Research studies

The Honor of Being a Man: Gender Meanings in Dove + Care Commercial


Prepared by the researcher :

  • Dr. Shlash Alzyoud– The University of Southern Mississippi
  • Dr.Ahmed Makharesh– The University of Southern Mississippi

Democratic Arabic Center

Journal of Afro-Asian Studies : Nineteenth Issue – November 2023

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN  2628-6475
Journal of Afro-Asian Studies

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Advertisements are tools to market products, which include ideology and compositional meanings to persuade consumers. This paper aims to investigate gender stereotypes in a 68-second advertisement of Dove Men+Care through semiotics analysis and connotation and denotation theory. The analysis process examines the signs of the commercial and the meaning produced by the signifier and signified. Also, it explores the meanings that lie at the first order of the signification process (denotation) and the meanings that lie at the second level of the signification process (connotation/ideology). The results show that the commercial highlights masculinity and reinforces stereotypes of men by depicting them as they are supreme in society in terms of their physical appearance and their professional status. The findings also indicate that stereotypes against women are still present and that physical feminine attributes (such as long hair) constitute a real danger to masculinity.


Many people are obsessed with physical attractiveness and their appearance, which constitute the most important aspect of their interests. Consumers build this importance due to the cultural messages they receive from many sources. Eagly et al. (1991) wrote, “In children’s television and books, the wicked witch and evil giant are ugly, and the heroic prince and virtuous princess are attractive. In advertising, attractive models appear in positive settings (e.g., in happy crowds, as the object of admiration) and with valued possessions (e.g., fancy cars, fashionable clothes)” (p. 112). Representation of gender in media is a topic that has been subjected to wide discussion and study in communication studies. We, as audiences, are exposed to such representation, and it is important to examine these representations that are transmitted to us. The advertising industry is considered one of the forms that uses gender as a way to market products as it focuses on beauty.

In light of the power of media and the significant effects that it can bring to audiences, business people captured the influence of this power in societies in which companies can take advantage of media to sell their products and services. Such endeavors aim to create a new reality for their products and services. The role of media in advertising has established a relationship between media agencies and advertisers. Advertisers use media to convey messages of products and services to audiences, whereas media agencies depend on advertising revenues to cover their operations costs. Advertising revenues come from many advertisers that market their products and services through these media outlets (Rinallo & Basuroy, 2009). The prime source of these media agencies’ income is advertising (Mantrala et al., 2007). At the same time, the media would offer content to attract audiences to offer access so advertisers can reach audiences (Sinclair, 2015).

Based on the development of television advertising and the technological explosion that offered social platforms, which made it easier to access audiences, companies try to put more effort into exploiting strategies of persuasion such as “gender ideology” to convince consumers to buy products. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze the Brazilian Dove Commercial by finding out how visual and verbal expressions create gender stereotypes using the semiotics, denotation, and connotation theory of Chandler to explore the portrayal of men and their representation in the commercial against the image of women. (A transcript of the commercial can be seen in Appendix A at the end of this paper).

About Dove

Dove is a personal care brand founded in 1957 that sells beauty products for both men and women. The company presents products of Dove Men+Care that concern men and help 40 million young people build self-esteem and positive body confidence. The brand launched the Dove Self-Esteem Project in 2004 to deliver self-esteem education to young people through lessons in schools, workshops for youth groups, and online resources for parents (Dove, n.d.).

Theoretical Framework

Semiotics was first used by Ferdinand de Saussure, which is concerned with signs of language. There are two founders of semiotics who developed its types; Saussure is the founder of linguists who built semiotics based on language as the system of the sign, and Pierce builds the pragmatic and logical philosophy of semiotics theory. Semiotics suggests that through the signification process, we can know culture and reality by means of signs (Rifa’i, 2010).

Saussure (1967) says that semiotics is the study that examines the way signs work, are produced, and are used in society. Eco (1979) states that semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign, and the semiotic theory offers an appropriate definition for every sort of sign function. In other words, the semiotic approach is concerned with the how of representation (with how language produces meaning) (Hall, 1996, p. 6).

Saussure divided language into three main parts: signifier, signified, and sign. He posed language based on the relationship between the three parts. The signifier term indicates the meaning of the inscription of the word; on the other hand, signified indicates the mental image in the human mind. Saussure suggests that meaning is produced by the relation between these elements and by difference (Storey, 2018). In other words, the signified is the mental representation of the sign and not what the sign refers to, whereas the signifier is the material aspect (what the sign refers to) (Hasyim, 2015).

According to Chandler (2017), the relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as “signification.” In a semiotic study, signs can take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures, and objects. Contemporary semioticians study signs as part of semiotic sign systems, and they study how meanings are made and how reality is represented. Signs in media texts from a semiological perspective can be a thing that symbolizes something else. Signs can be divided into images (show things look like real objects), indicators (show the logical connection between things like fire and smoke), and symbols (show conditional values that require special knowledge, for example, flags of States (Berger, 2005). Semiotic analysis uses media texts to analyze the language of signs through identification analysis, which aims to recognize hidden messages in these texts and to understand encoded ideas (Fedorov, 2015). Bouzida (2014) emphasizes that semiotics can be applied in the context of media to analyze media texts: films, TV programs, cartoons, and advertisements.

Ronald Barthes developed the theory of Saussure in his approach of denotative and connotative with respect to images as signs. Qualitative analysis of media content uses semiotics to interpret the visual presentations. Bouzida (2014) argues that media studies need Barthes’s perspective of the semiological method at the qualitative analysis level to provide an infinite number of interpretations of texts or images. According to Barthes, the image is related to the aesthetic and ideological factors that are prone to readings and interpretations in order to explain how meaning is created through complex semiotic interaction.

According to Barthes (1957), language needs particular conditions to become a myth, and it is a system of communication (a message) conveyed by a discourse. Myth cannot be an object, a concept, or an idea; it is a mode of signification, a form. He adds that since myth is a type of speech, everything can be a myth as long as it is transmitted through discourse.

Myth can be defined by the way in which the message is uttered, not the object that utters it. Myths can function to hide the ideological function of signs (Chandler, 2017). Myth is not only written discourse but also photography, cinema, reporting, sports, shows, etc. Mythical speech is made suitable for communication because all the materials of myth suppose a signifying consciousness that one can think about them while discounting their substance (Barthes, 1957). In other words, myth is a system of communication with a message; it is the way of interpreting the message. It can be seen if something that is conveyed looks natural, not realized by everyone. Arsel and Thompson (2001) argue that the myth of the marketplace creates connections between consumption and the commercial mainstream of consumer culture. In semiotics, the myth of advertisements creates social meaning (Hasyim, 2015).

There are two levels of the commercials reading: the “preferred” reading, which is involved in the denotative level (the first-order) that describes the literal meaning of the content, and the “negotiated” reading, which is involved in the connotative level (the second-order) that describes the intended meaning of the content (Hall, 1996). According to Graham (2003), denotation refers to the common-sense, obvious meaning of the sign. A denotative statement is a first-order statement that concerns the literal (first-order) meaning of the words that make up that statement.

Denotation exists in the first level of signification, that is, the literal dictionary meaning of the word (Yan & Ming, 2015). Barthes poses that denotation is a conventional meaning in society, which is the meaning that tends to be agreed upon among the society. It describes the relationship between the mark and the reference to reality (Ariyadi, 2014). Denotation provides a relation between the signifier and the signified that refers to the use of language in which the meaning is explicit and direct (Piliang, 2003). Denotation is the simple, basic, descriptive level, where consensus is wide, and people agree on the meaning (Hall, 1997). For example, the word “cat” refers to a four-legged animal with a tail and fur.

Connotative meanings are associated with the original word and create other, wider fields of meaning. These meanings can act like myths, creating hidden meanings behind the dictionary meaning (Hall, 1980). Denotation for an image implies what the image intends to convey, and recipients would recognize the objects, while connotation refers to socio-culture and personal association of the sign (Chandler, 2002). At this level, “we interpret the completed signs in terms of the social ideology, the general beliefs, conceptual frameworks, and value systems of society” (Hall, 1997, pp. 38-39).

Denotation tends to be described as the literal, obvious, or common-sense meaning of a sign (what the dictionary attempts to provide), while the term connotation refers to one’s point of view (ideological, emotional, etc.) of the sign. These are related to the receiver’s class, age, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Chandler, 2017).

Different from Saussure’s focus on the denotative level, Roland Barthes concentrates on the second level of the signification process, which is that act that links the signifier and the signified through his analysis of a variety of sign systems derived from bourgeois, occidental popular culture (Caves, 2005, p. 33). The focus of Barthes is the connotation level, which is the implicit meaning of the word and occurs on the second level of signification (Yan & Ming, 2015).

To explain this, Allen (2003) provides an example of the statement, “Prints are winning at the races.” In this statement, we have the words used, or what Barthes calls a plane of expression (E), and we have what the words literally mean or the plane of content (C). We then draw a relation (R) between the two (E&C) to find the meaning of the statement. On the denotation level, ‘Prints are winning at the races’ is a strange statement. Does anyone believe that printed clothes are winning at the horse races? If we simply expect to find the meaning by moving from (E) plane of expression (words used “Prints are winning at the races”) to (C) plane of content (the literal meaning of the statement “Prints are winning at the races”), then we will be disappointed. Simply moving from (E) to (C) gives us a nonsensical first-order (denotative) meaning. We need to move to the relation (R) between (E) and (C) and thus to a second-order meaning (connotation) to make any sense of the statement. There is clearly another meaning implied in this statement. This statement exists at the level of connotation. In this example, the connotation involves a statement about what is fashionable and also an analogy between being fashionable (wearing prints) and power (winning, being seen as a winner) (Allen, 2003, p. 50). The following figure is the sign map of Roland Barthes (Cobley, 1998):

Figure 1: Sign map of Roland Barthes (Cobley, 1998)

Advertising and Media

Advertising is a type of mass communication that informs and transforms information about products by creating an image for those products that go beyond straightforward reality (Wells et al., 2000). According to the correlation between media and the advertising industry, advertisers use media as a medium to convey their products’ messages to target audiences. They find that media offers access to the market they seek. On the other hand, Kervin (1990) argues that “the importance of advertising to the mass media stems from that it is the main source of financial support for television, magazines, and newspapers” (p. 54).

The effect of advertising on consumers can be seen based on message repetition. It can be classified into three main effects on behavior: a current effect, a carryover effect, and a non-effect (Pechmann, Stewart, 1988).

Advertisers try to make up their position through well-written and well-designed advertisements to attract their target audience and include these advertisements with hidden messages to reinforce their impact. Advertisement text deals with signs, which include both verbal expression and visual expression.

The visual expressions act with the verbal expressions to make the advertisement’s meaning easier to understand by the audience (Wibowo, Gunawan, 2016). Advertisers consider the use of stereotypes to ease communication with the target audience and sell their products rather than using realistic values and beliefs (Kim & Lowry, 2005).

According to Shimp and Andrews (2013), advertising, in general, is valued because it is performing five communications functions:

Informing: Advertising helps consumers to be aware of new brands, educates them about their features, and facilitates them to be well-understood.

Influencing: This means advertisements can influence prospective customers to try advertised products and services.

Reminding and increasing salience: Besides having informative and influencing functions, the advertisement also has a reminding function that helps the companies keep their brand fresh in the consumer’s memory.

Adding value is proposed as three basic ways by which companies can add value to their offerings: innovating, improving quality, and altering consumer perceptions. These values help the product to be viewed as more elegant, stylish, and prestigious, which in turn causes increased market share and greater profitability.

Assisting other company efforts: advertisement can assist sales representatives in clarifying the products, and it helps companies to distribute their products.

Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

Although the role of men and women has changed in society, gender stereotypes still exist in advertising as a means to market products. The word “stereotype” is a term coined by Walter Lippmann in his book Public Opinion, published in 1922. Allport defines it as an exaggerated belief associated with a category. Therefore, it is untrue and contains self-contradictory (Curtis, 1998). “Stereotype” is also defined by Taylor and Stern (1997) as a generalized and accepted belief about the personal attributes of members of a social category like gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Kervin (1990) defines “Gender” as the term that is used to emphasize the social and cultural roles people assume as men and women. He argues that “Gender” determines how one experiences the world and, therefore, acts within processes of encoding and decoding sign systems, such as advertising. Rakow (1986) points out that men are the creators of the gendered world. They construct the symbolic order within which male supremacy is reproduced based on their historically dominant social position.

Advertising frequently uses gender roles to market products, and many interests have been shown in the portrayal of men and women in advertising since the 1960s (Eisend, 2010). Barrett (1985) argues the idea that males and females have different social situations and are strengthened by the use of “stereotypes.” Ashmore and Del Boca (1981) define “gender stereotypes” as beliefs that certain characteristics differentiate women and men.

Deaux and Lewis (1984) suggest that men and women have four different components: trait descriptors (self-assertion, concern for others), physical characteristics (hair length, body color), role behaviors (leader, taking care of children), and occupational status (employee, housewife). Kervin (1990) contends that advertising uses codes, ideas, and social values to create denotation and connotation meanings.

Gender stereotypes refer to role behaviors and physical characteristics, and it is used to sell a product (Knoll et al., 2011). Hence, focusing on advertisements and their social and economic contexts can suggest the way gender ideology is built. Gender acts as a meta-meaning system affecting one’s choice and the use of several dimensions such as aesthetic codes (lighting and color), fashion codes, non-verbal codes (facial expression and body stance), and codes indicating social roles (who is shown as active/passive, etc.). Advertising depends on social knowledge and cultural trends, seen through gender ideology (Kervin, 1990). According to Curtis (1998), Lippmann stated that the selection of media, information, and pictures, the deliberate inclusion of some information, and the exclusion of other matters have been important for policymakers and for the general public.

In light of the commodified male body, there are a number of men’s images in media that promote men’s identity through their bodies. It is necessary to highlight how the body is represented and which visual elements are performed to represent the construction of masculinities (Lončar et al., 2016). The biological differences between men and women suggest that there are physical, psychological, and socially differences between the two sexes. However, gender differences between males and females are contained also within their behaviors, traits, and representations associated with the sexes (Kervin, 1990). The elements of dominant masculinity are constructed within heterosexuality, marriage, authority, professional and financial success, ethnic dominance, and physical strength (Lončar et al., 2016).

Parson (1956) stated that the feminine role is defined by the family scale, and the masculine role is related to family life and life outside the family (Amâncio, 1993). While masculinity is not a fixed entity of body or personality characteristics of individuals, it is a practice accomplished within social action, and it can differ based on relations between males and females in certain social settings (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). FITRA (2019) investigated the methods of verbal grammar in the multimodal text in Dove’s advertisements. The results show that language in advertisements has a huge impact on consumers’ behavior. Brand names are used as an essential element of advertisements to influence consumer memory and, therefore, continue to repurchase it. In the study of Nasir (2018), which aims to investigate the gender discursive patterns in Pakistani television commercials using semiotics theory, the findings reveal that the commercials present layers of meaning through semiotics where men and women are represented in stereotypical manners and gender narratives supporting patriarchal structures. The study suggests that the images of masculine and feminine represented in the commercials strengthen our ideological beliefs about what we think of as masculine or feminine.

Moreover, the study of Kiran (2016) investigated the hidden gender stereotypical messages of men and women in TV commercials. The commercials in the study were reviewed under the categories of sex, role, credibility, location, and product type. The results of this work have shown that all women are depicted as bearing domestic roles such as cleaning the house or cooking, belonging to home settings, and being associated with domestic products. Men were portrayed as having professional status, being authoritarian, belonging to outdoor settings, and being associated with non-domestic products.

Knoll et al. (2011) conducted a study to examine the degree of gender stereotypes in advertisements on public and private TV channels in Germany and how this degree differed between these channels using content analysis. The results show that gender stereotypes still dominate advertising and public TV channels, and despite their public role, they do not show less gender stereotypes in advertisements compared to private TV channels. Moreover, private channels focus on gender stereotypes in terms of references to role behavior and physical characteristics. 


Through 68 seconds, Dove constructs a dramatic commercial with two men talking to each other in a dialogue. The commercial aims to market Dove Men+Care shampoo, which is made exclusively for men. The main character is a man called “Diego,” and the secondary character is his work colleague. The advertisement has been filmed in a professional work location where the main character works. The main sign of the video is Diego’s hair.

In the advertisement, Deigo appears in his office with smooth, long hair and wearing formal wear and a tie. Diego’s colleague comes to Diego’s office with some papers. He calls Diego’s name. Deigo raises his head in slow motion, and his silky hair shows up. Deigo responds yes. A worried look appears on Diego’s colleague’s face as a reaction to Diego’s hair. Diego’s colleague asks Deigo: Did you do something with your hair? Deigo responds no! Diego’s colleague: Because I see that women’s shampoo commercial effect… when you do… like this… Deigo: Really? Touches his hair and realizes that his hair looks like a woman’s hair. Diego’s colleague: Maybe it is your shampoo.

A close shot of Diego’s hand that holds a pink women’s shampoo bottle and a picture of a woman with long hair on it emphasizes that Deigo uses women’s shampoo, which elongates his hair. Using the flashback feature, Diego remembers that he had used women’s shampoo when he had a bath. Deigo was in his actual hair before using the shampoo, so the women’s shampoo caused his hair to be long.

Deigo immediately heads to the store to get “men” shampoo. The market shelves are exclusively full of Dove shampoo. Deigo takes a shower with Dove shampoo, and then he stands in front of a mirror with a naked body in a medium shot, which displays that he recovered his actual hair after using Dove shampoo. At the end of the commercial, the commentator says a slogan, “Women’s shampoo was not made for you, Men Dove care was,” with a shot of a female shampoo bottle among a group of men’s Dove shampoo bottles and a man hand replacing the female shampoo bottle with men Dove shampoo “Men + care” bottle.


According to the analysis of the commercial, the denotative signifier of the sign is “Deigo is wearing woman’s hair”; the denotative signifier of the sign is “Deigo is a man.” The denotation sign is “the woman’s hair.” The connotation signifier is “wonder.” The connotation sign (signification) is “Deigo is a woman.” Women’s hair is a symbolic sign of the man (Diego).

The commercial is designed to encourage men to use Dove shampoo in order to maintain their masculinity attributes. Through the analysis process of the advertisement, several meanings related to gender were found. Roberts (2019) points out that the portrayal of masculinity and femininity is one of the ways in which the media perpetuates gender-stereotyped ideas and behaviors.

 Such images of masculinity and femininity are often examined in relation to gender roles in society (Rohlinger, 2002; Aubrey & Harrison, 2004; Gerding & Signorielli, 2014). Murray (2013) argues that The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (CFRB), as a case study in the production and consumption of contemporary popular meanings of feminism and social change, opposes feminist politics that advocates liberation and renounces male oppression and focuses on an ideology of beauty that includes only appearance and behavior. The company thus contributes to undermining the feminist role to bring about social change for women.

In the context of the commercial, the sign on the level of denotation is the product type (shampoo) and features of the product. The meaning of semantics refers to the benefits of a product that enhances the characteristics of masculinity and compares it with women-related products that undermine the characteristics of masculinity. The sign on the level of myth interprets something other than the denotation level.

This argument is consistent with Katz’s (2003) idea that there are pressures exerted on men by the media that differ from those faced by women in that they face extreme social expectations. He argues that just as women are pressured to fit media-imposed definitions of femininity as physical beauty, delicacy, and submissiveness, men are also surrounded by media messages outlining the characteristics they must possess in order to be considered real men in society. Katz adds that masculinity is often defined in the media by physical toughness, control, and aggressive force, generating a violent role for them (Katz, 2003).

The theme that covers the commercial video consists of two aspects: “fun” and “wonder.” The fun aspect is represented in the advertisement when Diego’s hair is flying after he raises his head and when he runs to the market to get a bottle of shampoo. A funny image of men is related to gender meaning, and it is represented through the form of the main actor’s hair (woman’s hair). The wonder is represented in the commercial by the glowing brown woman hair of the main actor (Diego).

The wonder appears on Diego’s colleague’s face, having seen Diego’s hair. Diego’s colleague considers that Deigo is using women’s shampoo, which is not appropriate for men, or it is a “shame/demerit.” The commercial employs the gender ideology that there is something wrong when men have long and flowy hair. Masculinity characteristics would be affected if men had long hair because long hair is associated with women, and it would influence their masculine image. This might, in turn, depict women in a low rank. One of the functions of the commercial is to attach a negative image to those who do not use Dove shampoo to encourage them to encounter this image by using the product.

Based on the second-level signification of all the advertisements, there is only one idea offered by the advertiser, that is, women’s image against men’s image, which emphasizes the gender ideology within the advertisement. The commercial evokes men to use Dove shampoo and stimulates them to avoid a female appearance by buying the product. They would be real men after using Dove. Long hair is associated with women.

The commercial depicts the main character as he responds to a women’s shampoo commercial, and he uses this type of shampoo. The commercial suggests the myth that shampoo commercials have impacts on audiences (recipients) and can change their physical attributes, so this commercial encourages men to respond to it and consume the product. Therefore, men would see women’s objects as affecting their social values, such as masculinity.

 In this context, Katz (2003) shows that when media portrays images of masculinity to target a male audience, advertisers rely on these types of personas to appeal to men’s desire to be “real men.” He adds that this role was formed through advertisements and media outlets that constantly spread and accumulate messages of power, aggression, and domination. He argues that the pressure placed on men by the media is not only to look at them a certain way but also to “shape” them to be a certain way.

The commercial employs gender roles to target males as they are not supposed to be using what women use to exploit the gender conflict between males and females. When men purchase Dove shampoo, their identity is attached to the product. A common association occurs with the brand that, in turn, secures its existence in culture. Sean Nixon (1996) suggests that new man masculinity explores it as “a regime of representation” that focuses on four aspects of cultural circulation: television advertising, press advertising, menswear shops, and popular magazines for men.

 The visual expression of the flashback scene emphasized a myth that gender type can be changed if one uses the incorrect shampoo. The use of female shampoo is a danger to masculinity. Men should choose “men” shampoo before making a mistake by using “random” shampoo. It shows that “men’s shampoo” is a common product and exclusively acquires the market, and it is the dominant product over all other beauty products.

 It is also obvious that Dove uses gender ideology that fits the products it wants to sell. The brand tends to employ masculinity in men-related advertisements and uses femininity ideology in terms of women’s products. What Shepherd (2011) refers to is consistent with this idea. He argues that the use of sexuality in advertising helps sell products and that sex does help sell.

Moreover, the use of the pink women’s shampoo bottle and a picture of a woman with long hair on is to affirm that Deigo does use women’s shampoo, which has affected his hair. Pink color means the color that is produced when you mix red and white together (Oxford Dictionary). In the cultural meaning, pink is the official color of girls and represents feminine features such as softness and kindness. The commercial emphasizes the myth that shampoo products have effects on consumers that can change their shapes. The gender role is used to differentiate the physical characteristics of both men and women.

The man in the Dove advertisement seems to have self-esteem about men’s attributes, which distinguish them from the female gender. The slogan “Women’s shampoo was not made for you, men Dove care was” is used to show that women’s shampoo is “low-ranked,” whereas men would gain a prestigious feature if they tried Dove shampoo. In linguistic terms, the negative word “is not” is used in the commercial in order to show the uniqueness and unparalleled quality of the product. FITRA (2019) argues that the adoption of minor sentences in English advertisements takes less time for the audience to finish reading.

 Thus, it can make advertisements short and more clear, concise, distinctive, effective, and memorable. Furthermore, the advertisement focuses on the characteristics of manhood apart from color or any other distracting objects, so the audience can only concentrate on these characteristics to get the viewers’ attention to what can make them distinctive and sexy in their appearance.

Dove uses gender ideology to market products not only regarding the social status of men; it also tries to boost the ideology of women’s appearance in society to market products related to women. McCleary (2014) argues that Dove is a brand that targets women and claims to hold woman-positive ideals. It promotes a post-feminist, consumerist agenda that reinforces what Naomi Wolf titled “the beauty myth.”

The commercial indicated class differences in gender by drawing attention to the power of masculinity. On its website, Dove identified the Men+Care brand as its strength; {{Dove Men+Care celebrates a new definition of strength: one with care at its center. Because Dove Men+Care believes that care makes a man stronger, real strength is shown through the care you give to the people that matter – and that includes you (welcome to Dove Men+Care).” Bell Hooks (1984) criticized the race bias that occurs when power is solely conceptualized in terms of sex difference.

The orientation of the advertisement draws attention to unwanted female appearance through the slow motion of the man’s long hair; however, the advertisement fails to consider men who have long hair in reality. Thus, the advertisement might abuse them by denying manhood characteristics to those who intend to prolong their hair.

Moreover, the advertisement depicts the main character as a worker by using a work office as a filming location. This implies the occupation status stereotype of men, contrary to women’s commercial locations that are often located in the house, as a sign that their typical occupation status is “mother, housewife, etc.”

 This refers to the stereotyping of the prestigious status image of men in a society that encourages the male audience to obtain this status by buying Dove shampoo. Lončar et al. (2016) concluded that men should engage in “bodywork” through advertised products, activities, and/or practices in order to achieve their preferred social images. Kiran (2016) corresponds with this point that men were portrayed in advertisements as having professional status belonging to outdoor settings.

Acker (1990) mentions that the concept of “worker” is related to men, those who are committed to paid employment and “naturally” more suited to responsibility and authority, and this argument is consistent with Rohlinger (2002), who conducted a study using content analysis to determine the most prominent features of men in advertisements and their frequency. She argued that several roles have been identified as common representations, such as the hero, the breadwinner, the urban man, and the man at work. One of the most common images was found to be the man at work who is actively involved in his career or area of expertise.

While Acker (1990) points out that “the worker with “a job” is the same universal “individual” who in actual social reality is a man. The concept of a universal worker excludes and marginalizes women who cannot, almost by definition, achieve the qualities of a real worker because to do so is to become like a man” (p. 150). Such findings are similar to what Iiliäinen (2019), who examined gender representations in Dove’s advertising images. He argues that the men appeared to be energetic and doing something, while the women were merely pretending to be watched by the viewer in terms of their physical attributes. Also, he points out that it was shown that there were clear differences in the portrayal of the genders.


Dove constructs its video using verbal expressions to build literal content and visual expressions to create the implicit meaning of gender differences to evoke the audiences to obtain a positive feeling about its product. I have attempted to show how the commercial portrayed men as superior in society, so they are supposed to defend masculinity and their physical appearance. I have argued that gender stereotype is represented in an advertisement while men are doing their stereotyped roles in society. The commercial constructs and ideological gender meanings sell cultural value in addition to the product through the idea men would gain their biological attributes after consuming the product. The relationship was established between social value and the shampoo to create social meaning.

 To exploit gender conflict, the advertisement used men’s self-esteem and self-identity attributes to distinguish them from women and build a critical image of men who have long hair as they look like women. The analysis shows the Dove commercial reinforces the stereotype of the professional status of men by conceptualizing them as they are related to professional settings. The commercial tries to get men’s attention, those who do not care about their shampoo, and evokes them to use men’s shampoo just because they are “men.”

While this study deals with one advertisement, future research may examine more than one advertisement. It is still possible that there are aspects not covered by the method used in the analysis of this study. Future studies need to examine the images and words used in advertisements for women and men.


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Appendix (A)

Dove Men + Care Commercial Transcript

Brazilian Dove Commercial: 68 seconds.

Broadcast in 2013 in the Brazilian language.

Music: Girls sound with sound effects (cheery, exciting).

Diego’s work colleague comes to Diego’s office with some paper while he is lowering his head under his office table.

 Deigo’s colleague: Hmm, Deigo! (Phone voice in the background) In slow motion, Diego raises his head in a manner that shows his long, smooth brown hair and with girls sound and sound effects.

 His colleague was surprised after seeing Deigo’s hair.

Deigo: Yes!

(Deigo’s hair flying in slow motion)

Deigo’s colleague (surprised): Did you do something to your hair?

Deigo: No!

Deigo’s colleague: because it has a woman’s shampoo advertisement look.

Deigo: Really?

(Touches his hair and realizes what his hair looks like.)

Deigo’s colleague: It’s probably the shampoo you have been using.

(Deigo grabs a pink shampoo bottle with a woman’s head picture on it and returns as a flashback when he was having a bath. He runs to the supermarket to get a Dove shampoo. He takes a bath using Dove. Then, he gets man hair)


Narrator: Female shampoo was not for you; Dove men+ care was!

Commercial link:

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