Absolut Reality and Final Thoughts

Though I have already used this original and altered Absolut advertisement in an earlier assignment, I have to include in the final project as it is the basis of my inspiration and provides a great conclusion to the collection.

I have yet to find another advertisement that so bluntly normalizes the altered reality that alcohol consumption creates.  Though it may not be obvious at first glance, the original advertisement implied that if a woman drinks Absolut, a man’s penis will look larger to her.  This advertisement is pervasive because it reinforces the thought that men should strive to be “bigger.” At the same time, it suggested that if a man is unable to become “bigger,” then he could use Absolut to help temporarily alter this reality.  The message of this ad changes greatly by altering just a few pieces:


Besides the obvious alterations in red, I also replaced the bottom text “Drink with Absolut responsibility,” with “Drink with Absolut caution. Consumption may cause things to appear larger than they actually are.” These alterations changed the advertisement from pervasive to what had once been an invisible image. While the advertisement did indirectly imply that in the real world, a man would not measure at 8″, the focus was on the fact that Absolut could help him appear to do so.  By altering the image I brought out the hidden message of the advertisement – one that consumers would not necessarily notice.

The original advertisement marginalizes a number of audiences, the most apparent of which is women.  The image assumes that women are shallow and will judge purely on size.  While it could be argued that Absolut’s message to women could be “drink this and you won’t care how small it is” that does not come across as the main message of the ad (but could be another invisible image).   Nevertheless, the target audience is insecure, sexually active (or trying to be active) men over the age of 21 and, perhaps inadvertantly, marginalizes everyone else though it accessible to a larger audience.

The issues that arises from this pervasive image are more complex than just marginalization, however.  Why do images such as this arise? Why do we assume that women are more attracted to “big” men? Why do we have such set “standards” of men and women? As Tracy Ore points out, “because we are so enculturated into our own societal standards and practices, we often assume that they are the only options” (pg. 2).  An image that shows no bodies of either gender still manages to express the gendered stereotypes our society strives on.

This Absolut ad was the first to really bring invisible messages to my attention. Throughout this project, I found that many other advertisers use a similar strategy to get their message across subtely.  While this is an ingenious strategy on the advertiser’s part, it takes an educated and aware eye to conciously acknowledge the existence of the subtext.  In each of the previous advertisement comparisons, I have pointed out areas in which either the message or image portrays a subtext that could either be missed or misinterpretted by the consumer.  My hope is that the collection I have developed will educate other consumers and make them aware of the invisible messages that are being passed to them on a daily basis.

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Budwomanizer

Over my college career, I have grown fond of Budweiser. Its refreshments have treated me well at football games and other various events.

Oh, wait, let me amend that – Bud Light has treated me well. Budweiser is for guys, or so its advertisements (like the one to the left) suggest.

As the “King of Beers,” a motto that can be traced back to advertisements from 1964, Budweiser has made a point to separate its regular beer from the light version. The Budweiser ads clearly target a male audience, emphasizing the “king” part and often using provocative images of females to draw in consumers. No other catchy headline necessary.

Two invisible images could be perceived from this particular ad, the first of which being that girls like this will flock to you if you just sport the Bud. The second being that even average girls will start to look like models to you if you just pop open a can of Budweiser. And more so, they’ll look at you like you are a King. What male could resist such implications?

The Bud Light advertisements, on the other hand, target female consumers. In a series of ads that hold punch-out coasters (meant to used at the bars) that sport messages such as “Yes, I’m ignoring you,” this is the most bluntly female oriented. Long line for the women’s restroom? Just use this advertisement as a makeshift door sign and use the men’s. But even these advertisements directed at women find a way to stereotype them.

The ads directed at men marginalize women and the ads directed at women marginalize women.  Budweiser assumes that females will automatically go for the lighter beer, so it does not bother to target a female audience at all with the regular “King of Beers.”

Is the separation between these two versions of essentially the same beer really necessary? Is there no gender neutral advertising than can replace the segregation?

Apparently not, because Budweiser’s emphasis on light beers being for women does not stop with their own products. In the feud versus Miller, Budweiser called the rival’s lite beer “The Queen of Carbs,” once again claiming itself as the “King.”

The text at the bottom reads: “We’ll let Miller Lite spend all their time talking about carbs. At Budweiser, we’ll continue to spend all our efforts making great beer.”

Though that feud was settled in court, Budweiser still uses masculine and feminine connotations in its ads today.

What kind of message does this separation of genders send to Bud’s consumers? Or do they even notice?

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Violence against women is… sexy?

No, that can’t be right.

But then why have well known names such as MTV and Louis Vuitton used violence against women as an advertising tactic?:

You probably wouldn’t guess it (I certainly didn’t), but this ad from MTV is actually promoting safe sex.  The tiny little writing in the top right corner reads: “Girls, protect yourself. Demand your partner wear a condom.”

Okay, I guess that makes sense. This graphic image certainly grabs the viewer’s attention, which is a good tactic to use when addressing such important issues.  That message, however, is not quickly understood.  In fact, I couldn’t even read the text when I downloaded this image and had no idea what this ad was actually trying to promote until I researched it more in depth. The image itself is what is portrayed most dominantly and the subtext of that image is violence, not protection. In AAD252, we have discussed pervasive, invisible and possible images in depth, but not one of those terms seems to fit this particular ad.  If I were stretching the definition, this could be an invisible image as the actually message it is trying to portray is nearly invisible.

On a whole other issue, are we really comparing a penis to a gun here? The pervasive message of this image is offensive/inappropriate in regards to women, but the actual message is offensive in regards to men.

So how could this advertisement be changed to better express the message that the creator was trying to get across? In a discussion on TheFrisky.com, commentors suggested the use of a revolver instead of the gun chosen to try to compare the Russian Roulette to the chances of getting an STD when participating in unprotected sex. This would certainly bring some light to the message, but I still do not think the image could stand alone. The text needs to much larger and much more prominent for this ad to successfully portray the message of safe sex instead of the unintended message of violence against women.

MTV may have not sexualize violence against women, but I can find no alternative message in this Louis Vuitton advertisement.

The focus is apparently supposed to be on the designer shoes, but the eye does not immediately go to the product. Instead the viewers eyes follows down the legs of an apparently naked woman leaning against a large target, with a number of knives sticking out around her legs… How this image relates to designer shoes, I am not sure.

Perhaps the addition of violence connotations is Louis Vuitton’s attempt to draw in the male consumers, as the headline states “Shoes for men and for women.”

Whatever the intended message behind this ad, it instead (and hopefully unintentially) sexualizes violence against women. Perhaps the creators realized that shortly after releasing this image, since I it is not one that seemed to have circled far – I can’t even find it again.

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Underwear models or body modification promotors?

Underwear models – they’re everywhere. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all envied their bodies. And we’ve all bought the products hoping to look even partially as hot as the person modeling them.

Two dominant underwear brands come to mind: Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secret.

First – the male models. Women, it’s okay to drool. You wouldn’t be the first one to do so. Calvin Klein has a knack for giving its female audience exactly what it wants and causing its male viewers to look down at their beer bellies and weep.

Washboard abs. Bulging biceps. Perfect facial structure. A little oil. And of course – the bulging package. No need to place the model in an overly masculine stance, his body and piercing stare get the message across – this is what every women wants in her man and what every man wishes he looked like.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, not every man looks like this. In fact, an extremely small percentage do.  So why do we obsess so much over what we can’t have.  Well there’s your reason – you can’t have it, so you want it even more. But how far are you willing to go to get it?

This is a rare and unrealistic image of the male body, yet it is the one that the media portrays most often. This unbalanced ratio of unrealistic body images can cause, and has caused, consumers to go to unhealthy lengths to reach such perfection.

The female version of the underwear model is no better. Victoria’s Secret models have long, flowing hair, a slim figure, long legs, toned muscles, perfect facial structure, a seductive look, and of course those large, perky breasts.

How many women do you know who actually look like the model to the right? … Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Despite the rarity of this look, it is what we idealize.

Not only do these advertisements portray unrealistic body images, they also promote them. In other words, they put the idea into the viewer’s head that a body like that is not only achievable, but that they should strive to achieve it. On the surface this may not seem too harmful, but the severity of this message is entirely dependent on the viewer’s personal interpretation of it.

The impact of male body image is often underestimated behind females, but in reality males go through many of the same body modification techniques in their attempt to achieve a different body: plastic surgery, artificial tanning, hair extensions (or plugs), liposuction, diets, excessive exercising and many others. But when is body modification taken too far?

We’ve all done something to change our appearance to match our personality and style or attempt to look like one of these models. But there is a point when body modification becomes unhealthy.  Whether it is in the form of excessive exercising, an eating disorder, or damaging plastic surgery – when a persons health is at risk these unrealistic perceptions of body perfection need to be eliminated.

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OMEGA: James Bond and Cindy Crawford’s watch of choice

Who do you idealize?

If it’s James Bond or Cindy Crawford, you should probably buy an Omega watch. At least, that’s what their advertisements imply.

Omega’s James Bond advertisement plays directly into the stereotypical idea that men (or at least Omega’s target audience) aspire to be the hero, the ladies man – the icon of “Bond. James Bond.” The ad implies that if a man wears an Omega watch, then he will be just as smooth, sophisticated and impressive as Bond himself. As a character that we have all grown up knowing (considering Bond was created in 1962 and is still a prominent figure today), this ad could potentially target women as well by implying that if one buys this watch for her man then he will be much more suave or attractive or a number of other characteristics.

The female version of this ad takes a different, but contextually similar, angle of approach – the model.  Idealization of models is nothing new, and Cindy Crawford is a great one to aspire to be.  Even more than that, she is portrayed here as the lady in red – she captures men’s attention as the temptress, the one they strive to have.  She is poised, classy, obviously gorgeous and a well known icon both in the celebrity and stereotypical sense. And the set up of this ad makes sure the audience recognizes that. Even the background chosen for this ad (what looks like a lavish hotel or restaurant) expresses a sense of class and sophistication.

There are no large invisible messages in these ads, but they do play into society’s gender stereotypes and fantasies quite obviously. By placing the focus on who is wearing the watch, however, Omega takes the focus away from the quality of the watch itself and instead places emphasis on the “designer” brand, celebrity status and wealth aspects of wearing its products. I do not doubt that if a cheaper, even “knock-off,” brand of watch used James Bond and Cindy Crawford as their subjects that just as many viewers would purchase the item – despite its lower quality.

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Breast Cancer Awareness

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “breast cancer”?  Chemotherapy? Suffering? The pink ribbon? Perhaps someone you know who has had it?

I automatically think of the Race for the Cure and breast cancer awareness in general.  The Race for the Cure brings awareness to the masses and hope to all affected women and their families, as does the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Neither of these organizations would would be nearly as successful without the advertisements and publicity that surround them.

With advertisements comes the need for a message and the potential for the message to fail if not presented correctly. So what would be the best angle for these organizations to take? Some of their approaches may surprise you:

Whoever thought breast cancer couldn’t be sexualized was wrong. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation played off the idealization that surrounds breasts to grab their audiences attention.  The headline “Expose the Truth” placed directly over the woman’s breasts brings the focus directly to that area and implies that the breast are what should be exposed. The main message of the ad is: “Breast cancer will be diagnosed in one out of seven women in your lifetime. But now 97.5% will survive. Research makes the difference,” but I doubt that’s the first thing viewers notice.  The pervasive message is the one that stands out the most.

Race for the Cure took a slightly different approach…

“We can live without our hair. We can live without our breasts. We cannot live without our hope for a cure.” This advertisement is a perfect example of a possible image – their are no hidden messages and the organization did not attempt to normalize or glamorize its cause. The woman featured obviously survived (or is battling) breast cancer and will directly benefits from the fundraiser.  It may not be the most visually appealing advertisement, but its message cannot be mistaken.

Which advertisement/organization do you think spread breast cancer awareness more effectively? The one that sexualized disease or the one who laid it out for exactly what it is?

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My final final

For my AAD 252 final project, I decided to create a collection of advertisements that portray how the media has stereotyped men and women and normalized unrealistic or inappropriate messages.

This collection of advertisements ranges from watch designer brands to breast cancer awareness to beer, but all relate back to gendered and invisible messages generated by the media.  I have chosen to compared advertisements of similar content in order to reveal these messages.

The following six blog posts will address these advertisements, the messages they are sending, how they compare to similar ads, and any improvements that could be made to better portray the message.

Please feel free to add to the discussion.

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