Gender Neutrality In Advertisement- An Interview With Professor Robert Meeds

Charles Bogh, Mayra Martinez, Ximena Zepeda

Robert Meeds, Image from CSUF Dept. of Communications

Advertisements are executed differently based on the target audience. Pink, a color generally associated with a feminine color, is used for many women target products. Blue, generally associated with a more masculine product, is used for many male presenting products. But how would one go about creating an advertisement with a more inclusive audience and not following gender norms?

To get an idea of what research needs to be conducted when looking at various forms and tactics of advertisement, we sat down with Robert Meeds. Professor Meeds’s research focuses on the impact different forms of advertisement have on individuals. Meeds teaching areas at Cal State, Fullerton are advertising, integrated marketing communications, and public relations. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous research, and are you currently in the process of conducting research?

Meeds spent 11 years at Kansas State, where he was heavily involved in research and was a point of contact for many graduate students conducting their research. He has dabbled in different research areas and typically does not stay in the same topic framework, but his primary research interest revolves around persuasive language. Persuasive language is used to persuade the public to buy their products. This is done through billboards, flyers, social media, and other mediums where advertisements are promoted. Meeds is interested in the micro-level factors that copywriters can manipulate to make a difference in what people remember in hopes of producing more persuasive content.

If you try to be a jack of all traits you will be a master of none.

What are the steps you take when attempting to conduct research?

As researchers, one mustn’t feel unsure about trying different things in hopes of finding a correlation between two different things. Meeds’s research was explored by playing around with varying slogans of advertising, specifically sin texts. All of those various explorations in hopes of finding out if different sin texts make a difference in how people remember slogans. Empirical research is mostly experimental-based research based on observations and measurements. The majority of the research conducted by Meeds is experimental. This rests on the questions and hypothesis made and asked at the beginning of the research on whether x, the dependent variable, causes y, the independent variable. When looking at empirical methodologies, most of the steps taken are through a system where things are measured. The independent variables are put in categories such as treatment and control, and the dependent variables operate through a numerical line. Through these research steps, questions and hypotheses can be answered on whether the change observed is meaningful and if the statistic used to test correlates.

Empirical Research: Definition, Methods, Types and Examples | QuestionPro
An example of Empiracle Research method from QuestionPro

Did you encounter any problems or difficult obstacles when conducting your research?

Robert Meeds states that he had to handle unexpected problems during his research. For many years, Meeds has worked in the field of Communications specifically, advertising research. Meeds states that one should always expect the unexpected obstacles due to history. He goes further, indicating the challenges due to his field of study. The problems he struggles with does not end until the work has been peer reviewed and that is an obstacle within itself. Meeds states that when you finish a study and go to submit it, those reviewing your article may not have the narrow or specific expertise in that specific area of research, which can also be an obstacle.

Do you have any advice for those that are going to attempt to begin the research process that you learned through your experience in your own research?

 Professor Meeds not only gave us advice on how to conduct research, but did so through an example based on a general topic of research we presented him with. He began with, “If you are only presenting the topic, and if your research was based upon if color made a difference when advertising the assumption through advertisers is that you would use more colors that were thought historically to be more feminine for women, and use more masculine colors for men. I would center the ad around a gender neutral product. As well as using a Fictitious brand so there are no pre-existing biases.”

The Influence of Color in Marketing
Image taken from Adeo

 Without even describing the sample and execution of the ad, Professor Meeds has already described two essential steps in solidifying the credibility of a research study. He continued with, “You want everything about that ad to be as gender neutral as you can make it. The Imagery, the Typography, and the product itself. And having the one independent variable to be the color scheme.”

  Meeds was really emphasizing the importance of the survey. Describing this to be one of the most important factors of maintaining composition within your study. Listening to Professor Meeds walk us through his hypothetical allowed us to understand his thought process when conducting research. Who he chose to study and why, and their relation to the subject. In this instance he described using CSUF students that are ideally balanced out between male and females. To have a better understanding of not only how the younger generation viewed this ad, but their personal biases towards imagery and colors reflected their overall opinion and happiness of the ad.

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