Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Project Update

Assignment #13

Project Update

At this point in the project, I am starting to work on my Powerpoint presentation. I have collected all of the ads in my series, totaling 100 advertisements, from the 1950's to the 2000's. I was originally thinking of reducing the number of advertisements featured, but that would detract from the results, so I refrained from doing so. I have narrowed down my topic to the representation of race, removing gender from the focus, as many sub-topics would have to be considered if gender was factored in. If possible, I will create a poster with all 100 ads featured on it, while my powerpoint would focus on the ads which I felt best represented the decade they were made in.

By studying advertisements from the past, we can more accurately gauge how progressive we are, and where we can expect to be in the future. At the very least, it'll show who was marketed to the most, and how much that has changed over a period of 50 odd years. Thus far, I have learned that the focus of advertising was massively skewed towards whites during the 50's onward, with the inclusion of other races not present until the 70's... at least, that's what I have found in my selection of ads. In conclusion, I need to work on presenting my findings in an effective and meaningful way, while remaining relevant to the topics we have studied in class.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Project: First Reflection

Assignment #11

First Reflection

I have not yet started on my project for FYS, but I have a good idea of what I would like to accomplish. For my project, I would like to do a case study on the representation of different demographics in the field of advertising, and how much it as changed, from the 1950's to 2000's. A 50 year period of time, encompassing changes in both advertising methods and society, should be enough to illustrate how companies advertised their products, as well as who they targeted. The goal of my project is to see if companies have become more progressive in representing both race and gender.

This project brings up a number of questions, usually having to do with the standards of the advertisements of the time. Did the 50's advertisements cater to a predominantly white demographic due to society's prejudice at the time? Did that change after the Civil Rights movement? By analyzing the main subjects of the advertisements of the time, I can see what demographic the companies targeted, and compare it to other ads closer to the present. One aspect of this project that concerns me is that there are a LOT of advertisements from the 50's to now, so I will have to choose a suitable range of advertisements for each decade. A small range won't yield any results, a large range would be unmanageable and take too much time. Therefore, around 20 advertisements per decade would be opportune, with 100 advertisements analyzed in total. Looking ahead, I know that I will need to spend a good amount of time documenting the subjects of each advertisement, as I have many ads to look at and deconstruct... for the good of science!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Advertisement Analysis

Assignment #10

Watches, Wealth, and Masculinity

Many things can come to mind when you think of a fancy watch, such as wealth, power, and impeccable taste. Swiss watchmaker Zenith had the same ideas as well, and decided to implement that imagery into their ad for the "Grande Class Traveller" sports watch. This ad features muted hues of color and a handsome white male in a business suit, no doubt to play to masculine sensibilities. The advertisement is also skewed towards the higher echelons of society due to the private jet in the background, accompanied by the flashy watch in the foreground. Note the quote from Leonardo da Vinci juxtaposed over the male model; this is to give the advertisement intellectual depth as well as accentuate the intricacies of the expensive watch. The demographic of this advertisement is obvious: rich white businessmen and entrepreneurs. Zenith's advertisement also makes the connection between wealth and masculinity, as it implies that the consumer will be masculine and powerful if they buy the expensive bauble, glamorizing affluence and extravagant living that most people can't afford.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deodorant Dissonance

Assignment #9

Deodorant Dissonance

Comparing these two ads for deodorant side by side, the first thing you'll notice is that they are both the same brand. They are both Speed Stick, the deodorant made by the company Mennen. What's important is the marketing slant of both ads, the left one advertising to men, the right one advertising to women. It is the same title for both variations of the brand, except the prefix "Lady" is added to the feminine deodorant for obvious reasons. One difference between the ads is the color scheme, obviously geared towards the sensibilities of each gender. The men's ad is a cool blue color, the same as the product, while the women's deodorant is the same way, except purple. Note the subjects in each advertisement: the men's advertisement has an adult male with half a mustache, no doubt caused by his ineptitude with a razor, and the women's advertisement has a closet of clothes, the sleeves of the lightly colored garments raised in the air as if to express their gratitude for not receiving armpit stains. The male advertisement carries a message of preparedness, that if you wear the deodorant in question, you'll be ready for anything. The female advertisement, in contrast, is about how the user's clothes are spotless and odorless, thanks to the deodorant.

The values implied by both ads differ, due to marketing to gender. The men's deodorant ad emphasizes confidence and utilitarianism, both male traits. The clean, straight lines and muted color scheme also appeal to masculine sensibilities, as well. The women's deodorant ad takes an opposite approach, instead emphasizing the female consumer's clothes. This focus on clothes is decidedly feminine, with an appeal to vanity. Note the lack of an actor/actress in the advertisement; the inclusion of a female subject would take away from the message that the clothes deliver. The stylized lines and bright color scheme are also designed to appeal to the female demographic. Overall, both ads do not break gender norms, as they have to remain firmly planted in gender roles in order to sell to their respective audiences.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Averting Berger's Gaze

Assignment #8

Averting Berger's Gaze

According to John Berger, images of men and women presented to us change the way that we perceive ourselves. One only needs to look at an advertisement to see how Berger is correct, as there is no shortage of unattainable goals brought forth by such a medium. Berger has another theory, however: men are only allowed to gaze upon others, while women can only gaze upon themselves. This is questionable; as a male, I know that I have had moments where I have doubted my attractiveness, and turned my gaze inward. I also know that women are not wholly self absorbed; they desire affection from the opposite (or same) sex, and are attracted to good looks as much as any guy is. This doesn't mean that Berger's theory doesn't carry weight, though.

Looking at the Calvin Klein ads, I find that they support Berger's ideas... somewhat. The need to improve oneself after seeing the perfectly sculpted and digitally altered models is almost maddening, regardless of gender. Due to the Herculean traits of the Calvin Klein models, both genders find they turn their gaze upon themselves, insecurities compounded by comparison. When presented with such a perfect representation of beauty, Berger's ideas fall away, as males aren't the only ones who "survey" and make judgments. Both genders desire attractiveness, and both are going to go to extreme measures to procure it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Are We What We Eat?

Assignment #7

Are We What We Eat?

When it comes to the topic of food and gender, it is obvious that food is an asexual product; it can be consumed by both genders without incident. However, there is a definite stigma when it comes to certain foods being consumed by one gender or the other. One example that I can think of are particular alcoholic beverages, as those have gender connotations. I wouldn't think twice if a businesswoman was enjoying a Metropolitan after her day at work, but if a male construction worker had the same beverage, he would get some funny looks from the patrons. As for cuisine, I believe a majority of food lacks gender connotations. I wouldn't be embarrassed if I ordered a cob salad and my date ordered a medium-rare steak, although there are people out there who would think otherwise.

As for the marketing of the food itself, the product has to target a certain audience/demographic in order to sell more effectively. This means that there is going to be an appeal to a certain need or audience. For example, the ad for a Boca burger (a vegetarian burger) pictures a standard looking burger, presumably the Boca kind. Above it is a slogan that says, "Stop staring at me like I'm a piece of meat." This is an appeal to the female demographic, as the slogan is most likely what a woman would say if someone was eyeing her up. It is also meant to be humorous, as the Boca burger is vegetarian, putting it in an appropriate context. An interesting detail is the red background and white text; it boosts the aesthetic appeal of the ad, also drawing attention to the product itself. Therefore, the advertisement for the Boca burger is meant for the female consumer.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Wendy's Baconator television advertisement. It depicts a crowd of rabid fangirls with male faces crudely juxtaposed onto them, except their excited screaming is female. A male announcer states, "Obsessing over a celebrity; that's wrong, unless the celebrity is bacon!" It then segways into a generic shot of an airbrushed, perfect-looking bacon burger, as the announcer states that the beef patties are "Fresh, never frozen!" Cut to a slightly overweight man wearing a red twintails wig (which greatly contrasts with the black and white setting) eating a baconburger. With a triumphant shout of "BACON," all of the male fangirls surge past him, presumably towards the local Wendy's. This advertisement has an obvious male slant, with a touch of humor. It's supposed to show how men are excited to the point of paroxysms for a baconburger, instead of a celebrity. It is somewhat patronizing, however, to both men and women, as men won't scream and faint over a burger, while women might be offended at such a crude juxtaposition of a male face on a female body. It's an ad for males.