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Men v women v animals in drug advertisements

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7121.1550 (Published 06 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1550
  1. Lars Breimer, is a pharmaceutical physician

    The advertising of prescription drugs is a specialised activity in Europe because unlike usual marketing it is aimed at the prescriber and not the consumer. A letter in the BMJ in 1996 pointed out that advertisements in the journal for drugs used to treat disorders with a negative image used women and rarely featured men. To investigate whether sexist stereotyping was universal I inspected the advertisements in several medical publications of Europe, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

    In Sweden the advertisement for sertraline (Zoloft, in Britain Lustral) showed birds soaring away, with one left behind looking sadly through a window. The Danes used a cheerful picture of a flower. In the Netherlands there was a stylised drawing of the outline of a man wearing a hat filled with blue sky and clouds in front of a brick wall. The journal in Norway carried a full page, frontal photograph of a young woman; another showed an older lady in a two page spread; and a third version (20% usage) had half a page of an older man photographed from above. American advertisements varied: one showed a young woman in a humorous pose with a cat; another …

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