While touring the Guinness factory in Dublin this weekend, we came upon the history of Guinness advertising section and found this little gem. I don’t think I have to convince anyone of the blatant racism portrayed in this ad; and though it might not have been a deliberate attack on Native Americans, the ignorance of advertisers in regards to cultural stereotypes still proves harmful. This topic is relevant because we have recently been studying the effects of stereotyping in the mass media; and though an ad like the one above may seem a little extreme for our time, stereotypes are still constantly being exploited for the sake of advertising and marketing.
“Advertisers would never do that today.” But wouldn’t they? Maybe not something so conspicuous as this, but certainly advertisers aren’t completely concerned with portraying minorities in a positive light if it means playing off stereotypes to sell their products and services. One example that had been in the news recently was the uproar over Mary J. Blige (an R&B artist) singing about fried chicken in a Burger King commercial. Blige told critics she had been misled as to how the ad would be shot; she thought it was going to be shot “in an iconic way,” and Burger King has since pulled the ad. Another ad that plays off of gender stereotypes is a billboard in Athens advertising used cars; the billboard features a beautiful woman posing provocatively and the caption under it reads “You know you’re not her first…but do you really care?” The ad implies that the woman is promiscuous, which is only assumed because of her attractiveness.
The bottom line is, an ad doesn’t have to be blatantly racist/sexist to prove harmful to minority groups. Some ads are more subtle, but still perpetuate negative stereotypes. This is why students of mass media should display cultural competence and adhere to a code of ethics in their line of work.