Yoga advertising emphasized health supplements and clothing targeted at women
Research Study At A Glance
The Research Question Asked
What images, formats, and frequency has Yoga Journal emphasized in their advertorials for yoga advertising over a recent 10-year period?
Type of Study
Quantitative content analysis study
Researchers analyzed the content in advertorials from Yoga Journal magazine over a 10-year period (2008-2017). They used a quantitative content analysis to determine the frequency of use, typical layout, and most commonly used image types in the advertorial type of yoga advertising.
Yoga Journal’s use of advertorials for yoga advertising increased over the 10-year period studied (2008-2017). Their advertorials were primarily a 1-page layout featuring images of women and the specific products being advertised.
Yoga Journal magazine has increased its use of advertorials over time. They feature primarily images of women and specific products in these ads.
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Critics of how yoga is depicted in mass media publications like Yoga Journal point out that models seem to fall into narrow categories of age, race, body type, and gender. For example, models tend to be young, white, slim, and female. However, yoga practices like asana, pranayama, and concentration or meditation practices, potentially benefit just about anyone. So yoga advertising targeting narrow subgroups of the population can be seen as suggesting that yoga is only relevant to the people highlighted in the ads.
In response to criticism, some yoga publications indicated that they are being more intentional about broadening the ideas conveyed and target audiences of their advertising. The researchers who completed the study we summarize here were curious about how Yoga Journal in particular targeted their advertorials. An advertorial is a specific type of ad designed to look like an editorial piece in a magazine. Because advertorials often don’t look like advertising, readers are more likely to be swayed by their messaging. The study we summarize here looked closely at Yoga Journal’s advertorials to see who and what they highlighted in these ads.
What images, formats, and frequency has Yoga Journal emphasized in their advertorials over a recent 10-year period?
In this study, the researchers addressed three questions:
- Has Yoga Journal increased, decreased, or not changed its frequency of using advertorials?
- What types of format and layout have they used in advertorials?
- What types of products and images appeared most often in their advertorials?
The research team looked at all advertorials in every issue of Yoga Journal over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017. Next, they sorted the content and layout of the advertorials into specific types within four categories: type of layout, type of product, image type, and single versus multiple pages. Then they completed a quantitative content analysis and summarized that information. Most simply, a quantitative content analysis is a method of counting the aspects of the content that someone wants to study and then summarizing how often those things appear. This study reported the results using summary statistics like percent of the time that something appeared in the advertorials they categorized. Multiple aspects of content (like a product image and a person) sometimes appeared in an advertorial at the same time. In that case, researchers counted both and included them in summary statistics.
- Yoga Journal’s use of advertorials increased over the 10-year period studied (2008-2017)
- Advertorials were mostly a 1-page layout (80.8%)
- The most common layout styles included one called “Off the Mat” which features products in six equally sized boxes (50.4%) and one that emphasized lots of text making it look the most like an editorial (42.4%)
- The most common types of products advertised were health supplements (63.2%) and clothes/shoes (48%)
- The most common images in advertorials featured women (72.8%) and the second most common featured specific products being advertised (74.4%)
Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?
Yoga practices have the potential to benefit just about everyone. That is, yoga practices are beneficial when we appropriately tailor them to each person’s situation, goals, and context. But, yoga advertising that overwhelmingly highlights products such as clothes and shoes, and uses images of women to sell them, has the potential to create a distorted view of what yoga is, what it does, and who it is for. As yoga teachers and studio owners, we have limited influence over what yoga-related magazines do. But, we do influence how potential students and current practitioners view yoga. So it’s relevant for us to consider what kind of image of yoga we portray on our websites, our social media, and in our studios.