In some cases, it can be very clear who the intended audience for a specific product is. Clues from the content of the ad, as well as the language used can make this very obvious. I have noticed a few somewhat subtle gender based differences, and I would like to examine them more thoroughly. In order to illustrate this, I will discuss two ads in which the target audience is indisputable: Dodge Charger and U by Kotex. I bet by the product names alone, the specific target audiences are evident.
In the ad for Dodge Charger, the deep masculine voiceover refers to the car as “man’s last stand.” If you weren’t sure of the intended audience before, I am quite certain that we are on the same page now. It is made quite clear that this commercial is intended for male audiences. This ad points out a number of things a man might do at the request of his female partner. It lists things like, “…I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave… I will say yes when you want me to say yes. I will be quiet when you don’t want to hear me say no… I will be civil to your mother. I will put the seat down… I will watch your vampire TV shows with you…” This long list of behaviours ends when the voiceover states, “… and because I do this, I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger: man’s last stand.” If you would like to watch the ad in its entirety, follow the link below.
In addition to the content, which I’m sure many men can relate to, this ad features only males (even the voiceover). I will (not so outlandishly) venture to say that it cannot be argued that this ad targets a female audience.
Moving on to the language in this advertisement. There are many things like expletives or use of slang that may differ between male and female speakers, but I won’t be able to investigate those here. This is because this ad is broadcast on television, and covers a specific topic, which limits the possible varieties of language. The language in this commercial is very factual and to the point. In terms of sentence structure, it is short and simple. It lacks embellishments and it is definitely not overly wordy; the information provided is just the minimum amount. The simple route also seems to be taken in terms of word choices, because there don’t seem to be many unnecessary descriptors. Overall, it seems to me as though the male’s speech in this case is a basic template that outlines what needs to be said, but is not elaborated on. For example, when the man says, “I will watch your vampire TV shows with you” I imagine that if it were a female speaking, it would sound more like, “I will watch your stupid sports show with you, that you know I hate.” Similarly, in this commercial he says, “I will eat some fruit as part of my breakfast.” A woman could get away with saying, “I will eat a delicious assortment of fruit as part of my breakfast.” If a man (particularly in the setting of this commercial) uttered the words “delicious assortment,” it is likely that he would receive some odd glances. Even in terms of prosody, there seems to be falling intonation at the end of each phrase. This is not completely surprising because the content is in list format. However, a clear difference in intonation patterns can be noticed between the male speaker in this ad, and the female speaker in the next ad.
Undoubtedly, a different audience is the target for the U by Kotex commercial. If you are unfamiliar, U by Kotex is a brand of feminine hygiene products. Based on your gender, you may or may not find this advertisement amusing. You may not even fully understand it. However, if you would like to take a look, click on the link below.
Based on the product alone, the target audience for this ad is clearly females. The purpose of this ad is to poke fun at previous ads for similar types of products, slightly over exaggerating their content in order to make the point clear. The female speaker in the ad says, “How do I feel about my period… I love it… Sometimes I just want to run on the beach… I like to twirl, maybe in slow motion…” This is followed by the slogan, Why are tampon ads so ridiculous. Just as the Dodge Charger ad consists of only male actors and a male voiceover, this U by Kotex ad is comprised of a female actress/speaker and a female voiceover.
In terms of language, there are many elements that point to a more feminine style. If you recall, I recently discussed the falling intonation in the Dodge Charger ad. In the U by Kotex ad, much of the ad is also phrased as a list, however, the female speaker uses much more rising intonation at the end of each item she lists. It seems as though she makes much more use of “uptalk” which is more common among females. She also says, “I want to hold really soft things… It makes me feel really pure… I really just want to dance… The ads on TV are really helpful” As you can see, the word “really” is used quite frequently in this 46-second ad. If a man were speaking, he would likely make less use of this adverb, or eliminate it entirely. The word choice is also more female specific; the speaker says things like, “twirl,” “pure” and “white spandex,” which probably occur less frequently in male speech. Overall her sentences are longer and more descriptive. At one point she even says, “and I’m like, oh, that’s what’s supposed to happen.” “Like” is very commonly used in female speech.
These are just some of the ways in which male and female speech styles can differ. It would be odd to find an ad directed at males that uses words or intonation characteristic of female speech. Advertisers take this into account. A successful ad is tailored to a specific audience. In addition to the ad’s content, language can be a very significant part of this, although it may not consciously register with the audience. Next time you see an ad and find that you are unfamiliar with the product, pay attention to the language; are you the target?