an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Reading the Message: Because Girls Don’t Need Superheroes

Posted by Rosepixie on April 22, 2010

The days of comic books being for kids are long since past, but that doesn’t mean that kids don’t like or need superheroes.  Little boys still pretend to be Spider-Man and little girls still run around as Supergirl.  To help fulfill this common desire for superhero stories in kids, the major comic publishers have kids’ lines that specifically tell stories about their major, popular heroes for kids.  Sounds great, right?  One problem.  Someone at these companies seems to have failed to notice all those girls, because the default assumption in the kids’ lines is very clearly that girls don’t need superheroes.

The team that makes up the DC Super Friends consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.  All six work together in basically every issue of the comic to solve problems and save the day.  The above cover is from the second trade paperback, which collects several issues of this comic.  Notice anyone missing?  She’s missing from the first book cover too.  Worse, she’s not in the toy line.  Not a single female character is.  There’s probably six versions of Batman in the line as well as any number of other characters not central to the stories (Cyborg, Hawkman, etc.), but not a single woman.  And they have no intention of ever making one.

Marvel’s little kid super hero team is called (creatively enough) the Super Hero Squad.  That’s them in the picture above.  In Marvel’s team there isn’t even a female character to begin with!  If you dig through the website about them there is exactly one woman listed under “Heroes” and one under “Villains”.  The female hero is Ms. Marvel who is explicitly not a part of the Super Hero Squad, although she does work for the same organization, and is actually referred to in her bio as Ms. Crankypants.  Nice.  The female villain has a crush on Thor.  I couldn’t find either anywhere on the site except for the section listing characters.

What I noticed most about both of these superhero properties is that both have women characters, but both are explicitly marketed without them.  This is most marked in DC Super Friends, since Wonder Woman is a central character in the stories, yet is completely removed from all marketing materials for the property.  She doesn’t appear on any book covers, in any merchandise or in any of the ads that I’ve been able to find.

These are particularly notable properties because they are, for both companies, the property aimed at their youngest customers.  Marvel has “all ages” versions of several of their major characters which they market to kids, but they involve more complex stories and art, pushing them to a slightly older audience than the easily pre-school and young elementary friendly Super Hero Squad.  DC has a whole line of kids’ properties, but they too are largely aimed more at older elementary and middle school kids who are comfortable reading on their own and desiring more complex stories.  The only title they have which can easily be enjoyed by such a young audience besides DC Super Friends is Tiny Titans, which is clearly written with an audience in mind that already knows the characters at least a little bit and does not show the characters being superheroes, but rather focuses on superheroes living regular kid lives.

So the question is, why market them this way?  If you don’t want girl customers, why include the female characters at all?  What’s the point of Wonder Woman even being on the team if you only plan to pretend she isn’t there?  And if you aren’t explicitly trying to alienate female customers, why specifically leave the female characters out of all marketing and some major parts of the product lines?

The biggest problem here is that this doesn’t make financial sense – a girl pays just as much for a comic book, t-shirt, action figure or costume as a boy does, so why deliberately ignore them when they are half the market and when appealing to them at the young ages these product lines target could mean you get a customer for life?  It’s not even that getting a kid hooked on comic books young means they’ll read them forever, lots of people read comics as kids and stopped at some point just like lots of adults never read them as kids but do now.  It’s more that if you tell that customer base that you don’t want them from the start, the message sinks in deeper, so you’re deliberately turning away someone who might otherwise have been interested, and then you’ve probably lost them for life.  The messages we hear as kids mean a lot, even when we don’t think about them.  So why would you ever want to make your message “we don’t want your money, superheroes aren’t for girls”?


Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

American Apparel: Best Butt Contest

Posted by Rosepixie on April 6, 2010

American Apparel recently held a contest to find “the best bottom in the world”.  Anyone could enter, but they had to submit photographs of their butts wearing American Apparel clothing to be posted on the website and voted on and commented on by users.  Anyone could then vote and comment on any photograph they wanted.  The winners were chosen by the company, but the winners of the popular vote got prizes too.

Of course, when you went to the website, the first page you saw was the women’s category.

Notice the poses and the choices of clothing in the featured pictures.  The large picture at the top cycled through different images.

Here’s the guy’s page, which you had to choose to go to via a tiny link in the top corner of the screen that I completely missed until I went looking for it, wondering if this was a women’s only contest or if I was missing something (you can see the link in the image).

See how very different this page feels than the women’s page?  There’s a few sexualized poses, but not nearly as many and none of the men are exposing nearly as much skin as pretty much all of the women are.  Hell, one of them isn’t even a picture of someone’s butt!

Not surprisingly, I have quite a few problems with this particular marketing gimmick.  First of all, the presentation is awful.  Asking people to send in pictures of their butts is one thing, but posting them online and encouraging others to vote and comment on them is quite another.  Much of the site is basically soft-core porn images and the comments are horrid and demeaning, as the images are being treated as porn.  This is just about the worst kind of objectification and even worse than the passive objectification that is usually fed to us in advertisements, this promotion actually invites us to participate in objectifying people, judging them and commenting on their body parts.

Second, this promotion specifically restricts what contestants can wear when entering.  All entries must portray contestants wearing American Apparel garments from specified categories (panties (women), bodysuits (women) or briefs(men)).  Since all of the products available for men to wear are less revealing than the products allowed for women to wear, they already have a major advantage in the objectification department in this case.  There are numerous styles available for women, but they are almost universally smaller garments than those available to the men and there are several thong and string options, which there are none of in the men’s category.  This makes the contest even more heavily forced into the soft-core porn territory it likely would have fallen into anyway (given the topic).  It also restricts the entrants to only previous customers of American Apparel.

Now, American Apparel is known for it’s objectifying and sexist ads, so this really shouldn’t be a surprise.  It just sort of hit a new low, in my opinion.  This is the company getting free advertising images from customers that they can use on their website with little cost to themselves (effectively none if they rig the contest so that they choose someone they wanted to model for them in the first place).  It’s pretty revolting.  I knew there was a reason I’d never bought anything from them.

Posted in Fashion | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Vintage Friday: The Air Strip

Posted by Rosepixie on February 5, 2010

This is a commercial from Braniff Airlines (I don’t have a date, but the uniforms date from the 1960s, so it has to have been from sometime that decade).

This is a pretty offensive commercial, once you get past how ridiculous the whole thing is.  First of all, the idea that the flight attendant is “stripping” for you throughout the flight is pretty horrifying and creepy.  Second of all, there is so much wrong, even for the time period, with the line “Braniff International … believes that even an airline hostess should look like a girl.”  Even in a profession populated entirely by women, it’s rather disgusting to say that unless they dress like that they wouldn’t look like “girls”.  Not to mention that saying that while PUTTING ON A STRIP SHOW (even one with no actual nakedness) has all kinds of overtones.  It suggests that to look like a girl, one must be a sex object, on display with no voice.  It also suggests that looking like a girl either means dressing a certain way or being sexy enough to pull off the sex object act (or both), but probably has little to do with actually being a girl, since many real girls likely won’t qualify.

And, yes, I’m well aware that there were other things equally bad or worse from the same time period, but that doesn’t excuse this.  This also came out around the same time as The Feminine Mystique and some serious and very vocal movements opposite to it.  It doesn’t get a pass just for coming out in the 1960s.  That’s not how it works.

Posted in Travel, Vintage | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ecko: Threesomes!

Posted by Rosepixie on January 20, 2010

This is an ad for Ecko, a fragrance by Mark Ecko.

I have no idea what threesomes have to do with fragrances, but since perfume and cologne ads pretty much always promise sex or romance or whatever, it’s not wildly out of character.  I did notice the arrangements of the threesomes, though.  There are two sets and in each set the person in the middle very much feels in control, one is looking out at us while the other two are fawning over her while the other is focused on one person, but both others are totally focused on him.  In the center of one trio is a woman and in the center of the other is a man.  Makes sense, right?  Balance things out?  Except that it’s not.  Both threesomes are two girls and a guy.  Why?  Probably because it’s culturally more acceptable for girls to have sexual encounters together than for guys to do so, even if there is a girl involved.

I found when looking at this ad that I didn’t know who it was for.  Was this a men’s cologne or a women’s perfume?  No idea.  Some research beyond the ad tells me that it’s for men, but I really wouldn’t have been able to tell you that without a Google search!  That’s definitely a problem with this ad!

Posted in Beauty | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bushmaster: Be a Man

Posted by Rosepixie on January 12, 2010

I found this ad for Bushmaster Firearms in a men’s magazine.

So, to be a man, you must have one of these guns. And since you (presumably) don’t have one now, your “man card” has been revoked until you get one.

This appears to be a particularly stupid example of the “invent a problem and then sell people the solution they don’t really need” school of advertising.  This one is especially insidious considering all the panic being stirred up right now about “traditional masculinity” being in jeopardy in politics, religion and a surprising number of social spaces.

I don’t have much else to say about this ad.  Does anyone else have any particular thoughts on it?

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Californication: He’s Easy

Posted by Rosepixie on October 11, 2009

This is an ad for the television show Californication and it was found in a men’s magazine.

Californication 1The text reads:

Meet Professor Hank Moody.

He’s easy.

Obviously this show would go for sex appeal and objectification in it’s ads.  With a name like that, it would almost seem weird if they didn’t.  What does seem weird is that while the text is referring to the guy, Hank Moody, as “easy” (usually a phrased used to describe a woman), he’s not objectified at all here, only the women around him are.  Now, perhaps we’re supposed to be seeing the world sort of as he does (this was found in a men’s magazine, after all, so that seems like it might be a reasonable assumption).  That explains the female-only objectification, but the phrase “he’s easy” still seems odd.  I’ve just never heard the phrase used in this way to refer to a guy.  It’s used to refer to women all the time, but “he’s easy” is usually only part of a phrase not referencing sex (i.e. “he’s easy on the eyes”).  Clearly it gets their point across here, but I do wonder what made them decide to go with that specific phrase.  It had to have been a deliberate, considered choice.  It seems too unusual not to have been.

Incidentally, I also found it interesting that primarily this ad is objectifying women’s legs.  We can only see one butt, one set of breasts, but four pairs of attractive legs in cute shoes.  Also, interestingly, although there is a black girl and we can see most of her body, it is her breasts we see and the butt in the shot belongs to a white girl.  I’m thinking they were definitely going primarily for legs in this shot and really weren’t thinking about the rest of it (other than making sure that we couldn’t see any of the women’s heads).

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Halls: You Did What With My Mom?

Posted by Rosepixie on October 3, 2009

This is a commercial for Halls Refresh and I found it online.

This commercial somehow makes me uneasy.  Even though nothing happens between the mom and the roommate, it’s clear what they’re trying to get at here.  I don’t think they’re really implying that anything has or will happen necessarily, just that they want you to understand the innuendos being made and laugh as they imply a more serious situation.  The problem is that it’s more than a little creepy.  I mean, this commercial would never have been made with the genders reversed (dad and female 18-year-old roommate).  I get that the expectations are different for men and women, but I still don’t see how that makes this ok.  And the fact that it’s so creepy really just makes me want to have nothing to do with it.  I certainly have no interest in buying the product and, depending on how long this commercial stays in my memory, I may continue to have negative associations with the product for a very long time.  I don’t think that this was a good move by the marketing department at all!

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »