Does sex in advertising still sell & should women always be the subject

One of the new Crown paint outdoor advertising billboards
One of the new Crown paint outdoor advertising billboards
One of the new Crown paint outdoor advertising billboards( image courtesy of @uqweli)

You might have come across billboards with the new Crown paints advertising recently on their range of paints. While some billboards had creative wordplay, there is one that portray women as high maintenance alluding to the fact that girlfriends are expensive to maintain for a lot of men.

Although I would like to believe that the ad was meant to  be memorable and spark a conversation, I am not sure if its the right conversation to have in a world where, due to efforts to the girl child, a lot of women are more independent both economically and in every other aspect.

In Kenya, a lot of product & service advertisement still rely a lot on sexual connotations or old stereotypes mostly targeted at women. Some of these products are totally unsexy products e.g a pail of paint. Kenya is however not the only country where advertising is highly sexualised or one that objectifies women. Last year, the Huffington post came up with a list of 7 sexual ads for totally unsexy things.

Last month as South Africa celebrated Women’s day with the hashtag #HappyWomensDay, Bic South Africa released an advertisement as a way of their celebrating women’s achievements, it however did not augur well with many South African women especially those online with many taking to twitter to castigate them for offending the very women they were seeking to celebrate.

The outrage was so much that Bic was forced to issue an apology on the distasteful advert. As it turns out Bic is no stranger to controversy regarding their adverts and depiction of women.  In 2012, they released a Bic for her version of pens that came in pink and purple colours. Ellen DeGeneres in her show The Ellen Show tore at them for the same.

In June last year during the World Cup month in Brasil, I penned an article on the world cup themed Coca-Cola advertisement that was running that perpetuated the stereotype that women are blondes when it comes to football matter. As I noted, its is true that in comparison to men, there are less women who care for the worldcup or football, however, it does not make it right for a brand like Coca-Cola to offend a section of its demographic by making fun of their clueless-ness on matters to do with football.

Whereas some ads are not always outright in their depiction of women as blondes, German car maker Mercedes decided to advertise their E-Klasse range with a video about beauty and brains using, you guessed it, a blonde woman.

Sex in advertising has always been a silver bullet. However, this is changing.

in 2012, a study by University at Buffalo sociologists found that the portrayal of women in the popular media over the last several decades has become increasingly sexualized, even “pornified.” The same is not true of the portrayal of men.

These findings may be cause for concern, the researchers say, because previous research has found sexualized images of women to have far-reaching negative consequences for both men and women.

Erin Hatton, PhD, and Mary Nell Trautner, PhD, assistant professors in the UB Department of Sociology, are the authors of “Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone,”. One of the findings from this research was :-

“Sexualized portrayals of women have been found to legitimize or exacerbate violence against women and girls, as well as sexual harassment and anti-women attitudes among men and boys,” Hatton says. “Such images also have been shown to increase rates of body dissatisfaction and/or eating disorders among men, women and girls; and they have even been shown to decrease sexual satisfaction among both men and women.”

“For these reasons,” says Hatton, “we find the frequency of sexualized images of women in popular media, combined with the extreme intensity of their sexualization, to be cause for concern.”

New research published by the Harvard Business Review suggests that sex, in fact, does not sell—and neither does violence. A recent meta-study by Robert Lull and Brad Bushman of The Ohio State University, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, looked at 53 experiments to analyze the effects of sexual and violent media and ad content on people’s memory, attitudes, and buying intentions. Contrary to the old adage, they found that, on all three measures, sex and violence weren’t effective at selling products, whether they characterized the program the ad was interrupting, or the content of the ad itself. Read more on the findings here.

Back to the local advertising scene  here in Kenya, although the idea behind the  sexualised adverts or those highly stereotypical of women like the current Crown paints one is to elicit two things, attention & a response, it demeans the female demographic even if they are not the actual product customers. Crown is a publicly traded company at the Nairobi Securities Exchange and chances are that there is a percentage of women who own shares in the company.

Sometimes eliciting a response whilst offending certain demographics with an advertisement creates poor or negative brand perceptions in the long run.

What are your thoughts on this ladies?

 

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