Women in Advertising Irwin Allen Ginsberg; an American poet once said, “Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture. ” The media constantly expresses images of the ideal female body. All women have their own individual set of attributes and characteristics, however, the media continuously tries to spread what they feel is the universal standard of what a woman should look like. One might argue, that the images put out by the media strongly affect our generation and the way in which we perceive ourselves. Ginsberg’s statement reminded me of a television advertisement produced by Carl’s Jr.
This advertisement featured swimsuit model Kate Upton eating a burger in the backseat of an old school looking car. The advertisement was exceedingly sexually suggestive and showed a substantial amount of unsuitable sex appeal. Carl’s Jr. has acquired quite the reputation of producing these overtly sexual advertisements. Advertisements such as this are damaging today’s generation’s mental and physical state of being. In America, we are surrounded by a society that is primarily consumed by sex. With that being said, there are thousands of companies that produce risky advertisements to compete for the attention of viewers such as Carl’s Jr.
With regards to the Kate Upton advertisement, the first thing that caught my eye upon viewing this ad is Upton wearing lace under garments scantily covered by a short polka dot dress. The revealing dress shows off her legs and hangs loosely off her shoulder ultimately exposing her bra and cleavage. The range of positions she lies in throughout the ad goes from innocent to offensive. Upton begins removing the South West Patty Melt from its wrapping and starts to slowly consume the burger in her car. After taking the first taste, Upton starts her high-speed strip tease.
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For the remaining thirty seconds, the camera moves up and down the parts of her body that are revealed by her dress. She unexpectedly begins sweating all over her body, which makes a direct reference to sex. Upton’s elusive hip movements add to the theme of sex, and serve to sidetrack the viewer from the actual burger itself. Upton’s face looks incredibly pleased as if she is fulfilled with the burger she is advertising but upon close examination, you see that the burger has not been bitten into. Furthermore, this indicates that the intent of this Carl’s Jr. advertisement is to sell sex in addition to the burger itself.
The content in this advertisement implies that women cannot only be healthy but also sexually fantasized individuals by purchasing the southwest patty melt. In actuality, the opposite of that implication is often true. The obvious issue in this advertisement is that women rarely consume burgers the size of the one Upton is advertising. More importantly, eating a burger of that size is filled with calories and will not make those women who do resemble Upton physically. Women are incredibly sensitive to their body image and easily perceive the body images media creates. Therefore, this advertisement may be perplexing to female viewers.
In the journal Adolescent Evaluation of Gender Role and Sexual Imagery in Television Advertisements authors Donna Rouner and Michael Slater provide readers with insight on a study they conducted; the results portion states, “Exposure to advertising with idealized images of physical attractiveness will at least temporarily lower female viewers’ self perceptions of physical worth and self being. ”(438) With that being said, adolescent females and adult women viewing this advertisement compare themselves to this excessively sexy yet highly idealized model and begin to feel dissatisfied with their own physical appearance.
Furthermore, the fact that the feeling of temporary self-loath takes place when viewing advertisements such as the one produced by Carl’s Jr. is chilling. Many adolescent females sit in front of their television screens and are bombarded with hundreds of advertisements each day. When advertisements like this appear, the message getting out to them is, in order for you to be desirable or considered beautiful you must reveal certain parts of your body and act in an incredibly sexual manner. This corrupts the minds of young women. Thus, one might say that the targeted audience for this advertisement is men or male adolescents.
According to Carol M. Sheperd, a professor at National University, “Sexiness of an advertisement causes viewers to remember the ad, and thus the product. ”(2) With that being said, though Upton’s advertisement stirred up quite the controversy last year, it was successful in getting people to talk about the ad due its extreme sexual content. More importantly, it got people to go out and buy the Southwest Patty Melt. Nonetheless, Carl’s Jr. uses the pathos rhetorical appeal in this advertisement to evoke certain feelings out of viewers.
Upton’s sexually suggestive actions induce emotional responses from her predominately male audience, such as feelings of arousal and even desire. The use of pathos in this ad can go either way when it comes to its effectiveness. When viewing this advertisement a consumer could be paying attention to the high levels of sex appeal and disregard all other elements of the ad, like the actual burger Upton is advertising. Conversely, the appeal of sex can heighten the chance of an advertisement succeeding because it attracts the customer's attention.
In the journal Ethics in Advertising: Sex Sells, but should it? Author Jessica Dawn Blair states: “The use of sexual appeals in the study seemed to detract from the processing and retention of message arguments. However, it did appear that the recipients would focus their attention more on the execution of ads using the type of appeal. ” (112) It is our human nature to be curious about sex. Sex in addition to attractive women in advertisements often sells more than advertisements that do not use this appeal. What does that have to say about our society?
The objectification of women in sexual advertisements does nothing but teach the youth of this generation that it is okay to overly sexy and in fact, it is encouraged. That is where the problem lies. These companies want to desperately appeal to their viewers and majority of them do not care if they are sending out the wrong message as long as the product gets sold. Overall, our country has based a vast majority of advertisements on sex appeal to sell their products to the targeted audience of predominately males.
For the most part, women have been subjected to the role of playing “pieces of meat” to men. The objectification of women in advertising has extreme physiological consequences. It has the potential to make women think of themselves in the way in which they are portrayed and it causes them to engage in self-loath or depression. Advertisements such as Kate Upton’s put out a negative viewpoint on women. It is crucial that we reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. Change starts from within and we have to step up as women, take the lead and reach as high as feasibly possible.
Works Cited Blair, Jessica Dawn. “Ethics in Advertising: Sex Sells, but Should it? ” Journal of Legal Ethical and Regulatory Issues 9. 1 (2006): 109-18. ABI/INFORM Complete. Web. 3 Mar. 2013. Carl’s Jr. Advertisement. New York Daily New. N. p. , 1 Mar. 2012. Web. 3 Mar. 2013 Rouner, Donna, Michael D. Slater, and Melanie Domenech-Rodriguez. "Adolescent Evaluation Of Gender Role And Sexual Imagery In Television Advertisements. " Journal Of Broadcasting ; Electronic Media 47. 3 (2003): 435-454. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
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