This tactic can be seen within the advertisements of Calvin Klein. The advertisement for “Escape for Men” is one worth deconstructing. The black and white advertisement features a couple engaging in sexual activity, amongst the name of the product and brand. This advertisement was displayed in magazines and on billboards. The product being sold in this advertisement is cologne. However, an image of the product cannot be found within the image. This means that the concept the image symbolizes is what is being sold to consumers, not the actual product itself.
Primarily, this advertisement portrays role stereotypes. The male in this image is the dominant character, perpetuating the myth that men are the more powerful gender. Everything about the positions of both individuals shows the woman’s vulnerability and the man’s strength. Why do consumers accept this image as normal within the media? According to John Berger, images presented to the media have always been this way. Women are depicted as property, while men are depicted as authoritative and controlling. In his book Ways of Seeing, Berger concludes that, in the past, women were generally painted as nudes to be seen by men. In this case, Berger’s theory can be applied to modern advertising. The Calvin Klein advertisement shows a man in possession of a woman, who is present to show male consumers that they can have what this man owns if they purchase the product.
This advertisement serves to benefit both the Calvin Klein brand, and males in general. It seeks to emphasize the male and put down the female. This advertisement is targeted towards adult males, and is designed to appeal to them. Again, the positioning of the models and the inference one can make from their arrangement is what makes the advertisement alluring to male consumers. Consequently, this advertisement dehumanizes women by portraying them as sexual objects that can be obtained with the purchase of cologne. Children and adolescents who view this advertisement will obtain a distorted perception of the roles of men and women in society, which is harmful to either gender. What we perceive is culturally determined, which is proven true with with the purpose of advertising. Boys will learn to perceive themselves as domineering, and will make it their goal to become the image they see in the media. Girls will perceive themselves as inadequate, and will always compare themselves to men and other women without satisfaction with their bodies.
Neil Postman poses a question in which he asks whether the new media enhances or diminishes our moral sense. Postman responds to this question by listing the ways in which human beings have tarnished the world through the technological advancements of the twenty-century. Can this same theory, (that new media corrupted humans in a time of new beginnings), be applied to the effect of advertising on the youth? I believe that the explicit images used in the media do have a profound influence on adolescents.
To support this, I will quote Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Klosterman writes, “The mass media causes sexual misdirection: It prompts us to need something deeper than what we want” (Klosterman 6). This means that the images and icons we are presented with through the media show us something that we want, not something we necessarily need. The media pressures us to be like the individuals we admire, and does so through the persuasion of advertising. This Calvin Klein advertisement shows us what we want, and tells us that the only way to get it is through the brand’s product.
It is apparent that this Calvin Klein advertisement is both controversial and provocative. This advertisement confirms the theories of Berger, Postman, and Klosterman, by selling an image to audiences that is not needed in society.
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 2008.
Klosterman, Chuck. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. New York: Scribner, 2003.
Postman, Neil. “The Humanism of Media Ecology.” Media Ecology Association. 17 June 2000. Web. 9 Oct. 2009. <http://www.media- ecology.org/publications/MEA_proceedings/v1/humanism_of_media_
Richardson, Tim. “Kewl Commercials/ Weird Ads.” Witiger. 27 March 2009. Web. 9 Oct. 2009. <http://www.witiger.com/marketing/kewlcommercials-weirdads.htm>.