Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cartier borrows from subliminal playbook, chastity belt

A recent ad for Cartier’s new Leve bracelet has a sexual feel, but not from the types of sexual content typically found in magazine advertising; as the ad contains no physically attractive models, no nudity, and no sexual behavior. At a higher level of processing, however, one could argue that the ad is fraught with sexual referents (allusions to objects with sexual meaning) and embeds (content interpreted as sexual at the subconscious level).

Sex and Death Embeds
Looking at the ad though the lens of Wilson Key (the guy who sees sex in ice cubes, and clouds, and…), it becomes obvious that the bracelet and key could be interpreted as symbolism for genitalia. While size is obviously distorted, there is an argument for power dynamics if the ad is geared toward women, as the key is much smaller than the bracelet it locks.

Notice the flames/steam coming off of the bracelet which could allude to the heat of passion this product evokes. Also note the red smoke in the background. One can argue that there is a skull-like face in the smoke (aka, death embed).

A Modern-Day Chastity Belt
At another level, there is the implied issue of bondage, or at least of “locking your woman up” to keep her away from other potential mates. Consider the tagline, “How far would you go for love?” The line could imply bondage or invoke ideas of chastity belts. The inspiration for Leve was a Cartier bracelet that “screwed around the wrist of the beloved with a screwdriver… possessing or letting yourself be possessed.”

In this ad, most viewers probably just see a bracelet and a key. Upon further analysis, however, some might say this ad is a very good example of sexual referents and embeds.

--Posted by Justin Pettigrew

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sexy jet-setters fly Korean Air

“Only sexy supermodels fly with us.” That’s the impression one gets from a recent Korean Airlines commercial designed especially for audiences in the U.S.

Incorporating “high brow” images ranging from partially nude women to sexual innuendo, the Korean Air spot looks more like a high profile, risqué perfume ad rather than an airline commercial. Instead of scenes showing off its fleet or multitude of destinations, which is typical in this category, Korean Air opts to brand themselves with a variety of glamorized sex-in-advertising tropes such as nudity, sexual behavior, and physical attractiveness. There is even a nod to shoe fetish.

Maybe the approach is a smart one. If you have a choice when flying to Asia, why not fly with a sexy, high-brow airline? Apparently that’s what Korean marketers assume is motivating to its potential U.S. customers. Based on America’s obsession with sex, it’s not an assumption too far from the mark.

--Posted by Rachel Jackson

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sexy Brooke Shields ad appears in family magazine

My assignment was to locate an example of sex in advertising. I found one in a very unlikely place.

In the May 2008 edition of Family Fun magazine there appears an ad in the “got milk” campaign featuring Brooke Shields. (I chose this magazine assuming that the sexual content would be presumably light, if present at all.) Shields appears in a black leotard positioned in a flexible posture with her legs bent beneath her. She has the ubiquitous milk mustache and a very sophisticated gaze on her face, peering into the lens of the camera (and thus into the eyes of the reader).

Although the ad may at first glance appear innocuous it certainly could be argued that there is present a degree of sexuality.

In terms of dress Shields in wearing a form fitting black leotard that exposes her legs. However, the greater degree of sexuality is found in other aspects of the ad. There is a sense of sexual behavior present in the ad. The look that Shields is presenting to the reader could certainly create a parasocial dynamic. It is clearly intended to create a connection between the viewer and the model.

Brooke Shields' Sexual Persona
Perhaps the greatest sexual aspect of the ad revolves around Shields herself. She built her notoriety in the 1980s starring in sexually controversial films such as Blue Lagoon and Endless Love and her playfully provocative role in Calvin Klein commercials. (She also had a smaller role as a teenage prostitute in an earlier film.) Anyone who grew up during the 80s would recognize the sexuality character that is present in Brooke Shields. The target audience for this magazine (parents presumably in the 30s – 40s) certainly grew up in that decade and could not distance themselves from the sexual baggage that Shields brings to the ad.

Another aspect of ad that can be seen as sexually charged is the copy. The ad opens with the phrase “busy body.” Clearly, this phrase could be interpreted in a number of ways. However, the emphasis is apparently a connection between a healthy body and sexuality. Presumably, the target audience is at a point in their lives when they may be struggling with a perceived loss of their “sexiness” due to a perceived or real decline in their physical condition. Brooke Shields it would seem has not experienced this loss and thus there is a connection between her sexuality and her use of milk.

This ad could certainly be used to support the argument that if sexuality is present in a publication such as Family Fun sex is ubiquitous in advertising.

--Posted by Curt Wanner