Not only does the ad offensively use women's bodies to sell a product it, also needlessly sexualizes a non-sexual product. It's ChapStick for god's sake! And now I have to think of this lady's ass every time I rub it on my lips? What? I didn't want that!
Earlier this year, personal care product brand Nivea pulled a men's skincare ad and issued a public apology for its blatantly racist undertones. As reported on over at GOOD magazine, the ad in question "features a preppy, groomed black man holding the head of his former self, who's sporting a beard, an afro, and a pissed-off expression." The tag line? "Re-civilize yourself." As in, "Hey, black men, get with white mainstream culture and get rid of that 'uncivilized' African hair!"
Advertising is as much a part of pop culture as deliberately created works of art. Here in the United States, one of the most lasting contributions to perceptions of mental illness in society has come courtesy of the pharmaceutical industry, which spends an estimated $2.5 billion annually on reaching the public through advertising. Most people who have televisions or magazine subscriptions in the US have encountered pharmaceutical advertising, sometimes for products so vaguely described and marketed that viewers aren't actually sure what they are for.
Yesterday, the California Milk Processor Board launched a new pro-dairy campaign based on the old premise that PMS turns women into insufferable turds. The message, directed at men, is that milk can ease a woman's PMS symptoms and is therefore good for her poor, put-upon (male) partner. Finally! An ad campaign that stereotypes women AND promises to make straight men's lives easier!
Duke University's AdViews Project has
digitized thousands of 16mm television ads from the 1950s through the
1980s. And now you can watch them online for free! (As far as I can
tell, you do need iTunes in order to watch them).
As bizarre as
these ads seem (business men arguing over socks, women walking
provocatively through huge flames to sell lipstick) it does make you
wonder how far we've come in advertising. You can browse by brand (Watch out for Nucoa, pictured on the right. Their jingle is strangely hypnotic...), but I think the highlights are a good place to start. But be warned, the mix of subtle sexual undertones, kitschy copy-writing, and cheesy animation makes for a deadly (but delightful) time-sucking combination!
I like the conversations American Apparel inevitably starts whenever it comes out with a new advertising campaign. I'm not being snarky—some of the most radical (meaning at the root of) discussions about feminism I enter into start because American Apparel can't seem to stop. Well (and here comes the snark), guess what? AA still can't let go of its naked-ladies-trying-to-sell-me-the-clothes-they-used-to-be-wearing style, and new campaigns (banned in the US so far) are adding pubic hair to the already fraught mix of issues involved in these ads. So let's get to talkin'. (Assume that pictures and some links in this post, including those after the jump, will be NSFW.)
I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but they also promote and encourage gender-specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways. The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.
As many of you know, we've been hosting Mad World here on the Bitch blogs (and around town) since March, and we've had a great time discussing advertising, gender, and identity as a part of this series. However, as Johnny so eloquently said to Pony Boy, "nothing gold can stay." (OK, so he was quoting Robert Frost, but the cuteness of the young Ralph Macchio means we're going with the remediated version.) Our Mad World series is coming to a close, but that doesn't mean we're going to stop with analyzing ads. We'd never do that—it's our mission to bring you a feminist response to pop culture!