Hating on ads is old news, but that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about them. We’ve come a long way since the Don Draper days of advertising, but remarkably little has changed, especially in the way women are portrayed in the media. We’re not saying that these campaigns are responsible for sexism and/or racism in our society, but we are saying that help normalize, and even glamorize inequality and violence. They reflect an awful truth in our society, namely that these are still very big issues that we need to deal with – the glamorization of domination, and violence against women most specifically. Why is it so socially acceptable to depict women in this way, that no one even pats an eye? We’re so used to seeing it that most of us miss the subtext entirely. Various experiments have shown that media depictions of violence against women does in fact make people in general more permissive towards domestic violence and rape in general. And though it’s true that no one single ad or individual is responsible for the state of the world today, they’re certainly not helping by adding to that dialogue of hate and violence. There’s this beautiful notion that we’re all responsible for the wellfare of the word, and that, like it or not, everything we put out into the world, no matter how small or insignificant it may feel to you, contributes to the bigger picture. It creates ripples of positivity, or negativity. Awareness is key. So let’s jump right in.
Putting the blatant objectification of women aside for the moment. Let’s talk about the way those samples of Tom Ford’s exorbitantly expensive perfume are strategically placed in that young lady’s ass crack in the shape of an elegant fan. And yes, yes that is Tom Ford drawing those very same ass samples under his nose. If that doesn’t put you in the mood for shopping, nothing will.
Get it? The crude mattress, the bare dungy looking walls, that oh so subtle hint at a male gaze through the partially open door. Nothing screams luxury fashion like a young girl held captive in someone’s basement. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the model hadn’t been so young looking…but she is.
This classic Sisley ad got everyone in a twist when it first came out, which was exactly the point. This is an excellent example of shock marketing, an ad produced with the specific intention of offending you so that you’ll remember it. It obviously worked.
Because everyone knows that the media doesn’t spend enough time treating women like pieces of meat, Blender had to go and drill that metaphor home with this very literal interpretation. Not sure what they’re selling (shoes? jewelry? anti-gravity hairspray? meat hooks?) but we’re definitely not buying it.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you hope to have a career? Travel the world? Be taken seriously in any way? Hahaha, silly woman. Why don’t you go shopping instead! Like at Neiman Marcus. At least we’ll take your dirty money you subhuman.
There are offensive ads, and then there’s this. Is it sexist? Of course. But more than anything else it’s just tactless. This ad is like that guy with creepy eyebrows that tries to pick you up at the bar by pointing out how big his dick is. It’s just a bad idea badly executed. Ick.
I Love Ugly
This is less of an ad campaign as it is a look book, but it’s bad enough that it deserves a place on this list. Here we have a collection of jewelry and accessories for men, using a naked woman’s ass/vajayjay as a backdrop. The man, per usual, is fully clothed while the woman is naked, and in various poses of submission. Just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with nudity. Nothing at all. But this isn’t about nudity, it’s about the power dynamic between a man and a woman. If you replaced the woman in these images with a dog, it wouldn’t make much difference. Both are naked, both are submissive, both are being petted by their master.
If we are to follow the logic of this ad, death and violence against women is an excellent way of selling more shoes. Thanks to Jimmy Choo for that uplifting message, I’m sure society has benefited from it immensely, murder has never looked more fabulous.
United Colors of Benetton
Really really really bad call United Colors of Benetton. There are some supremely cringe-inducing racist undertones in this ad. Not sure if the company ever really recovered from this one. Haven’t heard much from them lately.
Weyenberg Massagic Shoes
This god awful ad ran in Playboy magazine in 1974 for Weyenberg Massagic Shoes. And really, advertising hasn’t gotten much better since then. Sure the obvious no-beating-around-the-bush text is gone, but the subtext remains. A woman’s place is at his feet, as the following ads make perfectly clear.
Gang-rapey ads like this one are classic, and a favorite of many contemporary brands like Calvin Klein. The subtext reads: “The Game Is Broomsticks. Ring around Rosie. Or Carol. Or Eleanor, etc. Fun. But you can only play if you wear Broomsticks slacks.” I wonder how one could possible win at this game in which a single woman in her underwear is surrounded by men…
Duncan Quinn is just another in a long line of companies that glamorizes violence against women. Again, it’s not necessarily that the violence against this women is obvious, it’s more about the subtextual power dynamics. She’s naked, he’s clothed. He’s standing over her in a position of power, literally holding her by the throat is if she were wearing a leash. Images like this seep into our subconscious where they normalize inequality between the sexes.