Look down on your screen. Look up. Now back down. Fortunately, this screen is devoid of advertising outside of this post. Look at this screen. Look at another screen. Now back to this screen. (If you just read that like an Old Spice commercial this blog might be for you.)
It looks a little naked without advertising doesn’t it? No sidebar telling you that these shirts are on sale. How ever would you no what to buy without the all knowing side bar ads? We seemed to be doing just fine before 1890 with the invention of the department store. Modern day however, advertising has invaded our lives. Ads pop up in our television, in our many modes of transportation, and even our cell phones. With this much intimate exposure it is impossible to deny that consumers have developed a relationship with advertising.
But is it a positive relationship?
Research suggests that the relationship today might just be abusive in nature. An abusive relationship hits a person emotionally, sexually, financially, and physically. Advertising uses tactics the exploit consumers in 3 out of 4 of these areas.
Take a look at this ad for war bonds from World War II. It wasn’t enough for them to say to buy war bonds. There had to be some kind of emotional sell. And what pulls at heart strings more than sad, dirty, little kids? More specifically a cute little girl looking you in the eye and asking “Deliver us from evil.” It’s even in quotes so that you think she said it. Then at the very bottom in a different color, so as to stand out, the product is presented. This manipulates consumers on a purely emotional level.
….there are far too many results when I google ‘unnecessarily sexual ads’. Lets look at the Burger King ad first for the BK Super Seven Incher. Looks like a yummy sandwich right? The very surprised, attractive, blond lady seems to think so as well. She’s opening her mouth with the sandwich poised to enter. If that didn’t suggest oral sex the caption “It’ll blow your mind away” in all caps with BLOW capitalized and in bigger font should tell you exactly what this ad is implying. Advertising here is taking a non-sexual object and turning it into a representation of a penis.
Now for the toilet paper ad. This ad is a true testament to societies over sexualization of everyday products. Ads such as this make me wonder if some companies are working with the porn industry to sell their products. We have an ass naked man confidently posed with a towel around his neck looking over a woman who’s bathrobe is very close to jumping off of her body. Might I mention that they are both very attractive as well? (Probably photoshopped) Without the in ad text we might not know what the product is. “Toilet Paper and Pleasure”. Only then do we see the toilet paper blurry and out of focus behind the naked man and a toilet in the very background. I see one true non-sexual correlation here and that is naked man’s ass. The purpose of toilet paper is to wipe away poop and pee. Why has this been sexualized? Because sex sells. (Which really…who’s not buying toilet paper?)
But let’s go back to one thing that both of these ads have in common; all three of the people depicted in these ads are attractive. The BK blondie has fair skin, perfect hair, and an almost too perfect profile shot. The naked man and robe woman are both very attractive and very small. I think that robe woman’s thigh is as big as her upper arm. As advertising gets more and more sexual we want more aesthetically pleasing people to be in those sexual positions. But our idea of beauty today is unhealthy and unacheivable so we take it upon ourselves to make people “beautiful”. That results in more people feeling inadequate to the people depicted in advertising. Eating disorders, low self esteem, and an unrealistic idea of cultural beauty crops up because of this. Photoshop is a tool of abuse.
Marlboro’s latest campaign “Be Marlboro” is targeting young adults telling them that they will be more than a “maybe” if they start smoking Marlboro. This is to suggest that without Marlboro cigarettes one is insignificant, undefined, and a looser. Since their birth into the advertising world cigarette companies have been selling tobacco with the basic message that cigarettes will make you more socially acceptable. This plays on the consumers wallet because after they are peer and ad pressured into trying that first cigarette the addictive properties set in. Suddenly cigarettes become a financial obligation for the consumer whether they wish to be socially acceptable or not. Financial manipulation is a form or abuse that advertising likes to pivot on.
Physically – Ok so advertising doesn’t directly physically abuse consumers.Perhaps a Liberty Mutual Lady Liberty adorned employee has started a violent fight before but that barely constitute physical abuse from advertising to consumers.
With 3/4 of these major features of an abusive relationship I think it’s safe to say that consumers are in an abusive relationship with advertising.