Advertising in Serbia – she cleans the house and does laundry, he watches football and drinks beer

If we were to analyse advertisements in Serbia, we could conclude that our country is mostly inhabited by desperate housewives who are obsessed with the cleanliness of their house, the quality of their sanitary pads and the smell of fabric softener, and who are pathologically jealous of all women who they have cleaner bathroom tile. We could also conclude that women’s self-confidence is directly proportional to how white their family’s T-shirts and how shiny their kitchen tops are. On the other hand, the men in Serbian advertisements mostly spend their time drinking beer and betting on sports.

There was a big public outrage with a billboard for car tires which depicted an almost naked ballerina who is doing a split, with the caption “adaptable to any surface”. An advertisement for low-calorie pâté is promoted under the slogan: “Me, football and a woman. What is a surplus here?” The woman is crossed out in the ad, clearly implying that she is a surplus.

Another commercial, featuring the actor Miodrag Radonjić, asks the question “How many little Serbs will you gift me with?”. He is speaking to his girlfriend, an actress from the popular TV series “Južni Vetar” (The South Wind). This angered the female audience in particular. By the way, this was a commercial that advertised housing and cash loans. Women all over the country protested on the bank’s Facebook profile because the commercial depicted women as “birthing machines for little Serbs”, while one woman asked:” Do only Serbs have the right to take out loans?”

The latest research by Dr Margareta Bašargin titled “Ageism and Sexism in Advertising Discourse: a contribution to the study of TV commercials and anti-age newspaper ads” shows that the dominant values promoted by advertisements include youth, beauty, physical strength and health. Ordinary women in advertisements are depicted as quite beautiful and sexually appealing, which all women can become if they use certain beauty or pharmaceutical products, according to ads. At the same time, they are told they have to be beautiful, well-groomed, sun-kissed, waxed and devoid of grey hairs. They also must relentlessly fight against excess weight, cellulite, wrinkles, enlarged pores and age spots and oftentimes, these advertisements are aimed at pubescent girls.

Furthermore, there is a deep-rooted prejudice in our society that women age faster and uglier than men, so most cosmetic products in advertisements are aimed mainly at women. Advertisements also reflect gender stereotypes – in most commercials, it is the woman who washes the dishes, sweeps the floor, does the laundry, cleans the oven grease and battles the bacteria in the bathroom, after which she tends to children.

“When we analysed the content of television commercials that were broadcast before, during and after the central news programme on RTS and PINK TV stations, on January 3 and February 2, 2020, we found that a total of 1,350 commercials were broadcast. Elderly people appeared in 13.5 percent of advertisements on RTS, as opposed to 7% on Pink TV. They were mostly depicted as just a part of the “decor”, or promoted retirement plans or pharmaceutical products, such as varicose veins or haemorrhoid creams. In advertisements that were broadcasted before major holidays such as Easter or Christmas, old people are usually depicted as members of happy families who usually do not say anything, but observe their children and grandchildren with a peaceful smile. They are always shown in stereotypical roles – the elderly woman usually wears an apron or she holds a mixing spoon in her hand, while a man pushes a shopping cart. They often play foolish and eccentric characters, who advertise products intended for senior citizens with excessive sarcasm and irony,” says Dr Margareta Bašargin.

An analysis of 2,230 advertisements in women’s magazines that advertised anti-ageing products showed that they always contain an implicit or explicit promise that a woman will stay forever young or that the product will erase the signs of ageing. They often contain the so-called pseudoscientific language or refer to research that testifies to the fantastic results of moisturisers, gels, lotions or anti-wrinkle creams, but also send a clear message that an ageing woman has an undesirable appearance. That is why these advertisements use the so-called warrior rhetoric such as “fight against wrinkles” or “war against cellulite”.

(Politika, 17.03.2023)




This post is also available in: Italiano

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