We live in a culture saturated with advertising that promotes sensuality and lust. It’s impossible to avoid it 100%, all the time.
Sexuality is on the billboards that we see as we drive down the highway. It tiptoes into our lives through magazine covers in the checkout line at the grocery store. Sexuality whispers to us from banner ads when we check our e-mail. It leaps out into our laps from the commercials on TV. It’s everywhere. We’re saturated.
And then we feel the need to look perfect and have the same body that is advertised everywhere. This is especially true for women who feel the pressure to dress and act in sensual ways.
A recent survey in the United Kingdom, for example, shows that about two thirds of women thought that
advertisers go too far in using sex to sell product. They found explicit billboard advertisements more offensive . Recent French Reports also highlight the promotion of sexual values in advertisements that increasingly show degrading portrayals of women with overtones of violence, sexual domination and bestiality. A classic example is the Barbette brand cooking cream advertisement in France that shows a headless torso of a woman with the caption “I do what I want with her”.
Sex sells claims the old and undeniably true adage. We are sexual beings. Advertisers use this attribute by trying to associate their products and services with sexy imagery hoping that some of the hotness gets attached to their brand in the consumer’s subconscious mind.
However abusing your audience’s attention is a dangerous thing. Showing skin to get attention and then trying to sell completely unrelated products like hearing aides, touch-typing courses or car-rental rental services (like you will see below) may backfire. The reader feels cheated and talked down to. Another thing to be cautious about is how much nudity is sufficient to grab eyeballs and what is too much thus considered offending. This is of course a cultural question. Usually the more religious your target market the less accepted it is to show bare body parts. For these reasons one needs to be careful where and how to use sex in advertising.
Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement. We are sexual beings, therefore are attracted to sexually related subjects, jokes, and other matters. Many companies use the sex concept in their favor, while adding a humorous element to it. Making you laugh and find the sexual cleverness of the advertisement, will most likely have you talking about the ad and sharing it with your peers. Companies hope that when they create an amazing ad, it will go viral.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no prude. In fact, i love advertising that pushes people’s buttons. I don’t know that glamorizing rape is an especially productive thing to do, but a certain part of me has to hand out the kudos where they’re due – and that includes advertisers who know how to call attention to their product.
That said, it would be refreshing if we could collectively get to a point where we were willing to try a little harder to put our products in the spotlight; yes, sex and scandal do get attention…but how obvious is that? Let’s look at some of the top sexist themes in advertising, in the hopes that if we call them out, designers and marketing pros will start getting slightly more cerebral in their approaches to winning our dollars.
Rape Ah yes. Ya know, honestly, when you break down a picture like this, it’s almost laughable; what the hell is with this group of super shiny dudes ganging up on this equally shiny female? And why does that make me want to buy clothes? This a good example of how a rape theme is “okay” when it merely “suggests” the idea of rape.
In order to monitor and control advertising a number of different regulatory bodies have been established. Many countries have an Advertising Standards Authority, whose job it is to listen to complaints from the public, and establish whether or not a particular ad or campaign should be withdrawn. In the UK the situation is complex, as each medium is governed by a different regulatory body:
All this leads to a maze of voluntary rules and legislation which must be negotiated by an agency seeking to produce a campaign. There are extremely strict rules regarding the advertising of tobacco (banned), alcohol (going that way), medicines/medical services and products aimed specifically at children. Advertising law is a complex area.
This first edition of the BCAP Code comes into force on 1 September 2010. It replaces the four previous separate BCAP Codes for broadcast advertising.
This Code applies to all advertisements (including teleshopping, content on self-promotional television channels, television text and interactive television advertisements) and programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services licensed by Ofcom.
A code of practice that applies specifically to non-broadcast advertisements – the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (theCAP Code) – is the responsibility of our Non-broadcast arm.
Advertisers, agencies and media owners are urged to sign up to CAP Services to receive news, advice and practical guidance on the new Advertising Codes.