Means Of Manipulation In American And Russian Commercials: Gender Perspective


The article is devoted to the analysis of manipulative techniques of non-verbal behaviour in advertisements as viewed from gender perspective. A comparative analysis of various forms of non-verbal behaviour of Russian and American women showed the peculiar images and communicative tactics used in commercials. This enables the advertisers to manipulate with the image of the product. For this various types of non-verbal human behaviour are exploited. The main types of feminine non-verbal behaviour in such situations are mimics, miremics and different kinds of touching and coming close.  It is argued that specific non-verbal behaviour evokes positive emotions of a woman in intergender communication and causes the same reaction in other communicators. It is shown that in Russian commercials involving women characters feminine non-verbal behaviour correlates with the image of a decent housewife and affectionate mother as well as with the creation of the image of a woman-saviour while to the main means of persuasion in American commercials is referred the creation of the image of femininity and the concept of “love” via different types of non-verbal behaviour. Manipulative techniques that create positive emotional state are identified, as well as their relationship with the non-verbal behaviour of female characters, which have a great impact on all those involved in interaction of the commercial.

Keywords: Genderemotional impactmanipulationnon-verbal communication


It is widely believed that women and men are fundamentally different from each other. Indeed, the belief that men and women have different traits, abilities and inclinations permeate all age groups, all time periods and all cultures (Deaux & Lofaro, 2016). Such beliefs, known as gender stereotypes, have been found to be very strong. Two dimensions, society and environment, encompass many distinctive features (Ellemers, 2018). Women are usually believed to have social needs, e.g. to care for the well-being of others, which is also evident in their self-characterizations (Chang, 2017; Hentschel et al., 2019).

Therefore, it is not surprising that people believe that women and men exploit different non-verbal behaviour. It is also believed that women best send and decipher non-verbal messages.

On the contrary, men are considered louder and more often interrupting interlocutors and exhibit more restless body movements and “blurred” voice behaviour, such as inserting filled and unfilled pauses during a conversation. The question here, as in the case of stereotypes more generally, should be the reliability or accuracy of such beliefs.

There are more gender beliefs than just assumptions, such as the idea that women express more positive emotions than men. It is believed that men and women not only use a different “repertoire” of non-verbal behaviour, some types of non-verbal behaviour are understood a priori as female or male.

Problem Statement

The correlation of verbal and non-verbal components in the course of interaction may be of different nature. Video may be used as a complement to verbal part of a commercial or it may dominate over the latter. Advertising of one and the same product is given in the form of a certain plot in which a detailed description of the product is provided. The use of non-verbal components (even in the cases when the verbal part is missing) cannot be overestimated. So, it is the video constituent of the ad that influences consumer’s behaviour.

The tendency to minimize the text message and the impossibility of its interpretation without viewing the video indicates the high efficiency of the latter in the implementation of the attractive function of advertising and the impact on the potential buyer. These findings are supported by marketing research, showing an annual reduction in the volume and budget of print advertising in favor of television and Internet media which broadcast video clips.

Advertisers strive to bring home to their consumers the idea of explicit and implicit differences between male and female gender, which resulted in creating a specific type of language including both verbal and non-verbal components of communication. Thus, the scholars discussing the problems of advertising are fully aware of the fact that the non-verbal constituent of an advertisement is of great importance. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of people’s non-verbal behaviour in advertisements has been studied least of all.

Research Questions

A significant amount of empirical work was examined by scientists on how and to what extent female non-verbal behaviour differs from male. However, many studies have been focused on the description of gender differences or have been explanatory of some of the facts available.

As we know, the presence of even small deviations in the environment can increase or minimize the expression of non-verbal differences in the behaviour of men and women, so that gender differences in using particular body language (for example, a smile) will be more visible in certain contexts and less or even absent in others.

The key point is that certain aspects of a communicative situation (for example, the presence of third parties) can make gender norms and expectations more prominent and, thus trigger more gender-normative behaviour. This is very revealing when using a smile (Lischetzke et al., 2020). According to studies, women are more prone to this sort of communication than men, but the difference is even greater when the participants feel like they are being watched (Heintz et al., 2017).

However, gender composition has the opposite effect on the use of miremics (or gaze), so the greatest gender differences occur in same-sex rather than mixed dyads (Hall & Gunnery, 2013; Schmitt, 2016). Women, as a rule, look at their interaction partners more than men do; there is also a tendency that they are looked at more than men are.

Finally, situational requirements can predetermine gender norms that affect gender differences in non-verbal signals. Different tasks and roles often prescribe specific non-verbal behaviour of communication participants. The impact of such a situational requirement often minimizes gender differences in non-verbal behaviour. For example, although women tend to smile more than men do, this difference is significantly reduced in a situation where both men and women display care (Heintz et al., 2017).

Likewise, although women on average more often turn their face to interaction partners, both men and women orient their bodies towards each other when a situation of flirtation occurs. However, there are social contexts in which gender polarization is assumed, in which case gender differences in non-verbal behaviour are most prominent.

Women are more accurate than men in the production and transmission of non-verbal signals – therefore the latter are more accurate in reading non-verbal behaviour of women than male non-verbal signals. Overall, this gender difference is clearly revealed in the Hall’s meta-analysis (Hall & Gunnery, 2013).

Although cultural stereotypes are full of proofs that women are more emotional than men, empirical evidence does not confirm this gender difference.

In fact, although women have been observed more emotionally expressive than men, women and men are reported to experience the same emotions as those with the same degree of intensity.

Although women and men seem to experience the same emotions to the same extent, feminine nonverbal behavior is more expressive (and more explicit) than male.

Quite a number of studies have observed and keep observing gender roles and their relation to media and advertising effectiveness (March et al., 2015; Mavin et al., 2016; Neuman, 2016; Segijn & Eisend, 2018).

In Russian science, the study of images of men and women, gender stereotypes in public consciousness has been carried out since the late 80-s of the XX-th century. A great contribution to the study of gender stereotypization in various spheres of society was made by Groshev (2000), Dudareva, (2003), Kreidlin (2005), Sidorskaya and Radu (2014), Zharnikova (2016) etc. There is a group studies that examine the functioning of gender stereotypes in the field of language and linguistic consciousness (Kartashkova & Gatalova, 2018; Kreidlin, 2005; Ganina & Kartashkova, 2006). Gender stereotypes are understood as standardized ideas about patterns of behaviour and character traits that correspond to the concepts of “male” and “female”. Gender stereotypes are the most striking and effective mechanism for the formation of traditional gender behaviour and social roles (Zdravomyslova & Temkina, 2015).

Researchers of Russian advertising have revealed what the main roles are fixed in advertising when reflecting male and female images. A woman acts in a rigidly fixed role of a housewife, wife, mother. The methods of perception and demonstration of male and female images in commercial television advertising have also been established (Traykovskaya, 2016; Turutina & Tonoyan, 2010; Sidorskaya & Radu, 2014; Zharnikova, 2016). A variety of approaches to gender representations are presented in studies on the specifics of Russian cultural representations of sex. As the researchers note, general gender-role models of modern world are formed and implemented due to advertising, the perception of which occurs through specific vivid details the advertising image is so rich in (Yudina & Sadikov, 2016). It has been shown that the media, being a translator of stereotypical images of women, determine the characteristics of all her behavioral attitudes and ideas about her role in modern society (Sverbikhina & Mishanin, 2010).

Researchers in Russian advertising have turned to its non-verbal component. So, types of specific non-verbal behaviour in advertising were established depending on gender. A thorough analysis of the problems of gender non-verbal behaviour is presented in the works of the psychologist Groshev (2000), who developed the matrix “non-verbal means of communication” that records the features of non-verbal human behaviour in the gender aspect. The established differences in the “genderized” physical language of communication allowed the author to talk about the existence of a “genderlect” that contains not only verbal, but also non-verbal components of communication that work to create stereotyped male and female images. The main mechanisms of the influence of gender on the perception of advertising are established. (Groshev, 2000). Scientists have established the relationship between physiological and genetic differences between the sexes and the existing social, historical and cultural prerequisites for the emergence of gender stereotypes. It is also shown how stereotypes affect the perception of advertising, on the credibility of advertising, whose gender features are traced in the advertising of certain product categories (Dudareva, 2003). Constructs and discursive practices, performative and transitive techniques of behavioural acts used in advertising to represent masculinity and femininity are examined. It was revealed that the behavioural models created by advertising “construct” some gender essence (Groshev, 2000).

Purpose of the Study

However, the above-mentioned works do not reflect such important aspects of advertising as the exploitation of various types of non-verbal behaviour of women. It is important for us to understand how manipulation is achieved by using various non-verbal components of communication.

This study aims to understand which manipulative means in American commercials (AC) and Russian commercials (RC) contribute to their better effectiveness. The types of non-verbal behaviour are studied empirically: the accuracy of coding and decoding of smile, gaze, touch, personal distance, body orientation, gestures and postures and vocal non-verbal behaviour.

Research Methods

In the course of the study, a complex technique (including methods of comparative, visual, socio- and psycholinguistic analyses) was applied and followed by linguistic interpretation of the data. The research material includes 90 videos of Russian and American production. These commercials were identified according to the place of manufacturing. The advertising agency producing the commercial was also taken into account.


In spite of the fact that in modern world the demarcation line between the traditional roles becomes vague and gender stereotypes are “fading”, it is considered that in Russian society the woman keeps playing her traditional role that is the role of a mother and a housekeeper, while American society is much more feminized.

However, our analysis of a large number of both Russian and American commercials proves that advertising as a special type of communication is highly stereotyped and explores its characters so that their gender and social adherence is identified by the potential consumer without effort. The results are presented in Figure 1 .

Figure 1: Results of analysis
Results of analysis
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The study showed that the largest percent of total number of videos include the images of men and women that are not married (38%). They are concentrated around communication that unfolds dynamically between the characters and emotionally involve the recipient. Videos showing relationships in the family amount to 18%.

The perlocution is reached mainly due to female characters appearing as the main character in 28% of commercials. Males are in focus of 16% of videos.

Female characters (whose non-verbal behaviour and emotions are congruent with their gender and social roles) are most attractive to recipients, as their non-verbal behaviour sets them up for a positive emotional state and thus affects the creation of a positive image of the product advertised. That is why female images are more frequently used in all types of advertising and various types of non-verbal feminine behaviour are employed by advertisers in order to evoke positive emotions, which in the long run affects the consumer behaviour.

Our research showed that different types of feminine non-verbal communication are widely used by the advertisers for expressing emotions and imposing them on consumers, which is supposed to contribute to the perlocutionary effect.

RC involving women characters show that feminine non-verbal behaviour in advertisements in most cases correlates with the image of a decent housewife and affectionate mother. Advertisement stimuli are achieved with the help of non-verbal components that express enjoyment from the product. The main types of feminine non-verbal behaviour in such situations are mimics, miremics and different kinds of touching and coming close which contribute to intimate relationships between the communicators. Specific non-verbal behaviour evokes positive emotions of a woman in intergender communication which are observed when the woman is tasting the product. Men in such situations are presented as a rather passive part of communication.

To the most frequently used types of feminine non-verbal behaviour we refer phonation, mimics, miremics and tactile ones. All of them are of positive nature and imply excellent quality of the product. Positive emotional state of the other communicators that is shown in the commercial, manifests positive changes of the emotional state of all those involved in this piece of advertising. It is typical of RC to show the process of cooking a meal with the woman performing different specific non-verbal activities. The female behaviour expresses positive emotions which are displayed by mimics (a smile), miremics (her eyes are directed at the product) which mark her enjoyment. Positive emotions are rendered by tactile non-verbal behaviour as well: while inviting the other communicators to have a meal the woman touches them. Phonation is used to draw the attention to the product advertised.

The positive emotional state of a woman in RC which is connected with the product. It, in its turn, causes positive emotions of the other communicators who have been experiencing such negative emotions as indifference, irritation, distress or disappointment hitherto.

If the woman’s partner within a commercial is a man, we observe kind of flirtation between the communicators. Persuasion is achieved mainly by exploiting non-verbal behaviour of the woman enjoying the product or of a man trying to contact the woman.

The most typical examples of non-verbal behaviour are mimics, miremics and touching, the latter marking closer contact between the communicators. Specific kind of non-verbal behaviour is observed when the woman is tasting the product. The male communicator is rather passive in the process but his emotions become enlivened. The way the plot of the commercial is developing seems to be a popular communicative move (for example, in the ad of Korkunov sweets). Another manipulative device of the kind are respiratory non-verbal means which display inhaling of the product’s pleasant aroma by feminine characters, which produces the same effect upon the communicators.

To effective persuasive means in RC we refer changes of the environment which it turns into a magic place with the help of the product that contributes to creation of its positive image.

An interesting manipulative technique that marks emotions and creates a bright perlocutionary effect is used in the advertising chips campaign (Lays). We can see smiles that the communicators put to their faces, which, on the one hand, make part of a semiotic game and, on the other hand, show the positive emotional state of female communicators, which is transmitted to the others.

The environment is also very important in the fizzy drinks commercials, as they are often connected with the concepts of summer, youth and love (hot summer weather presupposes minimum clothing or a half-naked body), which is undoubtedly another popular manipulative means. In such ads the psychophysiological reaction of sweating together with mimics and pantomimics also contribute to the emotional involvement of the recipient.

Manipulation is also observed in the ads in which the right nourishing (using the product advertised) correlates with a slim female body. In Biobalance yogurt commercial the cause-and-effect relations are implied: the girls become slim as a result of healthy lifestyle. Such ads are aimed at attracting the female recipients. Similar means are observed in Activia yogurt advertising where the shapely figure of a sport star is associated with the effect of the yogurt. The smile of the woman is doubled on the semiotic level (it is also depicted on her stomach), which symbolizes comfortable and pleasant feelings within her body that leads to perlocutionary effect.

Of special interest is the image of woman in RC where the outward appearance and clothing together with her confident behaviour create the positive image of the product advertised. The image of a successful good-looking woman-expert contributes to the positive image of the product in Persil ad despite of her traditional role (mother and housewife). Similar to this is the creation of the image of a woman-savior. In Mesim ad men overeat and turn into seals. The pills given to them by women solve their problem (they become humans again).

Another means of manipulation which manifest enjoying the product are respiratory non-verbal components of communication that are illustrated by inhaling the odor of the product. Of vital importance for the perlocutionary effect is the woman’s transformation: she becomes sex-appealing (Jacob’s Velour commercial) or transformation of the place in a fairy-tale one (Nescafe and Jacob’s commercial), which contributes to creating the positive image of the product.

One of the main means of persuasion in AC is the creation of the image of femininity and the concept of “Love” via different types of non-verbal behaviour, which can be seen in Nescafe commercial, where the product (the taste of coffee) causes the feelings of love. The non-verbal behaviour of the woman is aimed at drawing the man’s attention and evoking his positive emotions.

So, the product advertised contributes to transforming the emotional state of the man, which changes from indifferent to positive and loving. The non-verbal behaviour of the communicators correlates with their positive emotional state: proxemics marks the feelings (caused by the coffee odor) by closer contact. Such changes in the emotional state of the characters cause positive emotions of the would-be consumer.

To the manipulative means of AC we also refer exploiting the concepts of tenderness, care of a woman. For example, in the ad Danone Oykos is enjoying the yogurt served to her by a famous singer. The emotions of admiration are expressed via mimical and respiratory non-verbal behaviour of the characters (smile and inhaling of the woman). The man’s non-verbal behaviour is symmetrical to woman’s one: he smiles back and behaves as if he was a waiter, which stresses the exclusiveness of the product advertised.

A place of its own take the commercials where emoticons serve as signs of the characters’ emotions. Such ads are usually used in online-chats appealing to the younger audience. The way emoticons work in AC can be seen on the example of Coca-Cola Emoticons commercial where a young man offers a bottle of soft drink on which a semiotic sign of a Kiss is displayed. The initial emotional state of the young woman may be defined as embarrassment; she is not inclined to communicate with the man. As soon as the product (a bottle with a LOL emoticon) appears in the commercial, the non-verbal behaviour of a woman and other communicators changes: all of them reproduce the same semiotic sign (laughter). The following communicative step, which marks developing of flirtation, is shown: the girl drinks Coca-Cola, which together with other non-verbal signs (light tones and music) creates a bright emotional effect.

To the means of manipulation in AC we refer such gender specific features as tenderness, affection and love for animals, which are proved by Biscuits Mc Bitty commercial, where instead of cookies kittens appear from the package. The nurses (female characters) are smiling and nodding, producing phonosemantic sounds. Such manipulative means is aimed at associating positive emotions with the product advertised on the cognitive level.

No less interesting means of manipulation is the use of body code elements. In such cases we observe, as a rule, cause-and-effect relations between healthy food and a shapely female figure, the interrelation of which is shown in AC where dancing fairy-tale characters are used as metaphors of female inner flora, which has a symmetrical semiotic sign – a smile on the woman’s stomach. Such semiotic display of the product is typical of American culture. On the cognitive level the recipient forms cause-and-effect relations: if you buy this product, you are sure to be healthy and positive. Such cognitive chain is easily deciphered by the recipient.

Important elements of AC are fruits and vegetables, manifesting the freshness and juiciness of the product (burger), which correlates with the sexual attractiveness of the female body, repeating its shape. This element enables you to convey the emotions of men on the non-verbal level and to correlate the quality of the products with the attractiveness of a woman. An important part of the video is the non-verbal behaviour of a female character whose appearance and kinesics are admired by men.

Mimics, pantomimics and miremics and certain psychophysiological reactions (e.g. sweating) also contribute to emotional involvement of the recipient. The same presupposition is found in AC where we see interdependence between healthy food (product advertised) and women’s shapely figures.


To the main means of manipulation both in Russian and American commercials we refer the use of stereotype feminine images based on such concepts of family, youth, love, beauty. The non-verbal behaviour of female characters correlates with their traditional roles and is aimed at creating a positive image of the product advertised.

The most frequently used non-verbal means of communication display positive emotional reaction to the product, which is doubled by other communicators and serves as a means of mighty emotional persuasion. Hence, feminine non-verbal behaviour causes positive emotional reaction of all communicators involved and changes their emotional state from negative to positive one.

Different non-verbal signs (emoticons in particular or the symbolic smile, appearing on the product) that are used to intensify positive emotions are characteristic both for Russian and American ads, but are more frequently used in the latter.

Elements of body code are typical both of RC and AC but in the latter images are more often created on cognitive metaphors.

The analysis of Russian commercials enables us to state that feminine non-verbal behaviour correlates with the images of a good house-keeper and affectionate mother while AC stress appearance of women, their sex-appealing, which correlates with feminine ideas of the American society.

Non-verbal behaviour of feminine characters enjoying the product advertised as shown in RC contributes to the effect of perlocution. In addition to mimics and miremics, tactile communication is often used to mark closer contacts between the communicators. Specific non-verbal behaviour of women enjoying of the product is displayed in the process of tasting it. The male party who has been passive hitherto becomes involved in the process of communication, his emotions acquire positive vector. Such communicative tactics showing the development of flirtation is very popular in RC, which we can observe in chocolate advertising, yogurt, etc.

The concepts of family and love are also treated differently: in RC it is more often than not the image of an affectionate mother, while for AC it is more typical to display warm feelings between husband and wife and to stress cause-and-effect relations between the feminine body and the product. American audience are emotionally involved due to a variety of body code elements and mentioning well-known people or characters, which we do not find so often in RC.

Feminine characters (whose non-verbal behaviour correlates with their gender and social roles) seem to play more active roles than male ones and serve as markers of cultural sameness and difference.

Both RC and AC imply that the product advertised guarantees health, positive emotions, confidence, sex appealing and so on, which leads to perlocutionary effect.


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20 November 2020

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Sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, bilingualism, multilingualism

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Kartashkova, F. I., & Savina, N. A. (2020). Means Of Manipulation In American And Russian Commercials: Gender Perspective. In Е. Tareva, & T. N. Bokova (Eds.), Dialogue of Cultures - Culture of Dialogue: from Conflicting to Understanding, vol 95. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 364-373). European Publisher.