Marketing is an activity that is created to plan products and services, make decisions on price and distribution strategies and communicate persuasive messages to target groups identified. Communication is the process of creating a sense of oneness or commonality between the sender and receiver. In the context of marketing, communication focusses more on the outcome than the process. Marketing communications is part of a broad, overall marketing mix. An integral part of this marketing mix is advertising. Advertising can be explained as the communication of persuasive messages with respect to goods, services and concepts utilizing tools of mass media including television, magazines, newspapers, etc. (Eagle, Dahl, Czarnecka & Lloyd, 2015). Advertising is one of the most influential and powerful yet least examined and analyzed domains (Gustafson, 2001). Due to this semi-controlled power, advertising can be slotted as dangerous yet impactful. Over the last several years, the advertising industry has consistently received significant backlash because it is perceived to lack ethical behavior. In addition, advertising has also faced considerable amount of criticism with regards to its impact on society (Eagle, Dahl, Czarnecka & Lloyd, 2015). This essay examines the role of advertising in formulating a deep-rooted rape culture in society and the impact of the damage that advertising has had on members of society.
In any business, it is critical to create market and brand awareness (Janis, 2019). Promotion is important for any kind of business and it is important to make people aware of the business. Any business requires customers to run and advertising is the biggest means to reach out to customers, which thereby leads to good business turnaround. When a business advertises products and services, it means it can run in a competitive environment. (‘Why Advertising Is Important In Today’s Economy – Ad Army Group’, 2019). Attention is a key factor for effective advertising. There is so much competition when it comes to grabbing the eyeballs of consumers that this attention is regarded as the currency of advertising (Teixeira, 2014). Unfortunately, advertisers will cross any ethical or moral boundary in order to grab the attention of consumers. Using women as sexual objects in order to accomplish the same, is extremely prevalent in the advertising industry. The 1950’s witnessed rampant sexism in advertising, with eminent brands like Heinz, Van Heusen, Chase and Sanborn, Schlitz, Drummond Sweaters, Kenwood Chef, Silver Thins cigarettes, car brands etc stereotyping women into roles that are secondary to that of a man, and mainly have got to do with pleasing the male gender. While the Van Heusen advert lays emphasis on “Showing her that it is a man’s world” (‘1953: It’s so easy to use that even a woman with ‘no mechanical aptitude’ can operate it.’, 2019), the print advertisement for Chase and Sanborn makes light of domestic violence. Some of these advertisements also make fun of women, their acumen and capabilities The print advertisements displayed above showcase that women are meant to be in the kitchen, provide for their husbands and are expected to look a certain way physically. The print advertisement for the car, slots women into bad drivers, a myth that is much talked about even today. Copies like “Keep her where she belongs (‘1953: It’s so easy to use that even a woman with ‘no mechanical aptitude’ can operate it.’, 2019)”, associated with a woman lying next to a shoe, and “It is nice to have a girl around the house (‘1953: It’s so easy to use that even a woman with ‘no mechanical aptitude’ can operate it.’, 2019)”, associated with an image of a man stepping on a women lying down under an animal print carpet, evidently show men to be of a superior gender, having immense power over what is clearly displayed as the inferior gender. The print advertisement for Drummond Sweaters does not mince words and clearly states “Men are better than women” (‘1953: It’s so easy to use that even a woman with ‘no mechanical aptitude’ can operate it.’, 2019). It is evident that ever since as early as the 1950’s, advertising has portrayed women in extremely poor light and used women as stereotypical tools in order to sell products. The wrongful portrayal of women in advertising only became worse over the years and stereotyping women led to using women as sexual tools for the purpose of selling.The above images are evident examples of how advertising uses women as a tool for sexualisation and objectification to sell products. Unfortunately, these images are sourced from an article that was published only four years ago, in 2015 (Chaudhary, 2015). This clearly establishes that over the years the portrayal of women in advertising has clearly evolved from typically stereotyping women to using them as sexual tools for visual appeal. An advertisement for a jewellery brand has a woman opening her legs up for a man, a car brand uses an attractive young lady in lingerie in order to sell the product, Dolce and Gabbana’s advertisement showcases four men eyeing one woman. The easiest comparison between the portrayal of a man and a woman in advertising is the advertisement for the unisex t-shirt. While the gentleman in the advertisement is dressed appropriately, the same t-shirt when worn by a woman, has her showing most of her upper body, with all the buttons of the t-shirt open. A gaming advertisement showcases a woman with breasts on both front and back side, with the copy “Touch both sides for added enjoyment”, reducing the body of a woman merely to a tool that is required to provide pleasure.
Fredrickson and Roberts (1997) explain sexual objectification as reducing a woman to merely just her body, body parts or for sexual function. This sexual objectification therefore dehumanizes women into enticing objects that solely exist in order to appease the male gaze. Kilbourne (1999) states that on an average an individual is exposed to relatively 3,000 advertisements in some form or another every single day. 1,988 advertisements were examined in 58 U.S. magazines. Stankiewicz and Rosseli (2008) identified that across all categories, including men’s, women’s, news, and business; 50% of the advertisements showcased the portrayal of women as mere objects of sexual pleasure. Advertising has become more and more sexually provocative over the years and the content can be described closer to pornography than advertising (Soley and Kurzbard, 1986).
Lanis and Covel (1995) suggest that there has always been a stereotypical portrayal of women in advertising. Early advertisements of women portrayed solely as housewives and mothers, has evolved over the years and led to the sexual portrayal of women. Unfortunately, this stereotypical portrayal of women impacts the attitude that society at large has towards women. The major issue with using women as tools in advertising is that there is an impression that is formed in the minds of society at large because of this consistent portrayal of women as sexual objects. It is easy for people to learn values via symbolic environments such as media and advertising (Weaver, Graber, McCombs, & Eyal, 1981). Sexually provocative advertising has therefore led to not only men, but also women believing that women are the inferior gender in society, deeming a lack of equality between both genders in the minds of people. The big issue of gender inequality has therefore been formulated by content viewed by people via different media. This establishes the inherent sexism that has always existed in society. What is as, if not more dangerous than women considering themselves to be inferior, is the fact that the male gender considers themselves to be superior to women.