THE SECOND GIANT:
PORTRAYALS OF WOMEN IN JAPANESE ADVERTISING
Dr. Anne Cooper-Chen
Scripps School of Journalism
Athens, OH 45701
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Japan, second only to the United States in spending on advertising, ranks
highest in the world on Hofstede's Masculinity Scale. This study's
of 1,132 models in TV and magazine ads found that men do indeed dominate
the "high-level business" occupational category. Women's main
"entertainer." Non-working Japanese women are found not in "family" as
much as "decorative" roles. Older women are much more visible on TV
magazine ads. Women are strongly associated with cosmetic products.
Submitted to the joint session on Women and Advertising, Association for
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
annual convention, Washington, D.C., August 1995.
THE SECOND GIANT: PORTRAYALS OF WOMEN IN JAPANESE ADVERTISING
Who can deny the importance of Japan on the world stage? Japan's 124
million people, who live in a country slightly smaller than California,
have developed the world's second largest economy. The Japanese $3
economy and the U.S. $5 trillion economy together make up 42 percent of
the world's GNP.
These two economic giants are also the world's two biggest spenders on
advertising--$123,930 million in the United States and $36,760.7
Japan for 1989 (nearly $500 per person in the United States and $300 in
Japan). Two of the world's 10 largest ad networks are in Japan (see
1). Dentsu, with $9,671.6 million in billings, is the world's second
largest agency after Saatchi and Saatchi (Japan Yearbook 1992). It equals
in size the next eight Japanese advertising agencies combined.
Advertising had dropped in 1992 and 1993, but rebounded in 1994.
Newspapers were up 1.1 percent over 1993; television, up 3.4 percent; and
magazines, up 1.6 percent (radio advertsising declined). (NSK 1995, p.
Table 2 shows that television took in more revenues than any other
medium--31.8 percent of the total in 1994.
Japanese Women: Role and Status
The year 1995 marks a propitious time to look at the progress of Asian
women. An internatinal U.N. conference will be held in Beijing Sept.
with a Non-Governmental Organization meeting scheduled for Aug.
The Beijing meeting will "review and appraise the advancement of women
since 1985" (WIN News 1994, p. 3), when a conference was held in
Kenya. The 1975-85 U.N. International Women's Decade significantly
The U.N. imprimatur led to the formation of grassroots women's
organizations and policy changes by the Office of the Prime Minister and
other government agencies. Most significantly, the Ministry of Labor
reforms within the Bureau of Women, renamed from the Bureau of Women
Minors. In June 1985, Japan's Equal Employment Opportunity law was
This legal milestone occurred "in spite of a Japanese male populace
was virtually unconcerned with the issue" (Kodama 1991, p. 10).
However, the law carries no penalties. High earning power, lifelong
employment and virtually all politcal powers still belong to men. On
Hofstede's (1984) Masculinity Index, Japan ranked highest of the 40
countries studied, with a 95 score. By contrast, the United States scored a
middle-range 62, while Norway (8) and Sweden (5) scored lowest. In high
masculinity cultures, women and men occupy different places; few women
professional and technical jobs, and they tend to be segregated from men
in higher education (Hofstede 1984, p. 177).
Indeed, 82 percent of four-year college students were men. Women's lower
enrollnment in four-year colleges can be partially attributed to the
of the Japanese Ministry of Education that encourages males to enter four
year colleges and females to enroll in junior colleges (Nester 1992).
the figure of 37.4 percent college enrollment for women and the
lower 35.2 percent figure for men is misleading.
Similarly, women only seem to play a major role in the work force. In
1988, 45 percent of Japanese women of all ages were in the work force,
a majority of younger women holding jobs. However, they earned half of
what men did (for U.S. women, the figure was 70 percent). Most
still follow a dual
employment track: professional (sogo shoku) for men and noncareer
(ippan shoku) for women.
Attitudes seem to be changing faster than practice. In 1989, 43 percent of
respondents agreed with the view that "a woman's place is in the home." In
1990, according to a survey of 5,000 people aged 20 and over conducted by
the Prime Mininter's Office, only 29 percent agreed (Japan Yearbook
Purpose and Significance of the Study
According to Kodama (1991, p. i), "to date there has been a severe lack of
English-language materials regarding Japanese women in the media." Indeed,
at AEJMC conferences over the past five years (1990-94), 23 papers were
presented on mass media in mainland China and Taiwan, but only seven
Japan in all subjects. This study will attempt to counteract that lack
exploring whether advertising conveys a true picture of the changing
of women in affluent Japan. Specifically, it will examine three
1. How are women vs. men portrayed in occupational roles?
2. What products are associated with female vs. male models?
3. What are the relative ages of male and female models?
Table 1. World's Top 50 Ad Groups in 1990
Name of group Gross income Billings
(Unit: $ million)
WPP Group 2,715.0 18,095.0
Saatchi & Saatchi Co. 1,729.3 11,861.7
Interpublic Group of Cos. 1,649.8 11,025.3
Omnicom Group 1,335.5 9,699.6
Dentsu Inc. 1,254.8 9,671.6
Young & Rubicam 1,073.6 8,000.7
Eurocom Group 748.5 5,065.7
Hakuhodo Inc. 586.3 4,529.4
Grey Advertising 583.3 3,910.4
Foote, Cone & Belding Communications 536.2 3,554.8
Source: Japan 1992 Marketing and Advertising Yearbook, p. 292
Table 2. Advertising Expeditures by Medium
Media Advertising Expenditures Component Ratio
(billion yen) %
1992 1993 1994 1992 1993 1994
Newspapers 1,217.2 1,108.1 1,121.1 22.3 21.6 21.7
Magazines 369.2 341.7 347.3 6.7 6.1 6.7
Radio 235.0 211.3 202.9 4.3 4.1 3.9
Television 1,652.6 1,589.1 1,643.5 30.3 31.0 31.8
Sub Totals 3,474.0 3,250.8 3,314.8 63.6 63.4 64.1
Other* 1,975.7 1,864.6 1,840.9 36.2 36.4 35.6
New media 11.4 11.9 12.5 0.2 0.2 0.3
TOTALS 5,461.1 5,127.3 5,168.2 100% 100% 100%
*Direct mail, fliers, outdoor, transit, POP, directories;
Source: NSK News Bulletin, p. 5
II. RELATED RESEARCH
Pollay (1986) has termed advertising "the distorted mirror" because it
reflects or reinforces only certain attitudes, behaviors and
life-styles and philosophies that serve the sellers' interests. The
distortion has at least two facets. First, the conflicting images used to
sell products may show actual female role conflicts (Scott 1993, p.
advertisements tell us much about the ups and downs,
the back and forth, of the discourse on beauty . . .
In each [time period], the themes of "modern" versus
"traditional," "proper" versus "unconventional" ca be
Second, a "cultural lag" may exist between advertising's presentation of
women and their current, changing status in society (O'Toole 1982).
Content studies on sex roles have documented patterns in the portrayals of
women and men, while experimental studies (e.g., Stephany 1990) have shown
ads' possible effects on behavior and attitudes. Kilbourne (1990, p.30)
underscored the need for such research: regarding "sex descrimination
the workplace, it appears that there may be contributory influence so
as stereotypical sex roles are used in advertising and the media in
general." More than 300 studies in English have explored the complexities
of sex roles and advertising (Courtney and Whipple 1983). This study's
foci--products, occupation and age--have precedents in earlier work.
Sex-Role Research on U.S. Advertising
Products. Busby and Leichty (1993) analyzed ads in women's magazines over
time. Cleaning products, the most visible item in 1959, fell
in 30 years, accounting for 20 percent of ads in 1959; 14 percent in
and 1979; and only 7 percent in 1989. Food, beauty products and
care items remained strong throughout the 30 years. Interestingly, in
percent of beauty product ads, models had a decorative role (no
activity was shown, just the model with a plain background).
Occupation. Since the 1970s, many advertising research studies have
investigated the employment status of women (e.g., Courtney and Lockeretz
1971; Wagner and Banos 1973; Butler and Paisley 1974; Belkaoui and
1976; and Lazier-Smith 1988. Busby and Leichty (1993), studying 616
female models, found that those in family roles decreased from 23 percent
in 1959 to 10 percent in 1989; those in decorative roles increased
percent in 1959 to 71 percent in 1989; and those employed, though
depicted, increased from 1 percent in 1959 to 5 percent in 1989.
Age. Studying ads in four women's magazines, England
Kuhn and Gardner (1981) found no decline in age discrimination against
women 1960-1979. Similarly, Busby and Leichty (1993) found a consistency
young, female models. At the other extreme, models aged 55 and over
remained at 1 percent in 1959 and 1989 (male models were not coded).
Sex-Role Research on Japanese Advertising
Gender research in Asian societies is a recent phenomenon, given
impetus by the U.N. Decade for Women, 1975-85. These studies, many
with China (e.g., Cheung 1986) generally discovered differing spheres
men and women. A dearth of Japan scholarship derives partly from the
Japanese academic system, which does not stress mass media as a discipline
for either professors or students. Thus "Japanese research has not
impressive as Japanese industrial products" (Ito 1992, 28). A few
do exist, however.
Nakazawa (1993) studied 318 one- and two-page color ads in February and
March 1993 issues of nine magazines: three for both sexes (Shukan
Dime, and Aera), three for men (Brutus, Popeye and Jiyujikan) and
women (An.an, With and Fujin Gaho). Of the 318 ads, 186 contained
Caucasian models. Nakazawa (1993, p. 5) concluded that "Japanese base their
standard of physical beauty on Western qualities."
Ramaprasad and Hasegawa (1990) analyzed 410 prime-time TV commercials that
aired on four Japanese television stations during a constructed week in
July and August 1987. They found that Japanese commercials use the
emotional appeal more than the informational appeal, sometimes with very
indirect product selling approaches. The most often advertised product
category was food and drinks (34.1 percent), followed by toiletries/
detergents (16.3 percent) and services (12.7 percent).
An average of 29.29 commercia1s (10 minutes, 11 seconds) aired per hour,
the majority (64.4 percent) 15 seconds long, with about a third 30
long (31.5 percent). Broadcast regulation in Japan allows a maximum of
commercial minutes per 60-minute program. However, by airing many
programs, networks can boost TV commercial time (a program as short as
minutes can have a one-minute commecial). Thus TV viewers are bombarded
Since Sengupta (1994) studied TV ads and used the same categories as the
present study in the same time frame as the present study, his work
serve as our main benchmark for comparison. Between December 1992 and
1993, Sengupta (1994) studied 18 hours of randomly chosen TV shows to
yield 507 commercials portraying 367 males and 480 females. Of these,
percent of males, but only 16.5 percent of women, were in working
The sex of the model and the type of working role were significantly
lated. Interestingly, voice-overs were more often female than male.
The most prominent roles for working women (N=79) were entertainment (35.4
percent), mid-level business (29.1 percent) and blue collar (15.2
percent). Men (N=123) had the same top three categories, but in differing
order. Many more women (N=401) did not work than worked; decorative
percent) was the largest female category by far. For men (N=244), the
largest non-working category was relaxing (33.2 percent).
Almost three-quarters of commercials (73.9 percent) showed single people,
which reflects marketers' emphasis on young consumers. They must be wooed
because they influence their parents' purchasing decisions and cannot
counted on to follow traditional Japanese consumer habits. In 1984,
formed a subsidiary aimed at targeting young female shoppers. After
and before marriage, most young "office ladies" live with their
leaving their incomes 100 percent disposable. Since average age at
marriage is nearly 26 (nearly 29 for men), that period lasts many
After they marry, women still control spending, as men turn over their
entire salaries to their wives (Solo 1989).
According to Krippendorff (1980), content analysis seeks to understand
data not as a collection of physical events but as symbolic phenomena.
study seeks understanding about gender roles of women and men in Japan
through images in both broadcast (television) and print (magazine)
With one TV set per 1.8 people in Japan, television reaches virtually
everyone. Television surpassed newspapers in 1975 as the mass medium
the largest advertsing revenues. Each Japanese spends an average of
hours per day watching one of the five commercial channels (Nihon TV,
Fuji TV, TV Asahi and TV Tokyo), as well as one hour and two minutes
watching non-commercial NHK (NHK survey, June 1993.
In 1990, magazine circulation in Japan increased over 1989 for weeklies by
6.2 percent; for monthlies, by 6.0 percent. In 1989, more than 2,000
monthlies (circulation 2,524 million) and 72 weeklies (circulation 1,716
million) were being published.
Magazines have several advantages for sex-role research. First, magazines
usually contain a great number of ads showing people. Second, many
on the portrayal of women in the past have used magazine
(e.g., Courtney and Lockeretz 1971, Butler and Paisley 1984 and
1993), facilitating comparison. Third, their permanence means that the
consumer (and the researcher) can review them repeatedly.
Selection of Advertisements
Three magazines from 1990 were selected: AERA (weekly), circulation
400,000, in the general-interest category; Non.no (published on the 5th
20th of each month), circulation 1.47 million, which appeals to young
working and college-age women; and Nikkei Business (biweekly),
260,000, in the men's category. For AERA and Nikkei Business, one
month was randomly selected. For Non.no, which had many more ads than the
other two, six issues were studied: February 20, April 5, July 5,
October 20 and November 20.
Full-page magazine advertisements showing photographs (black and white
or color) of adults were studied. Models in background groups whose faces
measured less than 1/4 inch were omitted. Repeated advertisements were
counted only once per magazine.
Award-winning Japanese TV commercials from the 1980s were also coded. Of
50 honored by the London Advertising Awards,
commercials had adult models. Background figures not clearly visible were
not coded. Because the dialogue/ narration gave valuable clues, a
speaker of Japanese did the coding. Voiceovers were defined as sales
pitches, not singing or talking.
1. Employment Status. Of the 10 status categories, six define occupation
and four deal with models in non-work roles. Obviously many ads show
model and a product, but no setting; the model's role in this case was
coded "decorative," even if the model was seriously at work
The occupation of the models was determined by their attire (e.g.
uniforms), their surroundings, their use of certain tools or instruments,
the tasks they perform or are asked to perform, and the occupation of
people around them. For example, a well-dressed person on an airplane
using a lap-top computer was coded "high level business."
These occupational categories were based on those developed by
Courtney and Lockeretz (1971):
(1) High-level business executives
(2) Professionals (e.g. doctors, lawyers, teachers)
(3) Entertainment, arts and sports (e.g. movie stars, authors,
professional athletes, painters)
(4) Sales, middle-level business, semi-professional (e.g.
salesman, officers, nurses, beauticians, waiters, chefs. clerks)
(5) Blue collar (e.g. factory workers)
(6) Military/public serivce/clergy
(8) Recreational (e.g., eating or drinking in restaurant, golfing,
(9) Decorative (e.g., demonstrating products)
2. Product Category. These products are organized following
a scheme developed by Venkatesan and Losco (1975):
(1) Food/ non-alcoholic beverages
(2) Clothing/fabrics/clothing accessories (e.g. shoes, hats)
(3) Cosmetics/perfume/beauty aids (including men's grooming products)
(4) Drugs/personal hygiene/diet supplements/ contact lenses
(5) Cleaning products/services
(6) Tourism (e.g. package tours, hotels, airlines, resorts)
(7) Furniture/household products/condominiums & home sales
(8) Home appliances (e.g. refrigerators, stoves, vacuums)
(9) Accessories (e.g. jewels, watches, cameras)
(12) Entertainment/information (e.g. movies, magazines, books, computers,
data services, pens, CDs, tapes)
(13) Auto and related products/services and transportation
(14) Financial (e.g. banks, insurance, investments, credit cards)
(15) Institutional ads, including schools & home instruction
A notation was made if a model was over 50. One main criterion was grey
hair. Certain personalities were known to be over 50, and a few ads
mentioned the person's age.
IV. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
For this project exploring the image of contemporary Japanese women,
researchers coded a total of 664 magazine and 35 TV advertisements. The
study's unit of analysis was the model--1,052 of whom appeared in
ads and 80 in TV commercials (an average of 1.6 models per magazine
per TV ad).
As Table 3 shows, more than half the magazine models (57.8 percent) were
women. This result for Japan corroborates Busby and Leichty's (1993,
257-258) U.S. finding that "advertising in women's magazines
and nontraditional) is a women's world." When Japanese women's
with their many female models are included in a study, they tip the
world" population to a female majority.
By contrast, the television "ad world" is populated more by men (57.5
percent) than by women (42.5 percent). The broadcasting of TV signals
differs from the narrowcasting of magazines, which can target a special
audience of women by using models demonstrating female-only products
makeup and clothes). Similarly, of 32 TV commercials with voiceovers,
percent featured males. This finding that does not agree with Sengupta
(1994). Possibly differing from his study, this one defined "voiceover"
the authority delivering the sales pitch or naming the product, rather
as the narrator's voice explaining the action taking place in the
In the interest of space, we will not present data separately for the
three magazines (general interest, women's and men's) in the study.
were included to give a balanced picture of Japanese advertising
draw contrasts among them.
1. Occupational Roles
Table 4 includes Sengupta's (1994) data for television because, with its
large number of models (847), it gives a better picture of TV
than the small number of models (80) in TV ad award winners from the
Furthermore, it roughly corresponds with the 1990 time frame and large
scope of the magazine ads analyzed (1,052). Sengupta (1994) used the
occupation categories as the present study.
As Table 4 shows, on all three measures, fewer women than men are
represented in the top two occupational categories. More than 10 percent of
Japanese men are shown in high-level business roles, while fewer than 5
percent of working women occupy this position (in the categories with
Ns). Women have one sanctioned work role: entertainment/sports, which
includes celebrity endorsements of products. Men, on the other hand,
various choices of pursuits in the ad world of work.
The vast majority of female models do not work--about 80 percent for both
1990s magazine and TV ads; their dominant non-working role is
Of the non-working roles, about half the men are engaged in
The 16 coded categories in Table 5 represent a broad segment of East Asian
life. Japanese males show a strong presence in magazine ads for
entertainment/ information products (28.4 percent), which includes
computers. Not surprisingly, Japanese women have a monumental association
with cosmetics (24.1 percent) and drugs/ hygiene (11.3 percent).
For TV commercials, both sexes appear consistently in conjunction with
entertainment/ information products like stereo equipment (40 percent
male models and 23.5 percent of female models). The absence of
within the 1980s TV commercials probably means that no cosmetics
Even though respect for the aged is a tenet of the culture, magazine
readers will not find older Japanese women pictured in advertising (one
of 577 female models was over 50). Older men are a more vibrant part of
the magazine advertising scene (8 percent of male models in Japan).
Older women fare better on television. Because TV commercials often take
the form of mini-dramas, some of which center around home life,
grandmothers sometimes appear. Just over 10 percent of male and female TV
models are over 50.
Table 3a. Gender of Models in Japanese Advertising
male models female models total
Magazines 475 (45.2%) 577 (54.8%) 1,052 (100%)
1980s TV 46 (57.5%) 34 (42.5%) 80 (100%)
1990s TV* 367 (43.3%) 480 (56.7%) 847 (100%)
Table 3b. Gender of Voiceovers in Japanese TV Commercials
male voice female voice total
1980s TV 26 (84.0%) 5 (16.0%) 31 (100%)
1990s TV* 310 (69.5%) 136 (30.5%) 446 (100%)
*Source: Sengupta (1994)
Table 4: Occupations of Models Depicted in Japanese Advertising
MAGAZINES 1980s TELEVISION 1990s TELEVISION*
WORKING N=297 N=135 N=19 N=12 N=123 N=79
M F M F M F
% TOTAL N 62.6% 23.4% 41.3% 35.3% 33.5% 16.5%
business 12.8% 1.5% 0 0 19.5% 3.8%
fessional 39.1% 11.9% 36.8% 8.3% 24.4% 29.1%
ment/ Sport 32.7% 54.1% 36.8% 50.0% 23.6% 35.4%
4. Sales, middle-
level business 10.8% 31.9% 10.5% 41.7% 0 2.5%
5. Blue collar 2.6% 0 15.7% 0 26.8% 15.2%
6. Public 2.7% 0.7% 0 0 5.5% 2.5%
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
X2=74.3 p<.001 X2 not calculated X2=18.71 p<.001
NON WORKING N=178 N=442 N=27 N=22 N=244 N=401
M F M F M F
% TOTAL 37.5% 76.6% 58.7% 64.7% 66.5% 83.5%
7. Family 4.5% 1.8% 22.2% 54.5% 9.4% 21.4%
8. Recreational 46.1% 19.9% 48.1% 18.2% 50.4% 30.7%
9. Decorative 47.8% 77.4% 7.4% 9.1% 27.9% 43.1%
10. Other 1.7% 0.9% 22.2% 18.2% 12.3% 4.7%
100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
X2=52.1 p<.001 X2 not calculated X2=72.87 p<.001
TOTAL N 475 577 46 34 367 480
*Source: Sengupta (1994)
Table 5. Product Categories and Models Depicted in Japanese Advertising
MAGAZINES TELEVISION 1980s
PRODUCT N=475 N=577 N=46 N=34
CATEGORY M F M F
1) Food/ non- 4.3% 6.6% 6.5% 5.9%
2) Clothes 8.8% 10.9% 0 8.8%
3) Cosmetics 3.4% 24.1% 2.2% 0
4) Drugs 4.6% 17.3% 10.9%
5) Cleaning 0 0.7% 0 0
6) Tourism 10.5% 6.1% 4.3% 0
/housing 0 0.8% 0 2.9%
8) Appliances 0.9% 2.1% 2.2% 0
cameras 2.9% 2.4% 0 0
10) Liquor 8.6% 2.4% 0 0
11) Tobacco 0.6% 0.5% 0 0
12) Info/ 28.4% 12.8% 40.0% 23.5%
13) Auto/ trans-
portation 6.3% 2.9% 0 11.8%
14) Financial 6.3% 2.4% 8.7% 14.7%
15) Institution 8.6% 2.3% 19.6% 2.9%
16) Misc./other 4.6% 5.7% 4.3% 5.9%
Totals 100% 100% 100% 100%
X2=217 p<.001 X2 not calculated due to
Table 6. Models' Ages in Japanese Advertising
# males 50+ Total % # females 50+ Total %
Magazine 38 475 8.0% 1 577 0
1980s TV 6 46 10.7% 4 34 11.8%
This study of sex roles as revealed through advertising's "shorthand form
of communication" (Lazier-Smith 1989, p. 248) can be compared with
previous U.S. research, previous Japanese research and "reality." As
the Japanese real world, a majority of models in magazine and TV
advertising are women (54.8 percent in 1990 Japanese magazine ads; 56.7
percent in 1992-93 TV ads).
But men hold the lion's share of power, exemplified by the 84 and 70
percent male authority voiceovers that boom out of TV sets.
Men and women occupy different roles in the ad world. Japan shows a clear
clustering of men in the high-level business and professional
but conspicuous absence of women at the highest level (about 2-3
For the United States, Sengupta (1994) found 6.6 percent of U.S. women
high-level business roles on TV ads, a larger figure than in the
ad world. In fact, reality shows similar trends. U.S. women occupy
percent of U.S. managerial posts, whereas Japanese women occupy only
percent of such posts.
An interesting match occurs with Courtney and Lockertz's early (1971)
finding of "entertainer" as the top female professional category.
like to see pretty female TV personalities hawking products in both
ads and on television (see Appendix II). It's OK for Japanese women to
in the ad world if they work for our enjoyment.
More non-working than working women appeared in Japanese ads. In the
United States, Sengupta (1994) found 30.5 percent of women working in the
ad world. Both nations under-represent the percentages of women and
really do work in favor of showing people at play or without any context
at all (Appendix I shows a typical decorative/ no context ad).
Family situations are surprisingly unrepresented in the 1990s in Japan.
Given the poll data that shows a recent major shift of opinion (only
percent of Japanese think a woman's place is in the home), the 1990s TV
magazine ads that deemphasize family roles reflect current Japanese
attitudes. The 1980s small number of TV non-working women (22) makes the
family role loom disproportionately large (54 percent) because a
award-winning ads that featured family mini-dramas. On the other hand,
tudes did change dramatically from the 1980s to 1990s. The ads may
Cosmetics are prominent and cleaning products are noticeably absent in
magazine ads on both sides of the Pacific. Busby and Leichty (1993)
the demise of products like floor wax, detergents and disinfectants
their rank as the number 1 product in 1959. Likewise, in Japan such
products are absent in both TV and magazine ads.
The absence of products associated with drudgery surely reveals the
affluence of both U.S. and Japanese societies. Every family has to arrange
for a clean house; persuasion is needed regarding the nonessential
products--those that "sizzle," not those of a banal nature. For both men
and women, the "sizzlers" include stereos, computers and CDs. The
prominence of these items on TV ads did not match Ramaprasad and Hasegawa's
(1990) finding of food and drink as the most prevalent TV product.
3. Age and beauty
Ageism operating against women in print ads seems universal and
long-standing. The mature U.S. ad population thins out at age 40 to about 4
percent of women (England, Kuhn and Gardner 1981), and thins even more
over 55, to about 1 percent. In Japan, senior citizens fare better on
television than in the magazine world, where mini-dramas can feature
multiple old and young characters. Fewer models (an average of 1.6) can
crowd into a magazine advertisement. The static print ad must highlight
character to associate it with a product--often a young woman in order
attract the targeted OLs ("office ladies") in their 20s with
Although not a part of this study, the issue of foreign standards of
beauty imposed on Japanese women has been analyzed (Nakazawa 1993). In
fact, coders did notice many Caucasian models in both TV and print ads.
the articial manipulation of bodies does not seem as prevalent as in the
West; a model can have less than perfect teeth and even a flat chest
Limitations of study
Unlike some U.S.-based research (e.g., Busby and Leichty 1993), the
present study did not track change over time. Unfortunately, it is hard to
go back in time when studyding popular media in Japan. Back issues of
popular Japanese magazines are extremely difficult to locate. Likewise,
many more TV commercials should be studied. Unfortunately, no Japanese
version of the Vanderbilt Archive exists with tapes the public can use.
If the 1990s prove to represent the end of an era in Japan, a profitable
course will include future studies to track emerging changes. With
and mores changing in unprecedented ways, the advertising mirror seems
bound to reflect that process.
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