Advertisements reflect the reality in society. Or so they should. As a minimum, advertisements should resonate with the intended target audience. Advertisements targeting female consumers have been accused of continually depicting women in traditionally stereotypical roles, such as the housewife and the sex object. This is contrary to the many important roles women fulfil in reality; business-woman, mother, romantic partner, and socialite, to name but a few. The purpose of this study was to identify the roles that female models portrayed in South African consumer magazine advertisements, and the extent to which these models appeared in these roles. The numerous secondary objectives included, but were not limited to, an investigation into the ethnic representation of female models in South African magazine advertisements, the product and/or service categories advertised using female models, and the illustrative technique and advertising appeals most commonly used. Content analysis was used to analyse and capture data from magazine advertisements featuring one or more female models. Content analysis was seen to be the most appropriate research method for this study based on its applicability as a mass communication research method. A total of 258 full-page and double-page magazine advertisements were sampled from nine consumer magazines published in South Africa in November 2009 and February 2010. The research found that female models were predominantly portrayed as the decorative focal point (32%) in magazine advertisements for personal care products, apparel and accessories. Just over two-thirds of the models used were Caucasian (68%), albeit the magazines sampled targeted African, Caucasian, and to a slightly lesser degree Coloured and Indian readers. In addition, marketers seemed inclined to favour advertisements with photographs of female models (98%), rather than drawings or computer-generated images. Rational advertising appeals were used most often (46%) in the magazine advertisements analysed, followed by combination appeals (27%). Forty-four advertisements (17%) were considered not to have a distinctive appeal. These advertisements would simply illustrate the product or service together with a female model, without evoking feelings or providing any further information about the product or service, other than the brand or company name. Academically, this study adds to the limited knowledge on female role portrayal in South African magazine advertisements. Only two such studies have been completed in South Africa in the past, one in 1991 and the other in 2010. This study makes a unique contribution by investigating the roles in which female models from different ethnic groups are portrayed in South African magazine advertisements. From a practical perspective, the findings illustrate to South African advertisers the limited roles in which they portray women, which is contrary to the numerous roles women fulfil in reality. Female consumers are an important target market to any organisation, thus advertisers need to adapt advertisements to reflect the important and changing roles of women in the South African society. Copyright
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2012.