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.