Monday, July 14, 2008

Benefit’s thrrrob face powder ad

This recent ad for Benefit’s thrrrob face powder caught my attention as I was looking for an example of sex in advertising and flipping through a recent Cosmo.

The ad qualifies as a fairly conventional example of sex in advertising: It contains implied nudity and voyeurism. But more interestingly, the ad contains a thinly veiled sexual referent.

My heart is thrrrobing
For starters, the name of this face powder is “thrrrob.” The word throb itself is sexual because it relates to desire, arousal, and sex. Perhaps the product’s name can also be related to the notion of a heart throb, or of a heart beat, which beats quicker when a lover is present. Or maybe the man in the ad is the woman’s heartthrob in the sense that she desires him. Either way, the word throb is clearly a sexual referent that can be read on many different levels.

The product name also features three “r’s” and the “r’s” are italicized. Therefore, it seems that the triple “r’s” are meant to be noticed, and are perhaps supposed to resemble a lustful sound such as growl or a purr. The text of the ad also informs the viewer that thrrrob is a powder that is “turned on.” Once again, the use of the words “turned on” illustrates the power of this cosmetic to stimulate arousal and desire.

Perhaps the most interesting use of the text is featured in the thought bubble that is coming out of the female’s head. The female is allowing the viewer access to her inner thoughts which are, “Think he’s makin’ my heart thrrrob? Guess again!”

The female's inner thought informs the viewer that it is this face powder that makes her heart “thrrrob.” Or in other words, this face powder is what stimulates her desire instead of the man featured in the ad. Based on the implications of this text, she is informing the viewer that the man featured in this ad is not what satisfies her, it is instead the cosmetic that provides the pleasure.

Sexy names for cosmetics
Thrrrob is not the only cosmetic to feature a name that can be related to sex, desire, and arousal. According to a classmate, Smashbox cosmetics and NARS also make products with sexualized names. Smashbox is the creator of “O-GLOW,” which similar to thrrrob, is used on the face. NARS, on the other hand, is the creator of a line of lip gloss whose colors feature names such as “Orgasm,” Supervixen,” and “Triple X” among others. Therefore, it appears that cosmetic companies are quite deliberately forging a connection between their products and sexuality, by linking the cosmetics’ abilities to provide beauty with both sexual attractiveness and desire.

----Posted by Brandi Kilgore

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