Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Don't give up on Advertising with Sex

Not to be confused with sexvertising, mind you.  Courtesy of a wonderful friend on Facebook, below are some wonderfully cheeky PSAs promoting birth control.  The sex is realistic, the bodies are seen in nature, and the presentation is genuinely funny.

Advertisers can take a cue from these videos.  You can use sex, and if you use it humorously, you can make a message that really stick.

Not to mention I highly endorse the message being presented.  Everyone should practice safe sex, but don't think that means you have to give up sex altogether.

UPDATE: Writing is definitely a collaborative effort.  My friend Jen sent me this brilliant NY Times article about an unusual sex ed program which takes a much needed pragmatic stance, offering actual information and advice.  It's a bit long, but stick with it; it is brilliant!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smart like Dad/Pretty like Mommy/Dumb like America

I could probably do an entire blog on the stupidity of and rigid gender roles reinforced by children's clothing and toys, but I will save my full rant for another day and another ad.  A friend of mine in Facebook posted this photo of Gymboree onesies, as shared from SPARK summit  Facebook page.

In case you can't read, the text reads "Smart like Dad" and "Pretty like Mommy," and as SPARK notes in their caption, "Spoiler alert: there is no 'Smart like Mommy' onesie."

As I have noted in my previous entry about a similarly stupid item of clothing, the problem isn't necessarily with the clothing itself, which is stupid and insipid, but someone is always going to tell you that you're "missing the joke."  The problem is that someone thought this was ok, that this didn't raise any red flags.  There were no moms on the planning committee who thought that their intelligence rated a tacky graphic?

This brought to mind a great post by Lisa Bloom on the Huffington post, "How to Talk to Little Girls," where the first thing we talk about with a female child is her looks.  The idea is so ingrained in us that we don't even realize we're doing it.  After reading Bloom's piece, things like the above photo irk you all the more.

So before you say "you're overreacting," read the Bloom piece and realize that we are still a long way away from having "Smart like Mommy" onesies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cleaning is Sexy...Except for all that Dirt of Course

For this one, I have to give credit to my lovely boyfriend.  I was in the market for some gloves so I can finally tackle scrubbing the bathtub, one of the sexiest household chores, evidently.  This package actually made him stop, point it out to me, and then suggest it goes on my blog.  So here it is.

Note the missing eyes (read: identity) of the woman at the top, so all we get are a pair of puckered lips...and soap.  But the kicker was the sex-tastic pic at the bottom, which I'm fairly certain I saw in a Chanel ad some time ago.  Sans the bright green gloves, of course.

Now the problem here is the tongue-in-cheek element is questionable.  Remember all of those Swiffer commercials using the romantic/sexual trope in a satirical way?  Well here you go to refresh your memory:

I actually think this commercial is kind of clever, though still marketed to women using old assumptions.  The problem with the gloves package is that neither of us could tell if they were being serious, which is never a good problem.  Not that tongue-in-cheek makes the typical sexvertising tropes any less evident or backwards.

And before you say the idea of pretty cleaning gloves is silly, behold my purchase and celebrate the little things in life!

Friday, September 9, 2011

If You're Tired of how your Girlfriend Looks, Just Deflate Her

Via Sociological Images, this lovely Olympus ad exhibits so many stereotypical marketing ploys for men (and against women, let's face it) that I just had to share.

1) Look Men, Boobies!  As Gwen Sharp points out on Sociological Images, this ad is a classic example of the male gaze.  Men like the ad because it has a hot lady, and women want to become the hot lady so they, too, can be interesting and fascinating to men (though I would argue that this ad would alienate women entirely, more on this later).  So, the only thing that is important is what the men-folk think.  If you ever doubt a piece of media follows this trend try this: switch the genders of the photos and text in the same context, i.e. not resorting to the "doofy husband" trope.  If it seems a little off, then the original ad was typical male-focused advertising.

2) Only Men can use electronics; lady-types might break a nail!  This is one of my personal favorites, and is especially visible during the holidays and Father's/Mother's Day.  Women are targeted for household appliances and personal care items, while dad/bro/Uncle Bill are targeted for big-screen tv's, do-it-yourself projects and, of course, camera and photo equipment.  As I mentioned before, this ad pretty much alienates all possible women customers.  And guys, we know how to use cameras.  Trust me.

3) Women are ugly/disposable/annoying/exhausting shrews and hags!  The woman in this ad is hot, and apparently that's all she has going for her.  Evidently, she's nowhere near hot enough to keep from being boring, so you need to do something or take some action to keep her from becoming an utter drain of time, money and attention.  Buy our product and make your lady suck less!

4) Your copy is bad and you should feel bad!  This ad had potential to not be stupid and not alienate the lady-types.  How about something like, "You love all the different sides of your girlfriend.  Now you can show them off in 1080 dpi."  Was that so hard?  But no, you had to pull a page from the Don Draper handbook.  Newsflash: women can leave you if you don't respect them.  That counts for customers, too.  Don't be lazy.

I'm sure there are other major mistakes here, but I think this covers the major ones.  I will note that this ad is from an Australian magazine, so some cultural norms will be different, but honestly, misogyny is misogyny, and lazy advertisers dip into that well one too many times.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Too Pretty To Do Homework? So should I give this M.A. back now?

I saw this on The Consumerist today and just had to share.  The lovely commenters at The Consumerist have already filled in their "You're Making Too Big a Deal of This" square on their bingo cards.  Yes, it's just an ugly shirt that is ending up in the clearance rack behind all the stretched out sweaters and jeggings, but, as had been pointed out time and time again, it's not the actual item that is the problem, it's the underlying assumptions that the item promotes.

JC Penny has already yanked the shirt, so don't bother trying to buy one to be ironic (you hipster, you).  Irony doesn't make this message ok, by the way.  Susan Douglas points it out best in Enlightened Sexism: "For media-savvy youth, bombarded their entire lives by almost every marketing ploy in the book, irony means that you can look as if you are absolutely not seduced by the mass media, while then being seduced by the media, while wearing a knowing smirk."  Sure, you know it's stupid and you laugh at it and no one takes it seriously.  But it's still there, still stupid and still representing an undercurrent of thought.

I say the first part isn't the part people should get up in arms about; I was more pissed about the second part. First of all, no one I went to school with would ever risk their grades by letting any sibling, regardless of gender, get their grubby little paws on it.  Second of all, does any one else get a creepy, incest-y vibe?  Like she's so pretty she's able to seduce her blood relative to do her bidding?  And it's all the creepier because she's age 7-16?

Frankly, this shirt doesn't represent one guy in a back room who needs therapy.  Many people had to approve, design, promote and sell this image, so it seems like quite a lot of people thought it was ok.  Maybe they all need therapy.  They're definitely color blind, at least.

I close with the best response I could think of at the time, which I shared on Consumerist with great pride.  Take it, P!nk:

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Soap Lobby is an actual Thing?

And apparently, they want you to be afraid, very afraid, of the dirt and germs lurking in your house THIS VERY MINUTE.

Ok, this is old news. Also, that toilet looked pretty clean to me. What's interesting is that they are doing their best to obscure the effects of triclosan, the chemical in antibacterial soap that's supposed to kill 99.9% (that last .1% is super tricky, apparently) of all germs, despite mounting evidence that it doesn't actually help make you any cleaner and is damaging to the environment. Ok, that's kind of old news too.

Now, what I found really interesting as I did the research, a.k.a. going to the Dial soap website and checking their marketing angle, is that the soap that once touted itself as the "#1 recommended by doctors and hospitals" is now focusing on its...moisturizing properties...huh.

True, it still banks on that old standard, the "clean you can trust," like an old family friend who remembers you from when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. However, even this old, gold friend is changing its tune, touting itself as "Enriched with moisturizer, this refreshingly scented liquid removes dirt and germs and rinses clean" on the product page. In fact, most of the products on the corporate website are focusing on moisturizing and scent. Evidently, no men want to be clean or care about killing bacteria. The picture on the FAQ is a mom with a baby, after all, evidently the only people that use soap. That or Dial is a super progressive company that believes all genders should smell like verbena and olive oil (am I the only one who wants a salad now?).

I like to think that popular opinion and uproar about triclosan have spurred this sudden change in tune. Though, I will note that the company isn't tackling the subject head-on; triclosan isn't even mentioned on their FAQ. Which makes me think that maybe there's something to this whole 'consumer power' thing, causing the soap lobby (the nicest-smelling politicians on Capitol Hill, I'll have you know) to change their strategy, if not their actual product.

UPDATE: Kiera Butler over at MotherJones posted a follow-up to her original article, highlighting some of the lovely rhetoric to come out of the far right. My favorite: "Maybe environmentalists thought women would be too busy to notice the growing regulatory assault on them. They were wrong. Nothing gets women’s attention more quickly than dirty dishes, clogged toilets, grimy clothes, toxic materials, and budget-busting energy prices. It’s time the fairer sex took environmental Neanderthals head-on."

Yea, all women define themselves via their dishes, toilets and clothes. How forward-thinking of you. Damn those neanderthals, etc. You know, if you're going to misappropriate another movement's rhetoric, at least do it in a clever, not brain-dead way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

If (newspaper) Smart is the new Sexy....

...then God help all us ugly dullards who read and write blogs.  What can only be described as an advertising idea session that got out of hand, the Newspaper Association of America  has released a new ad campaign to try to appeal to the young folk.  Unfortunately, it's painfully obvious that young folk had nothing to do with creating the campaign.

Jeff Fleming over at Editor & Publisher already has a great article taking the ads apart one by one, so I won't repeat what he said.  However, I wanted to point out my favorite ad, which proves that sexism doesn't just strike us lady types:

Penis-vertising (ok, I can't make that any more elegant, but I'm open to suggestions!) is almost impossible to do well or with any shred of class.  Male anatomy is very often used for comedy, and the puns are infinite.  However, this one is interesting because it not only implies that size matters, but it also associates being "sexy" with having a huge...intellect.  I can't even imagine the pitch on this one; I feel like someone checked their email, read the usual "Please your Womman Today$" spam, went, "aha!" and grabbed a pen.

What I'm also not sure of is the target audience.  Not that I really know the target audience of any male enhancement product, but I always assumed it was middle-aged, mid-life crisis types.  Aren't those the types who are already reading the paper?  They're called "digital immigrants" for a reason, you know.

So, good job NAA for your equal-opportunity objectification.  At the very least, you may get people talking. And for the record, the size of a man's intellect isn't important; it's how he uses it.