority of spending decisions in shared households, creating a campaign of a product for men that resonates with women helps to build customer loyalty across genders. 

Likewise, other Gilette campaigns seek to change the harmful concept of simply linking men to masculinity. They launched a campaign with the slogan, “it takes a real man” to counter this harmful stereotype. In it, men are seen in a variety of activities not traditionally seen as masculine, fostering a message of acceptance.

Gender Targeting For Good

The examples above show how companies can take the toxic gender targeting of the past to create campaigns that resonate with modern audiences and foster inclusivity, acceptance, and empowerment. They create an emotional response, which increases memorability and brand awareness. 

While some brands shy away from gender targeting, these examples show how thoughtful gender targeting enables brands to incorporate their brand purpose into targeted campaigns, promoting a more inclusive, loving, and just society for all. 


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