Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Advertising: The Message Is the Medium

Debbie says:

This week’s internet has brought me three really interesting takes on substitution in advertising. There’s the growing number of ads that substitute men for women:

Lisa Wade at Sociological Images makes the two important points about this:

First, because the ads are so tongue-in-cheek, they didn’t seem to be acknowledging and validating women’s sexual desire, so much as mocking it.

This is how I have always felt about Playgirl and its ilk–they seem to be done with no sense of what women find sexy, but just an assumption that women will find the same things sexy that men do. (Hmm, wonder why we don’t see advertising for women that features two men looking lasciviously at one another?)

Wade’s second point is:

Objectifying men alongside women certainly isn’t progress.  “I wouldn’t call it equality — I’d call it marketing, and maybe capitalism. Market forces under capitalism exploit whatever fertile ground is available. Justice and sexual equality aren’t driving increasing rates of male objectification — money is.”

This first trend is happening in actual highly-paid advertising; the other two substitutions are responses to advertising.

Jes Baker at The Militant Baker decided to see what happens if you substitute people of size for the bodies we most often see in advertising:

 

So he invented a fake perfume called “Lustworthy” and did some ads. He says:

It turns out that no body is inferior (and consequently no body is superior), and so all bodies have the opportunity to be paired with all bodies. This isn’t an opinion. This is a fact. I see it in my life. I see it in other people’s lives. I see it everywhere.

Everywhere except for advertising.

So Liora and I changed that.

Finally, artist Anna Hill had the most brilliant substitution idea in the history of high-tech advertising images; she reframed the ads so that they are selling what they are actually showing: Photoshop!


I want every person in the computerized world to see these, because Hill has truly pulled away the curtain to reveal what advertising really is.

The three sets of images taken together have an overwhelming message: advertising is just a set of styles and approaches. Its most powerful tools, techniques, and assumptions can–and must–be turned around, examined, made fun of, and reframed. That’s the only way we have any chance of understanding what we are being barraged by all the time.

Special thanks to firecat for the Militant Baker link.

3 Responses to “Advertising: The Message Is the Medium”

  1. Lisa Hirsch says:

    About that first ad. It is tongue-in-cheek. It may also have gay men as its covert intended audience.

  2. Stef says:

    I think “he” might not be the correct pronoun for Jes Baker.

  3. Janet Lafler says:

    I read somewhere (a long time ago) that the primary audience for Playgirl and magazines like it is gay men. This may or may not be true, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

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