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Does Humour Influence Perceptions of the Ethicality of Female-Disparaging Advertising?

Grougiou, V., Balabanis, G. & Manika, D. (2020). Does Humour Influence Perceptions of the Ethicality of Female-Disparaging Advertising?. Journal of Business Ethics, 164, pp. 1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10551-018-4032-x


This article responds to calls for further research on ethical issues in advertising. The study examines whether advertising strategies which use female-disparaging themes are perceived as ethical, and what effect this has on ad and brand attitudes. It also examines whether or not humour assuages ethical evaluations of female-disparaging ads. The findings from an experimental research design, which included 336 British respondents, show that non-disparaging and non-humorous ads are considered to be the most ethical, while disparaging ads (regardless of the level of humour) are considered the least ethical. Across the board, female-disparaging ads are not perceived as ethical; however, high benevolent sexists appear to favour them most. Finally, an ad’s perceived ethicality mediates the relationship between ad disparagement and ad attitudes; likewise, an ad’s perceived ethicality and ad attitudes mediate the relationship between an ad’s female disparagement and brand attitudes. Female-disparaging ads should be avoided given that they are perceived as less ethical and given the impact that advertising has on behaviour, as well as on societal and moral values. Advertisers should also avoid using female-disparaging advertising themes, even light-hearted ones, since they constitute a risky strategy for the ad and the brand as they can backfire and alienate consumers.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Journal of Business Ethics. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Publisher Keywords: Disparagement, Perceived ethicality, Advertising, Humour, Sex, Sexism ideology
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
Text - Accepted Version
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