Sex, Ad's and Rock n' Roll

by Justin Hummel

contemporary advertising has reached global proportions. A man wakes up to the his clock radio and hears a jingle for a restaurant. As he eats breakfast he turns on the television and watches up to three minutes in successive commercials. On his bus ride to work he opens the

This is the current state of western consumerism

day's newspaper to a car dealership advertisement. And these are only the ads he directly notices. The entire time there are signs and images all around him. This is the current state of western consumerism. It would appear that in our "free" society we have been programmed to tirelessly work until we have achieved the desired culture that advertising frequently portrays. However, this level of consumer culture can never be attained. To understand why we, the consumer, continue to work for this incredible goal, we must look beneath the surface of advertisements and critically analyze the adveritisers' techniques such as sex, happiness, and surrealism, and how, in turn, these messages play on our insecurities and anxieties.

example one       The use of sex to sell products is prevalent throughout all advertisement. Starting with example one, we see a bunch of muscular, hairless males flanked by a tom-boyish female. This is a very subtle use of sexual advertising. The use of black and white gives the ad a classic American feel. This leads one to believe in the myth of the "James Dean" male of the fifties. This advertisement, obviously, gives a false imagery of the world because the average working man does not look like the men in this picture. example two In example two, the television program "Pacific Blue" is advertised. At first glance this looks more like an ad for a swimsuit video rather than a cop show. In the background it almost looks like a fire, as if the ad is really hot. In each of the four pictures there is a beautiful woman in an alluring pose, and I am guessing by how they are posing, that the observer is supposed to get some idea of their character. In the middle it reads: "Who wouldn't want to be handcuffed by these cops?" This, of course, alludes to the connotation of the sexually dominant female. This ad tells me virtually nothing about the point of the show. However, I must admit that the people who made this ad knew very well how to reach their target audience and, thus, it is effective. This ad shows how easy it is to get viewers to watch. Simply present four beautiful woman cops and have them wear skimpy outfits and romp on a beach to ensure authenticity. By individually breaking these ads down, we see how simplistic they are. They are effective as well because the casual browser does not take the time to break them down and instead gets caught up in the appearance.

example three       It is natural for a person to want happiness and advertisers know this. In example three a woman is dramatically laughing. She is laughing as though some loser just asked her out, or as though she is flirtatiously laughing with some guy she likes. In both cases, by her laugh, she is saying "I'm in control of my destiny!" Many women want to feel like this woman: to have her confidence, to have her beautiful teeth, to be free of long hair, to wear a skimpy dress. The ad implies the first step to this independence is perfume. Once again we see the use of black and white; however, this time it is used to accent the red "happy." Simplistic? Yes. Effective? You bet! example four The fourth example gives the immediate feeling of youthful contentment. However, this time, instead of black and white a strange green is used, and the models look more modern. The use of happiness in this ad is less intense than the last. We see the girl smiling at her reflection and the guy looking over at his buddy who just called him something perverted. This ad, more than the others, is selling a feeling more than a product. It is attempting to sell teenage acceptance. Were these models popular in high school? Probably. Will you be popular if you wear Guess clothes? Not necessarily. This ad is selling the consumer the world of the unreal.

example five       Surrealism creates an atmosphere of mystery and ecstasy that many people want to buy into. Allow yourself to enter the mysterious world of example five.This ad is selling a false reality and is proud of it. Much like the "Pacific Blue" ad, Dior knows its target audience and is quite proficient in making a suitable ad for them. example six In example six surrealism is once again used, but this time to emulate a drug trip at a rock concert. Buy a pair of Dr. Martens and prepare to jump off some high rise speakers into a frenzy of psychotic fans. In both these cases, the element of mystery and excitement create an unattainable dream-like environment that will not be found. In this sense these ads are using cheap tactics to sell you something you probably do not need.

      Virtually every advertisement that our culture is subjected to is geared towards exposing our insecurities and anxieties and to give a remedy for them with their product. A quick run through of the chosen examples will prove this point. In examples one and two young people are targeted to reach the standards of these models by watching the programs and wearing the clothes. Examples three and four the play on the anxiety that you do not need to be sad are stressed, but that with these products you can be happy and confident. Examples five and six target people who feel that with these products their mundane lives will suddenly become exciting. It is frightening to see how offensive and manipulative the advertisements are, and, at a rate of 1500 per day, it is vital that the general public, and most importantly young people, realize what they are being subjected to.

      Sex, happiness, surrealism, false ideals, anxieties, insecurities, techniques, manipulation; what does it all mean? It means we live in a consumer-based culture, and the consumer is at the bottom of the food chain with the advertiser at the top. It means it is each individual's responsibility to educate themselves on what techniques they are being hunted with and to reciprocate this knowledge with a defensive and possibly offensive action. We may be targets, but we need not be victims.

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