Explicating culture and its influence on magazine advertisements

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


International advertising, Gender, Content analysis, Cross-cultural, Culture, Magazine, Advertisements

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The research contributes two ideas to knowledge about culture and culture's influence on advertisements. The study takes a macro-level perspective while identifying cultural differences that are linked to gender portrayal variations in advertisements. A content analysis is used: advertisements in general interest magazines, read by men and women in 46 languages, from 108 countries.

Using an anthropological perspective, culture is explicated and a new model of cultural influence on advertising content is developed. The study, acknowledging that culture is difficult to measure, examines cultural or social constructions that result from groups of people adapting to different physical and social diversities, for example. Although not culture themselves, 74 country economic and social statistics, chosen for their impact on people's lives, are employed to operationalize the concept. In addition, a factor analysis reduces variables to underlying dimensions: Egocentric, Nationalistic, Feminine and Masculine. These update the literature by including new aspects of society, such as cell phone and Internet users. Cultural variables and dimensions are reviewed for their influence on advertisements, specifically people's images.

Findings show there are stereotypical portrayals in advertisements throughout the world. Not only do men outnumber women, but, men are depicted more in occupations, as spokespeople and in leisure, whereas, women are portrayed as models, in domestic situations and decorative roles. However, cultural differences are reflected in gender portrayal variations. In Feminine cultures, advertisements show more people and people in occupations and leisure, whereas in Masculine nations the appearance of people and their situations are unrelated. Advertisements in Nationalistic countries also show more people and people in occupations, while Egocentric countries show fewer people in these categories. The differences are believed to be their focus on people. For women's appearances, the Feminine dimension is not a predictor, due to the egalitarian nature of these nations. In contrast, Masculine and Nationalistic societies found more women in advertisements as spokespeople. It is suggested that women's images are used to capture attention and the role of spokesperson legitimatize women's appearances, especially in male-dominated cultures. Results illustrate that culture and communication are interwoven. Visuals in advertisements are different across cultures because they must be meaningful for groups.


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