Sex In Advertisisng Essay, Research Paper
Women s Studies
Sex in Advertising
The use of sex in advertising has become a major selling method in the society we live in today. It began sixty years ago when a beautiful young woman introduced the first windproof lighter and a new wave of advertising emerged The Pinup Girl . She advertised everything from lighters to laundry soap. She even recruited for the U.S. armed forces. Sexuality in advertising is now a major area of ethical concern, though surprisingly little is known about its effects or the norms for its use. Advertisers use of sex appeals has grown and become widely present throughout the U.S. and most of the world, but it has never been clear the line between offensive and effective advertising. Over the last couple of years commercial content, like programming has gone through a significant maturing process. Sex has become a driving force.
Ann Klein’s company’s ads are some of the most striking ads that are carried in the mainstream media. They have received only a few negative letters, but they have drawn a huge amount of attention. There is a fine line between doing something new, different and interesting, and angering your customer with offensive commercials that spoil their commercial intent. An Ann Klein commercial that showed a man kissing a woman and beginning to unbutton her shirt, was not allowed to air by wary network censors, recalled Maria Cristina, company vice president and author of Humor and Eroticism in Advertising (23). Calvin Klein, an American clothing manufacturer that courts the glamorous young, drew great disgrace and shame earlier this year for some particularly daring youths who lie about wearing their underpants in a recent campaign, which the network censors also withdrew. “Sexiness, as a component of the good life, is a staple for advertisers, suggested Luigi Manaca author of Gender and Utopia in Advertising (72). Coca Cola decorated its drug store posters at the turn of the century with beautiful young women whom male drinkers might hope to date and female drinkers might emulate. “One has only to pick up any issue of a fashion magazine and page after page is filled with advertisements attempting to correlate sex and beauty with the purchase of their products , said Manaca (75).
The current flood of sex in advertising is often promoted in terms of fulfilling erotic fantasies and appetites. Consumers want to see more, however the use of such appeals is constantly contested in terms of ethics and morality, much as sexual norms and morals in general have been contested throughout both American and world history, according to The Journal Of Advertising (73). Commercials have become risqu as standards loosen. Networks, in an effort to compete with cable television, have relaxed their censorship standards. Advertising standards have always been defined by the public’s tolerance and the shifting moods of courts and government agencies. Even though there are concerns about sex and advertising on the air, on billboards, and in print, it is more accepted now than ever before. However, ads dealing with the environment or nutrition are coming under much stricter constraints. The public has become less sensitive to sexy ads, but increasingly irate about claims involving food and Mother Earth. “While we will tolerate an expansion in areas that may offend our prurient interest, we are not prepared to do that with products that effect our quality of life said Luigi Manaca who specializes in books on advertising (112).
Advertisers are helping to fuel an unhealthy obsession. “Women’s dissatisfaction with their bodies is considerably more prevalent now than a generation ago, we are now a society that is increasingly preoccupied with appearance and weight,” says Cathy Rhodes, author of Herself Reappraised: The Treatment of Women in Advertising (61). Magazine covers, TV shows, music videos and movies tend to feature very thin women over those with more realistically filled-out figures. Advertisers want people to feel dissatisfied with our current appearances, so they will be more inclined to purchase their products that offer improvements. “The media now exposes us to this single ‘right look’, and the beauty industry promises that anyone can attain it,” writes Dr. Robin, who is the author of Body Traps: Breaking the Binds That Keep You from Feeling Good about Your Body (33). Shame often hinders would be gym goers for fear of embarrassment. Health club advertisers often showcase scantily clad, sculptured bodies working out. Over weight people find it difficult to picture themselves beside those people – the invariably young and trim. Advertisers for car makers appeal to the male population by insinuating that a man is judged by the power behind his wheels therefore, big strong men drive big strong trucks, and how he handles the road, with his powerful new wheels, will have a positive influence on his masculinity states, Maria Cristina author of Humor and Eroticism in Advertising (Essence, pg 93). The back pages of magazines are flooded with ads for sex toys designed to enhance your sex life. Vitamins are claiming to give you more stamina and lingerie is being worn by beautiful voluptuous models whose assets do not come with the product. Still, the advertisers hope to convey the subtle message that if you buy their product you’ll achieve those results. Perfume manufactures advertise their products will attract the opposite sex, mask body odor and invite more intimate touch. Even routine ads for some practical, everyday items were shunned. “Hygiene products, deodorants, laxatives…and similar products are generally not accepted,” the NBC code of 1943, noted. Today women can model lingerie or even breast feed a child (as seen in a Gerber ad) on television. Consider a much-noted Calvin Klein ad insert in New York and Los Angeles editions of Vanity Fair, was described by Advertising Age as “boy meets girl, boy meets boy, boy meet self”. That’s merely the most striking example of a vast range of jeans; lingerie and cosmetics ads that once would have been relegated to Playboy or Penthouse, but now are appearing in upscale mainstream publications.
Toy manufacturers are also capitalizing on the use of sex to sell products. Video games, which have a largely teenage male following, use graphic and sexually stimulating graphics to portray their female characters. Lude advertisements such as “Engage in thousands of exciting relationships with total strangers without wearing anything made of latex”, quoted from the (Journal of Marketing). “Sometimes having a killer body just isn’t enough, you’ll need tough studs and big bolts, (Journal of Marketing) appeal to their adolescent fantasies. There are people who consider this form of advertisement to be in poor taste because of the advertising techniques. They oppose advertisements with sexual overtones and advertisements with adult content that appear in media available to and directed toward children. Even the foreign market of developing countries such as war torn Cambodia are being flooded with the promise of the good life. Beer commercials in Cambodia show fit young men leaping and sprinting while promises of physical and intellectual prowess flash on the television screen. In one popular spot, a man cracks an egg into his beer, and the yoke transforms into a woman, he drinks down the attractive brew with a slurp.
The Spanish government introduced legislation in April 1986 to ban misleading, unfair, or irrational advertising. The bill would also regulate the use of testimonials, comparative advertising, and the material that is offensive to the dignity of women or fails to respect the rights of children (Journal of Marketing). The United States has no such legislation, except for strict laws against child pornography. An attempt to introduce such legislation would be met with stern opposition from the corporate world, whose industries profit from such advertising. Advertising agencies have taken advantage of the freedoms of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution. Product advertising continues to push the acceptance of sexually explicit materials to the limit in its race for higher profits. Sexuality has become a national trademark, the symbol of American commerce. Naked, semi- naked, dressing and undressing women fill not only films but the pages of magazines advertising food, clothing, automobiles, hotels, refrigerators, chewing gum and everything which in the opinion of the business man would represent the vital interest of people. Advertisements have never been granted the unqualified rights of free speech held by books, articles or news programs. The indecency of American and worldwide advertising has become indescribable. Sex in advertising will always be an issue of ethical concern as long as people s views remain diverse and companies profit from those diversities.
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