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Ed Williams PHIL 319.


Term Paper: Advertising Due: Monday, 19 November 2007 Advertising, Women & Ethics Never write an advertisement which you wouldn't want your own family to read. You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife. Don't tell them to mine. Do as you would be done by. – David Ogilvy

Should Advertising be Abolished? David Ogilvy (1911-1999) was the founder of what is now one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. The Ogilvy enterprise consists of 497 offices worldwide, spanning multiple facets of the marketing industry. David Ogilvy has written three books on advertising. One of these books, Confessions of an Advertising Man, has a seemingly contradictory chapter entitled “Should Advertising be Abolished?”, which displays Ogilvy’s views on many of the social issues that advertising relates to. In the opening paragraph of this chapter, Ogilvy makes clear that he is not a philosopher, but that he is able to see that the question should be asked (Ogilvy, 1963, 179). So, should advertising be abolished? Ogilvy ultimately concludes that, in his opinion, advertising should not be abolished, but that “it must be reformed” (194). Ogilvy states of advertising that the highly critiqued form of combativepersuasive advertising – used to downplay competing brands – is less profitable than simply informing the consumer without downplaying the competition (182). He writes of advertising politics, “the use of advertising to sell statesmen is the ultimate vulgarity”, and claims that it would be unfair to persons of different political beliefs who may be employed by his agency (190). However, Ogilvy does believe that it is good to do advertising for “good causes of a nonpolitical nature”, such as for the American Cancer Society (190). Ogilvy also notes finding himself “between a rock and a hard place” when

Williams it comes to advertising on television; as an advertiser he realizes the television’s potential, but states “as a private person, I would gladly pay for the privilege of watching it without commercial interruptions” (193). So, how does one of the world’s most famous advertisers come to these conclusions about advertising? How is it possible that a man who made his vast wealth in advertising determine that televised commercial interruptions are a bad thing, or that advertisements should not combat competing brands, and find disgust in advertising politicians? If nothing else, David Ogilvy opens the eyes of his readers by helping to shine a light on some of the ethical concerns regarding, what many people have called an evil, advertising. Is advertising evil? Ogilvy (1963, 179) quotes of, socialist labor politician, Aneurin “Nye” Bevan, that advertising is “an evil service”, and of economic historian, Arnold Toynbee, who could not “think of any circumstances in which advertising would not be an evil.” He further noted that Harvard economist, Professor Galbraith, held that “advertising tempts people to squander money on ‘unneeded’ possessions when they ought to be spending it on public works” (Ogilvy, 1963, 179). However, on another note, David Ogilvy writes in another book, Ogilvy on Advertising, “nobody suggests that the printing press is evil because it is used to print pornography. It is also used to print the Bible. Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things” (Ogilvy, 1983, 207). So why would an entire city ban certain forms of advertising? An article in Adbusters magazine, entitled São Paolo: A City Without Ads, describes a recent decision by the Brazilian city to ban outdoor advertisements. The city’s mayor, Gilberto Kassab,

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Williams complained of advertising’s “excess”, but said that the main reason for the ban was for aesthetic purposes (Harris, September/October 2007, no page numbers). A one-page letter from, what appears to be, the editor near the beginning of this magazine, which prides itself on being ad-free, describes advertising as “brain damage” and “mental pollution”, and claims that the more than 3,000 “invasive advertising” messages that the “average North American” receives each day are causing stress in people’s lives (Kalle, September/October 2007, no page numbers). Advertising & Women While David Ogilvy delves little into the ethical concerns regarding women and advertising, he does caution readers and potential advertisers to tell the facts. Ogilvy states, “the consumer isn’t a moron – she is your wife”, and then advises that advertisers not “insult her intelligence” (124). Ogilvy often uses feminine articles to refer to the target audience of advertisements because at the time of the writing of his book, most advertisements were typically written for a female audience. This is because at the time this book was written, in the early 1960s, the mother/wife was usually the person who shopped for the family. Moreover, the women’s movement had not yet begun; therefore, while the ethical issues concerning women and advertising indeed existed, they were not widely known about, and much less written about. The following will explain some of the ethical concerns regarding the broad topic of advertising and women. The topics that will be covered are the portrayal of women through advertising, the exploitation of feminism, and the effects of advertising on women.

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Williams Sport advertising is a good place to start when examining the portrayals of women in advertising, because as Cuneen and Spencer (2003, 143) report, “sport ads appear to be especially culpable in perpetuating gender stereotypes in that virtually every known assessment of sport-related advertising shows that ad photos and visuals are, for the most part, gender-biased and have been so since at least the 1930s.” Cuneen and Spencer go on to note that sport advertisements often portray women as “inactive, fragile, nonathletic, traditionally feminine or even sexual, and engaged in leisure activities or individual sports rather than in competitive or team sports” (2003, 143). This means that women are portrayed in sport advertisements in a way as to perpetuate the gender stereotypes that exist in the also broad topic of women and sport. When female athletes are displayed in advertisements within their sporting context, athletes from sports that are socially conceived as feminine are more often chosen (i.e. figure skating, gymnastics) than from neutral sports (i.e. tennis, basketball). Female athletes are rarely, if ever, chosen to appear in advertisements as representatives from socially conceived masculine sports (i.e. football, baseball). However, all of this may depend on the context of the advertisement, the message that is being displayed, and the target audience. For example, an advertisement that is trying to sell boxing gloves to female boxers would likely not hold back from having a female boxer in the advertisement, even though boxing is widely conceived of as a masculine sport. However, as Cuneen and Spencer (2003) suggest, female athletes are often removed from a sporting context altogether, displayed as sexual objects, and occasionally as weak and fragile. Rinehart (2005) notes that advertisements sometimes “infantilize” women. The author analyzes an advertisement for a skateboard apparel company, which

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Williams displays a topless young woman in an explicitly sexual pose next to a picture of a young girl in braces, who was standing in front of a backdrop of hearts and holding a skateboard. Rinehart (2005, 248) suggests, “the jarring juxtaposition of a seminude woman next to a young innocent is arresting to the eye, but it also poses a troubling possibility (in this magazine) of the infantilization of female skateboarders and the overt sexualization of underage females for male consumption.” Kilbourne (1999) suggests that, on top of all of this, women have also been portrayed in violent situations. She describes an advertisement for Bitch Skateboards, which simply shows a cartoon man holding a gun to the head of a cartoon woman, with the word bitch written above the image (277). Kilbourne suggests that violent images in advertisements, such as this one, objectify women. Infantilized, weak, sexualized, objectively: these are some ways that women are portrayed in advertisements. The portrayal of women, however, is not the only ethical concern facing advertising. Some advertisements exploit popular feminist ideas for their own capital gains. Following is a situation regarding athletic attire company, Nike. After seeing Reebok’s success in the female market, Nike decided to swallow its masculine pride and advertise to women. The first Nike advertisement targeted specifically toward the “women’s fitness market” was released in 1987, and “featured triathlete Joanne Ernst moving through a grueling workout and a voiceover continuously repeating the ‘just do it’ directive” (Cole & Hribar, 1995, 360). The advertisement did not portray Ernst in a sexually suggestive or otherwise objectified manner, and effectively portrayed her in a manner consistent with the sport that she was representing. However, the advertisement concluded with an insulting tagline that the authors suggest

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Williams that Nike meant to be humorous, and which ultimately “failed to seduce women consumers” (360). The tagline: “And it wouldn’t hurt if you stopped eating like a pig” (360). Nike’s solution was to hire women to produce a new advertising strategy targeted toward women. Nike apparently found success in the new advertising campaign, which, according to Cole and Hribar (1995), consisted of “multiple pages of poetic verse and glossy images of transcendence” (360). The authors state of the Nike advertising campaign, “when we read the ads, we feel as if we have found a friend who understands, who can see from our point of view, who knows what it is we want” (360). The new campaign went into effect in 1990, and that year Nike’s sales increased 25%; the following two years saw further increased sales of 25% and 28% respectively (360). Though Nike’s advertisements do not often sexually objectify women or otherwise portray them in stereotyped or gender-specific roles, Nike is critiqued in another way. Cole and Hribar (1995, 365) state “the alliance between Nike and women is undoubtedly about the commodification of feminism.” The authors then go on to describe Nike’s position in popular feminist culture as a corporate feminist “celebrity” (365), because Nike acts and positions itself as “pro women” and as “socially responsible” (366). However, Nike is meanwhile acting in a manner consistent with the “expansionist politics and practices that are characteristic of capitalism” (363). It could therefore be implied that Nike has exploited feminism as a means to raise profits. Cole and Hribar suggest, “Nike rewrites feminist history, identity, community, and solidarity by promoting a popular knowledge of empowerment embedded in bodily maintenance and the consumption of Nike products” (362).

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Williams Connotation and denotation are common tools used to analyze advertisements. Denotation can be described as describing in the most basic language the various elements of an advertisement. Connotation can be described as deriving meaning from the various elements in the advertisement. The following is a brief connotation and denotation of a Nike advertisement from the “I Feel Pretty” campaign. This advertisement was developed by the same agency that helped to transform Nike’s image and position them as “pro women” in the late 1980s, Wieden & Kennedy, of Portland. “I Feel Pretty” features professional female tennis player, Maria Sharapova and former male tennis star John McEnroe, among numerous extras. In this advertisement, Maria Sharapova is shown in fitness attire, while getting ready for and traveling to a tennis match, in which she will be playing. All the while, various bystanders sing the lyrics to the song “I Feel Pretty”, as the lyrics have appeared in the Broadway musical West Side Story. These lyrics are sung until the final scene of the advertisement in which Maria Sharapova, now shown in tennis attire on the tennis court, aggressively returns and scores on, what appears to be, her opponents first serve with a shrieking grunt. At which point, John McEnroe, who was seen in an earlier scene as an announcer gleefully partaking in the song, says in a surprised tone “wow.” Finally, Maria Sharapova is shown getting into a “ready” stance as the Nike “swoosh” symbol and tagline “Just Do It” are displayed in the bottom left corner of the screen. This advertisement counteracts the stereotypes of sport as a male-exclusive domain and women as incapable of participation (especially aggressive participation) in sport. Furthermore, it shows the naïveté of those beliefs and that they do exist. However, after viewing the song’s lyrics on the “Official West Side Story Web Site” (n.d.), I

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Williams quickly noted that the lyrics used in the advertisement were from the stage version of the musical “West Side Story”, and not from the movie version, which uses the term gay – in reference to happiness. In choosing to use the stage lyrics, thus replacing the ambiguous term gay with the word bright, the advertisement reinforces that Maria Sharapova is a heterosexual female. This downplays the idea that female athletes, especially those who play aggressively, are lesbians, but contrastingly, helps to sexually objectify the female athlete as someone who is available to men. Furthermore, this might suggest that while sport holds a place for both men and women, the available space may be dependant on the athletes’ sexual preferences, and that sport can only accommodate those athletes who are heterosexual. In another example of connotation and denotation, an analysis of an advertisement for Canadian Club whisky (see attachment at end) is exemplary of sexual objectification of women. In the Canadian Club whisky advertisement, developed by BBDO advertising agency, there are numerous photographs of men and women. The primary photograph displays a man sitting in a chair holding a drink with a woman in his lap. Next is a man with two women sitting next to and leaning on him. Third, is a photograph of a man and woman kissing, again with a drink in the front of the photograph. Fourth, is a picture of a man and a woman at, what appears to be, some sort of social function. The woman center frame is posed in a seemingly seductive manner and appears to be leaning against the man, while the man is standing closely behind her and holding a drink. The last picture that appears in the advertisement is cut off so as to only show a portion of the full picture. The visible portion of the picture shows what appear to be a woman’s legs dangling over the side of a chair. Each of these photographs, both in picture quality and

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Williams judging by background scenery and fashion, appear to be replicated from old photographs taken in the 1960s or 1970s. The advertisements headline boldly states, “your mom wasn’t your dad’s first” and is followed by a sub-headline, which states, “damn right your dad drank it.” The supporting copy (text) reads, “He went out. He got two numbers in the same night. He drank cocktails. But they were whisky cocktails. Made with Canadian Cub. Served in a rocks glass. They tasted good. They were effortless.” Finally, in the bottom right of the advertisement is visible the Canadian Club logo and a drink that appears to be a Canadian Club whisky cocktail. Aside from the fact that the photographs all look old, other parts of the advertisement are designed to look old as well. To the right of the primary picture a stamp is visible, which reads, “Jun 65”, suggesting that the advertisement actually is from a previous era. Even the layout and color choices of the advertising appear old. Many modern advertisements do not appear so straightforward and orderly as this advertisement does. However, one thing does tie this advertisement into current times. The warning to “drink smart”, followed by information regarding the alcohol content of the product being sold is displayed on the right hand side of the primary photograph. Interesting to note from a design standpoint, is the fact that while the text would have been easier to read if placed on the white background to the right of the image, it appears, almost hidden, running down the side of the photograph, as if the advertisers did not want the reader to notice this information, which I believe is a legal requirement for alcohol advertisements. In fact, the advertisement is so recent that it apparently has not yet been published. Creativity magazine’s website had this to say of the advertisement, “to

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Williams commemorate Canadian Club's 150th anniversary in 2008, Energy BBDO created a multifaceted effort championing old-time masculinity. Featuring candid photographs of men from the '60s and '70s, Canadian Club reminds consumers that their dads were once cool and, you guessed it, they also drank Canadian Club” (Creativity Online, n.d.). The role that the women play in this advertisement is stereotypical of the role that women were expected to play in 1960s American culture. Women are portrayed as objects, while men are displayed as dominant. The women in this advertisement appear as if they would not exist without the men in the images. Each of these men could be imagined in the same poses that they are in, without the women, but it would be difficult for the women to appear in most of these images in the positions that they are in, without the men. Each of the images objectifies the women in them. Furthermore, in two of the images, the women are displayed in overtly sexual situations. The copy in this advertisement suggests that the reader’s father had sexual relations with women before the reader’s mother. It is suggestive of a James Bond idea of masculinity, where alcohol makes a man and women are things that men use and toss to the side. Creativity Online mentions that the ad is “championing old-time masculinity.” Perhaps, the kind of old-time masculinity that Rinehart (2005, 245) might interpret as suggestive that this was “a more sensible and controlled world when females knew their place as flesh-tools for male use” (in reference to caricatures of scantily clad women, reminiscent of those on the sides of World War II bombers, used in an advertisement for roller blade wheels). So how does all of this affect women? Jean Kilbourne (1999, 260) states, “sexual images in advertising and throughout the media define what is sexy and, more

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Williams importantly, who is sexy.” Kilbourne also notes, “sex in advertising is pornographic because it dehumanizes and objectifies people, especially women, and because it fetishizes products, imbues them with an erotic charge – which dooms us to disappointment since products can never fulfill our sexual desires or meet our emotional needs” (1999, 271). David Ogilvy did not write about objectification, but nonetheless found that many of the uses of sex in advertising are irrelevant and unnecessary (1983, 25), and cautions advertisers against using certain images that may shock people (1983, 28). Ogilvy further notes that relevance is key, and that showing “nudes in advertisements for beauty products” may be “functional” (1983, 25-6). Kilbourne argues that portrayals of violent acts against women act to objectify women, and that objectification creates a disconnection, in that women begin to feel like objects and men begin to think of women as objects. She states, “objectification and disconnection create a climate in which there is widespread and increasing violence” (278). This suggests that these objectifying images of women may ultimately lead to abuse, harassment, rape and other violent acts.

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Williams References Cole, C. L. & Hribar, A. (1995). Celebrity feminism: Nike style, Post-Fordism, transcendence, and consumer power. Sociology of Sport Journal, 12, 347-369. Retrieved from Academic Search database October 2007 (AN 10012137). Cuneen, J. & Spencer, N. (2003). Gender representations related to sport celebrity portrayals in the Milk Mustache advertising campaign. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 12(3), 140-150. Retrieved from SportDiscus database October 2007 (AN SPHS-908024). (n.d.) Creativity Online. Accessed 18 November 2007. Harris, D. E. (2007, September/October). São Paolo: A city without advertisements. Adbusters, 53, no page numbers available. Kalle (2007, September/October). Advertising is brain damage. Adbusters, 53, no page numbers available. Kilbourne, J. (1999). Can’t buy my love: How advertising changes the way we think and feel. New York: Touchstone. (n.d.) Official West Side Story Web Site, The. Accessed 17 November 2007. Ogilvy, D. (1963). Confessions of an advertising man. London: Southbank. Ogilvy, D. (1983). Ogilvy on advertising. New York: Vintage. Rinehart, R. (2005). “Babes” & boards: Opportunities in new millennium sport? Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 29(3), 232-255. Retrieved from SportDiscus database October 2007 (AN SPHS-1013465).

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