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Negative Advertising

by Falaknaz Chranya

Graphics by Deanna Klima-Rajchel

Imagine a day in the life of an average American consumer. Imagine the amount of advertisements he or she comes across in one day, one week, one year and one lifetime. Imagine a day in the life of a child and the amount of advertisements he or she sees growing up, becoming one of America’s mass consumers. There is one thing, however, that is even more staggering than the excessive advertising to which consumers are exposed: the content of the ads. Disturbing nonsense inundates our 18-inch computer screens and stains billboards, magazines and newspapers, practically suffocating the viewer.

I’m not talking about all advertising. I’m talking about ads that disrespect and demean women and their bodies, creating a culture inattentive to female injustice, uneducated on assault and oblivious to the underground “gynocide” all around us. While men are also subject to objectifying and body-shaming advertisements, women bear the weight of phenomenon much more frequently.

Let’s begin by investigating these advertisements and breaking down what specifically makes them so poisonous to our world.

To start, thank you, Victoria’s Secret, for being a great example of what we shouldn’t see while we sift through our inboxes, eyeing coupons or deals for the next time we’re willing to drop a few hours’ pay on a bra.

The debate over Victoria’s Secret models and female body image is not news. However, in addition to concerns with the brand and their marketing, this advertisement presents another issue. It tells viewers that it’s okay if someone playfully takes your bra off, and it’s okay if someone photographs it for the mass consumers of America to witness someone touching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Wake up call: it is most definitely not okay.

“The focus isn’t bras, the comfort of the bras, the style, or even what they look like—because I can’t tell—but what the hot girls who do buy them look like,” said Kavya Raghunathan (CAS ’18).

Recently, the renowned Tom Ford came out with a cologne ad that perfectly exemplifies using women’s bodies and sexuality as a selling point. Lacking any form of subtlety, the woman in the ad is completely naked, with only inches of her body covered strategically with her hands or a small bottle of Tom Ford cologne.

Interestingly, the viewer is deprived of any information about the model in this ad––such as her face and her name––other than an estimated bra size and the fact that she must have spent a good $50 or more on a Brazilian. The lack of personality in this ad presents the woman’s body as nothing but a sexual, enticing object for men.

The message that this ad sends to viewers does not just apply to one model’s body. Instead, it is meant to symbolize female sexuality and body image. Hence, the female student, doctor, housewife and CEO are to become one and the same in the eye of the viewer. Female bodies become a symbol of enticing, sexual pleasure for men.

For centuries, women have struggled and fought to gain equal rights. How can that be accomplished when the advertisements that surround us continue to present the female body as an object of the male fantasy? By portioning off pieces of a headless woman, Tom Ford has mutilated her body in order to sell cologne. Instead of aspirations and personalities, women are defined in such ads by their breast size and tight tummies.

Possibly even more disturbing, however, is that this marketing strategy actually works. Brands continue to use this method because of the target audience’s response.

“It catches my attention,” said an anonymous male BU student. “It’s different.”

This form of controversial advertising has become the norm because of its overwhelming market success. But if we continue to accept companies that exploit the female body to make money, it is impossible to fundamentally change the way men view women and their bodies, as well as the relationship between women and their own bodies.

When asked about this phenomenon, another anonymous BU student said, that “it’s easy to become insensitive to it” because boys and girls are constantly bombarded with similar ads.

Using the female body as a marketing tool is a strategy that has become deeply ingrained in our society. Today it’s the sort of thing that no one really notices. It’s the kind of thing no one sees until they think about it, and then they can’t forget it. So let’s start to actually look at the ads that are shoved in our faces every day.

Let’s educate each other and ourselves on what assault is and what it looks like when advertisements objectify women and sexualize their bodies. Let’s look beyond these ads to make sure that we don’t fall prey to the vile, subliminal messages we constantly receive.

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