an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Posts Tagged ‘television’

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”?


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Spartacus: The Role of Women

Posted by Rosepixie on April 4, 2010

This is a two page magazine ad for the new television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

The text (from the left side) reads:

Mightier than the Sword

The women of Spartacus: Blood and Sand use brains (and other body parts) over brawn in an epic battle for freedom and control.

Sura (Erin Cummings): Wife of Spartacus, she has the power to foretell great and unfortunate events.

Lucretia (Lucy Lawless): Lustful, cunning and powerful, she sees Spartacus as a beast too dangerous for her husband’s gladiatorial stable.

Ilithyia (Viva Bianca): Wife of a roman commander, she finds the gladiator training school the perfect place to fight off boredom.

Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt): Lucretia’s personal slave, she dares go behind her mistress’s back to find forbidden love.

Mira (Katrina Law): A slave at the gladiator training school, she knows the ins and outs of getting what she wants.

They came, they saw, they conquered.

Right.  So, the women, first and foremost exist as sexual beings in relation to the men around them (notice how every one is carefully described by her relationship to the men in the show?).  And while we are told that they use their brains in the blurb about them collectively, individually most of them are only described as using their… well… feminine wiles.  And the image would seem to back that impression up, since they are dressed as Roman pin-up girls and posed like porn stars (except for sweet, innocent slave-girl Naeva there in the back, who only wants true love).

I also notice a hierarchy of skin tones in the image – Naeva, the only black woman, is in the very back and just in front of her is the next darkest-toned woman (who is awfully white), while the three lightest women are large and up front.  Granted, Sura, the very front woman, is slightly darker-skinned than the other two, but she is still pretty white looking.

As annoying as the ads for this show would have been if they had just been straight-forward about the women in the show, this is ten times worse.  It tries to argue that the women aren’t being portrayed/treated the way they are by talking about brains over brawn, but pretty much just ends up sounding stupid and shallow and false.  You can’t have it both ways and trying to sell it as such is just going to piss me off.

I actually might have checked out this show before seeing the ads for it, since I tend to find historical shows fun to watch, but after seeing this, I’m staying far away from it and might think twice before trying anything else from Starz in the future too.

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Sears: Shopping with Santa

Posted by Rosepixie on January 5, 2010

This is a holiday commercial from Sears that I found on YouTube.

This is one of the most entertaining variations on “Santa shops here” that I’ve seen.  Nearly every store seems to have a version of Santa shopping there to show us how we should shop there too, but usually they’re pretty forgettable.  This one stood out for me because of the comments from the reindeer.

If you think about it, people do ask for pretty big, ridiculous things that are a pain to carry, wrap and fit under a tree.  And generally we only have to deal with one at a time.  Imagine being the reindeer!  They have to carry hundreds or thousands of those things!  And even though LCD TVs are thin, they’re heavy!  Especially if you’ve got over 400 of them!  I wouldn’t want to haul those either!

It’s not many ads that let me think about entertaining things like what it would be like to be a reindeer, so when one comes across that does, it makes me take notice.  And this one managed to make me laugh and let me think about that all with a few short lines spoken as side comments!  It’s great!

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Sports Jobs: I Wonder Who the Sponsor Is?

Posted by Rosepixie on December 22, 2009

This is an ad for the show Sports Jobs and was found in a men’s magazine.

When I first opened to this spread I thought I was looking at a Target ad.  It was only a moment later after closer examination of the ad that I realized that it was for a television show.

Now, sponsorship is important, particularly in sports like car racing where it can get extremely expensive very quickly.  But why the blindly heavy sponsorship for the show?   It just seems odd for it to be that overwhelming.  And if this isn’t sponsorship for the show and just happens to be here because they used a shot of the car and team Target sponsored from a race, then it’s even more strange that they chose to do this.

That said, this says a lot for how effectively Target has marketed that red and white symbol.  I instantly recognized it and it’s only now as I’m writing up this post that I even noticed that it actually says “Target” somewhere (it’s on the belts of the guys in helmets).  What this tells me is that Target’s branding has been incredibly successful and this show might have wanted to think about that before they agreed to include so much of it in this ad.  It very much drowns them out.  You want your ad to make your product memorable, not just your sponsor’s.

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The Tudors

Posted by Rosepixie on December 5, 2009

This is a magazine ad for The Tudors (the television show) and it was sent to me by a friend of mine.

This is really a pretty horrific image.  There are so many things wrong with it.  Not only is it just plain creepy to look at, but I really have to wonder about the decision to make an image like this.

Looking at this image with history in mind, this is an even more troublesome image.  Here we see an opulently dressed king sitting on a “chair” made of naked people who are very thin and don’t even look like they are necessarily alive.  Considering that this isn’t too far off from how people were actually thought of by nobility at times (and arguably still sometimes are today), it’s troublesome from that stand point.  Even more bothersome, however, is that the first thing I thought of when I saw this was that it looks remarkably like some images I’ve seen of the kind of thing that happened in the Holocaust of World War II.  Generals really did have things like lampshades on their desks made of human skin.

This may have seemed like a cute way to suggest wealth and power to some ad agency, but it’s really a pretty awful image.  People really have been treated like that throughout history and it’s not cute.  Personally, I find it pretty distasteful.  This does not make me want to watch their show, it makes me want to throw up.

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Movie Monday: Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Posted by Rosepixie on November 30, 2009

A friend of mine pointed out that a sequel to Alvin and the Chipmunks is coming out this Christmas.  Here’s the extended trailer.

So, most of the trailer looks like more of the same thing the first movie had.  Cheap jokes and easy gags.  No real surprises there.

And then we get the Chipettes.  Now, I grew up watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and I was a girl, so I was a fan of the Chipettes.  Mostly I remember the really awesome movie where they all flew hot air balloons in a nonsensical race around the world for dolls filled with diamonds.  It had a great sequence of the girls singing “We’re the Girls of Rock and Roll” that I remember vividly.

But somehow I feel a little scarred by the Chipettes singing “Single Ladies”.  It’s just a terrible song for them.  They’re little girls – why did they pick that song?  And the movie is going to be marketed (as was the first one) to little kids – why did they pick that song?  There’s just something not very kid-friendly about “if you like it than you should have put a ring on it” that makes it feel extra wrong in this setting.

But the first movie did well and I’m sure this one will too.  Anyone else have a different reaction to this trailer?

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Dora: From Explorer to… Girly-Girl?

Posted by Rosepixie on October 28, 2009

One of the most popular (and, consequently, marketable) characters for children right now is Dora the Explorer.  She’s been unbelievably popular for a number of years now with kids in the preschool and toddler ages.  Her popularity cuts across both genders, multiple races (she herself is Latina and speaks both English and Spanish in her show), and a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.  She’s one of those characters that you probably know well if you’ve spent much time with a toddler or preschooler in America in the past five years.

Dora’s show tells the stories of her adventures with her best friend, Boots (the monkey).  They go everywhere, from jungles and deserts to pirate ships and imaginary storybook lands.  Dora’s done it all.  And she works hard, she really earns her “explorer” title.  She follows a map for each adventure and must overcome obstacles to achieve the goal set before her.  We know that her adventures can’t all be imaginary because one of her friends is the son of some animal conservationists and she goes on quite a few animal rescue missions with him.  He even earned his own spin-off show (a serious rarity in children’s programming), Go, Diego, Go! Dora is not a girl who stays still.  Here she is:

Dora the Explorer

But apparently someone at Nickelodeon has decided that Dora is a) only a girls’ property and b) in need of a make-over.  So Dora is getting a brand new look and a brand new show – Dora’s Explorer Girls.  This time, Dora is a tween who lives in a city and has a bunch of girl friends (but no boys!) and well… doesn’t go on any adventures.

Here’s Dora and her new friends (click for full size):

From the website:

Moms have grown to love Dora the Explorer almost as much as their little girls do.  She’s the perfect role model, a heroine little girls can relate to, learn from, and play with.

But little girls grow up.  (Sigh.)  Yes, it’s true.  Somewhere along the line that gentle, unassuming nature gives way to bold opinions as her world expands.

And older girls need role models, too.

That’s where Dora’s Explorer Girls come in.  This Dora is the same girl at heart, just a little older and on a whole new kind of adventure.  She’s the leader of her group of school friends: Naiya, Kate, Emma and Alana.  They’re the Explorer Girls, and they work together to solve mysteries, help others in their community and have lots of fun along the way.  They’re a whole group of heroines with varying interests and talents that older girls can learn from.

Of course, there will always be little girls.  (Thank goodness.)  So, the Dora we all know and love won’t change a bit.  She’ll still be the same take-charge girl leading your little ones on adventures for years to come.

And now, older girls can continue the friendship for a few more years.

Maybe your big girl would like to be an Explorer Girl?  Check out the rest of the site to start your child on a new adventure with Dora!

Wow.  So, Dora is apparently only appealing to girls (and their moms).  I wonder what that means for all the little boys and dads that I’ve met who absolutely adore Dora the Explorer?  Beyond that, it’s evidently such a tragedy that little girls (who, of course,  are all gentle and unassuming as small children) grow up to *gasp* have their own opinions and personalities!  “Thank goodness” that “there will always be little girls” who “won’t change one bit.”

Um… guys?  Dora had more spunk and personality as that cute, round little girl up top than she does as a thin, rather generically “hip” tween!  From her “Explorer Girls” bio:

Hola! Thanks for checking out the Explorer Girls site.  Soy Dora.  I live in Puerto Verde with my whole family: mi mama, mi papi, y mi abuela.  Plus my little sister Isabella and my little brother Guillermo.  My best friends and I are the Explorer Girls, and we work together to keep our city clean and green.  Whether starting a Save the Rainforest club at school or figuring out a mystery, we love to do everything together!  Todas juntas!

My favorite food: Arroz con pollo.  My papi makes the yummiest chicken and rice!

My favorite sport: It’s a tie between soccer and baseball!

My must-have: My friends, of course!  They’ve always got my back.

You can find me: All over the place!  If I’m not at school or on the soccer field, I’m probably at the Arco Iris Cafe with the Explorer Girls, or at a beach clean-up, or on a bike-a-thon, or volunteering at the animal shelter… there’s just so many great things to do in the city!

Big plans: I’m going to volunteer at the neighborhood animal shelter.  I love my dog, Cora, SOOOO much, and I know we can make a big difference for lots of animals who need a helping hand.  Or paw. 🙂

I don’t like: Litterbugs.

Litterbugs?  Seriously?  That’s the best you could do?  Ok, so Dora went from an “I can (literally) do anything” girl to a rather stereotyped, although clearly well intentioned, and kind of bland tween.  What about her friends?  Are they well rounded characters?  Let’s see – Naiya’s bio should be subtitled “Science Girl”, Kate is the actress (she thanks you for being her audience when you click on her bio), Emma is the musician and Alana is the athlete (soccer may be her only sport, but clearly it’s her identity).  Oh yeah, this is a well-rounded bunch.

And, again, no boys to be seen.  Because you couldn’t really be a tweenaged girl if you even acknowledged that boys exist.  Dora’s best friend was Diego – a boy!  What happened to him?  And what happened to Boots?  Admittedly, it might be hard to explain why there’s a monkey hanging around outside the middle school waiting for you, but still…  Does Dora really seem like the kind of girl who would care?  She’d be off on her way to an adventure in Antarctica before anyone finished asking the question anyway!

But this is clearly being marketed as pink, fashionable and girly.  And being an explorer is none of those things.  Being an explorer means getting dirty, asking questions and forming your own opinions.  And none of those are things that we want girls doing, are they?Of course, it would all be better if they could just stay little girls forever.


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Movie Monday: The Last Airbender

Posted by Rosepixie on October 26, 2009

This is a trailer for The Last Airbender, which is based on the first season of the amazing Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The voice over for this trailer talks a lot… and says basically nothing.  That’s really what struck me after watching this.  It gives absolutely no information at all.  We don’t get the kid’s name, any information about who he is or why he’s important or what he does or why the world needs a savior or… anything.  It’s kind of disappointing.  And one of the biggest strengths of the show is the awesome ensemble cast, of which there is no sign in this trailer.  I’m betting a lot of fans won’t be going to see Aang (the kid shown here), they’ll be going to see one of the other main characters.  But there isn’t even a hint that they will be there!  And for people who aren’t fans, they’ve got to be clueless after this trailer!  It gives no reasons to go see the movie!  What’s going on?  Who is this kid?  What’s with the circle of candles?

The fleet of ships did look awesome (and just like the Fire Nation ships in the show), but they totally couldn’t save this pitiful trailer, in my opinion.

Anyone else have any other opinions about this one?  Is there anyone who wants to go see the movie because of this trailer?  Why?

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Nip/Tuck: Lacing Up the Objectification

Posted by Rosepixie on October 20, 2009

These are two promotional images for this season of the television show Nip/Tuck.

I found this image on the front page of YouTube last week.

Nip/Tuck 1

Then I decided to look for a larger version of that image for this post (which I never did find) and checked the official website.  This image was plastered across the website.

Nip/Tuck 2

I find these images incredibly creepy.  First, the idea that a woman could lace up the skin of her back like a corset is incredibly disturbing.  It not only implies that the woman is actually threading laces through her skin (a very oogy idea), but also that she can pull her skin tighter to reshape her body like a corset does.  That is a very disturbing idea on so many levels.

But it’s not just the lacing itself that’s disturbing in these images.  It’s the treatment of the woman herself.  She’s barely a woman at all, she’s just a body on display for the male gaze.  In both images the woman is nearly naked, clad only in white panties, while the two men are both fully dressed in suits.  The woman is facing the two men in both images so that we, the viewers, only get to see her back, but the two men appear to have a great view of her bare breasts and rather attractive and sensually posed body.  They also appear to be enjoying that view, leaning into her and taking sexual poses themselves.  They are very much in control here, though.  The man on the left in both images holds the ends of the laces from the woman’s back, so he’s literally controlling her body.  Not only do those laces let him pull her like a puppet in the second image, but implicitly they allow the man to decide what she looks like as well.  That’s pretty creepy on a lot of levels as well.  It’s a step beyond objectification – it is allowing the observer decide what the observed looks like, to mold them to their choosing.  How creepy is that?

I understand that the show deals with some pretty extreme body modification, but by and large the women who have plastic surgery are directing the changes to their own bodies, even if it is male doctors who are enacting those changes.  It may be the pressures of society that make the women feel they need these modifications, but it is still the women who choose them.  These images don’t show that agency.  They show a creepy and almost oppressive objectification.  I find these images really disturbing and if I ever had any curiosity about this show it’s now totally squashed.  I’m now certain that I actively don’t want to see this show – ever.

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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).

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