Portrayals of women in advertisements have a significant impact on the maintenance of gender stereotypes in society. Therefore, the present research investigates the effectiveness of communal and agentic female characters in advertisements as well as the question how evaluations of such characters are influenced by perceivers' sexist attitudes toward women. Results show that communal female advertising characters are evaluated more favorably than agentic ones and that these evaluations predict advertising effectiveness. Benevolent sexism predicts more positive evaluations of communal female advertising characters (studies 1 and 2). Moreover, hostile sexism predicts less positive evaluations of agentic female advertising characters when it is assessed under time pressure (Study 2). Implications of these findings for the perpetuation of gender stereotypes in advertisements and in society are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.