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1 post categorized "sex and advertising"

September 05, 2008

The EU Has a Fit Over Sex & Advertising

I don’t have a problem with attractive people advertising perfume, clothes or makeup, but I do have a problem watching women advertising household cleaning items or appliances. It’s not they’re fault; they want to earn money, are on an agency’s books and it’s a simple fact of life: you go where the money is and speaking roles in television commercials pay a lot of money. Who’d say no to that? The only catch 22 is that women are continually stereotyped as the key holders of the domestic dimension.

Winston In Europe, a revolution is unfolding and I think it's silly considering there are other more pressing social problems that need to be dealt with. This revolution aims to reduce gender stereotypes in television commercials, and it isn’t about women; adverts such as Beckham’s Armani undie advert are also viewed negatively. The EU members’ report isn’t legally binding but it can set out examples for future adverts and alter the future of sex-in-advertising.

Who is at fault when stereotypes live in television adverts? I don’t think the actors are to blame; they have to eat and pay their bills. As for David Beckham? Forget him, he has enough money from his astronomical deal with Galaxy to advertise Armani, so doesn’t really ‘need’ the money as much as a struggling actor or a mature adult that does TV work to make ends meet. Beckham is an anomaly, as are supermodels and other actors that earn extra pocket money advertising products (like George Clooney). Extras and small-time actors should protest against these celebrity behemoths, tell them to stick to their sport and Hollywood films, and stay out of their domain. The 'sexualized' adverts of today are in your face, usually boring or silly, and don't play on anything other than a celebrity's body (ahem Beckham) or identity. Take the old Winston cigarette advert image above. Sure, it has a female in the main picture, but it also makes a subtle dig about what is supposed to 'count' but leaves the reader/viewer wondering: is it the penis or the cigarette? It could be one or the other. It could be both. But the female in the ad isn't some 'barely legal' piece of ass or a questionable (drug addled) celebrity model or pop star either.

Every country has advertising codes but only few people complain. I mean, life is too short and there are other significant issues than calling up an advertising standards council to complain about a sixty second advert on dishwashing liquid. The adverts I loathe on television are those that are shown late at night; they’re allowed to show ads like ‘Girls Gone Wild’ or the stupid phone sex adverts at that time, but I’ve never made a formal complaint to the ad council because I know I’ll be told that the adverts comply with code (due to the time they’re shown on television). If they were shown at 6pm, then there’d be hell to pay for the network, but networks have teams of lawyers and their job is to check advertising codes but you will, occasionally, have a few complaints about adverts. And when I say ‘few’, I mean less than ten.  People can’t be bothered and it’s interesting because the adverts that have been complained about in Australia are adverts that aren’t sexual.

One advert for a car manufacturer depicted a small child driving a car. The ad was pure fantasy, playing on the inner child concept, but it received complaints harping on about social irresponsibility and other things. The viewers didn’t get it, so the ad was edited. Another advert for cup-a-soup showed a female police officer chasing a bag snatcher, to tackle him to the ground and give him an ass whipping, but that was deemed ‘violent’ by those that complained. The ad was pulled off the air. Tell me, really, what would you do if you came across a bag snatcher? Would you simply let them skip along with your belongings or would you tackle them to the ground and give them a hiding if you knew you could take them on?

The idea of adverts creating ‘sexism’ is silly. People do have control over their perceptions and people are aware that advertising exists to sell, and the methods employed focus on attention. After all, you only have thirty to sixty seconds (in most countries) to capture your audience’s attention, so repulsing the viewer or boring them shitless isn’t a really great idea.

After all, who are you going to have to advertise a perfume? A hobo? As for perfume adverts. Perfumes are all about the fantasy surrounding fragrance. So what if an attractive woman is advertising perfume? Is it criminal? Some would say that it objectifies women, or that it promotes false ideals, but come on, who is free from objectification? We all objectify something, and the object doesn’t have to be human. People are more guilty of objectifying their ‘gods’, transforming them into masculine father-like images with specific (edited) human traits; yes they get ‘angry’ but they’re free from being ‘mean’. I mean, come on already.

I no longer get angry at the advert; I think of the moronic executive on the other side that comes up with the stupid idea of (once again) depicting a female in a kitchen praising yet another oven cleaner. How creative is that? I'm more creative when I unload a number two as I'm reading The Sydney Morning Herald on the throne - that's what I call multi-tasking.

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