Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sex Sells, Advertising in American Society

Advertising is one of the few industries that there is no escaping from. Every time you turn on the television, go online, walk down the street, drive in your car…advertising is there. I can guarantee that your apartment or house is filled with products that have been advertised for in one way or another. But why discuss advertising in this class? What makes it so harmful to women, specifically? There are two techniques that advertisers use, both equally harmful to women. They either make women feel badly about themselves, wish they were the woman in the advertisement and hope that buying the product will help them achieve that ultimate look. Or they simply objectify women and use them as a tool to attract men. It is important to note that there are some exceptions. What stands out the most in my mind is the Dove Real Beauty campaign, which promotes all ages, sizes and nationalities of women to love themselves (by using Dove body wash, of course).

The problem is, in our 21st century American society, sex sells. It catches the eye, it makes us hold on to the add a little bit longer and it even triggers multiple discussions in college classrooms (ahem). Sex sells and until our society stands against that notion, advertisers will continue to be successful. Now the question is, where do we come in? It is hard to predict the sexual exploitation of women ending any time soon. Unfortunately, our society (as well as many others throughout the world), have a difficult time seeing women as anything but beautiful creatures to obtain in some way, shape or form. What we have to do, as students, as women, as self-respecting human beings, is fight it. Maybe instead of hiring the drop-dead-gorgeous Kiera Knightly to sell perfume, have an add that allows the reader to smell the perfume. Look, it’s not an original idea, it’s been done before and I promise you that every single one of us girls has flipped through a magazine, pulled up that little flap, and rubbed that miniscule amount of perfume on our wrists. But what’s wrong with actually selling the product without selling the model? Why have models at all? Okay, understandably, clothes look better on people than they do on a scary looking manikins and/or the ground. But can we see more of the clothing, please? I will never understand the concept of naked people selling clothing. Also, what’s wrong with using humor? I am a full believer in wit overpowering sex. Take the Manhattan Mini Storage subway ads, for example. “Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and the Mets?” How hilarious is that? And more importantly (for the advertisers, that is), I remembered exactly what the advertisement is for and what it is selling. Now, I love Manhattan Mini Storage. Will I ever use it, probably not, but if I am in need of a storage facility, will MMS (yes, I made up an acronym) be first on my list? Absolutely! Humor impresses me more than sex does. I don’t know if that’s the case for others, but it should be.

Again, I think it’s hard to change the structure of advertising. I believe it has become more of a societal issue than one of simply advertisers. I do think, though, that promoting positive body-image, like the “because you’re worth it campaign” and having women from Drew Barrymore, Queen Latifah and Ellen Degeneres model for them, is a good way to go. Instead of making women feel like they constantly need to improve, that without a certain mascara their eyes are droopy and sad, advertisers should convey that women are wonderful/beautiful/intelligent and deserve a product that will be equally as special. This goes back to the idea of selling the product NOT the models or the sex. I also believe that ads targeted at men are where advertisers really do their worst. Female sexuality is not something to be used in advertising, no matter what, especially to attract the opposite sex into buying a certain product. Unfortunately, in our society, sex does sell. And until that societal change happens, advertisers will continue to sell their products using these means to do so. It is up to us to stand up against it, don’t buy the products, send letters to the companies, go into advertising(!)…don’t allow advertisers and the companies they represent, use uncomfortable and inappropriate methods to gain your attention. Be better than that.

1 comment:

  1. We should girlcott products that use sex to sell its products, especially ads that are oppressive and suggest violence towards women. I do agree that humor definitely sells, and I retain that humor in my memory. While I am not going to buy Old Spice for my boyfriend, I can appreciate the humor behind their commercials. However, the "balls" Axe commercial will forever leave a bad image in my mind. There is no policing that kind of content on the web, but there is no way that commercial would have aired on regular TV. Perhaps there should be an acceptable rating for commercials and print ads like there is for movies.