Friday, December 2, 2011

Sexual degradation, Stereotypes and perfume advertising

This blogger has been writing about marketing strategies to sell perfume over the years, and one of the subjects on the spotlight was the use of sex to sell perfumes. Click HERE, HERE and HERE for the previous articles. Fragrance marketers play with consumer's fantasy. Desirability, attraction and passion are most of the central themes in fragrance positioning since 1970. What changes throughout the years is the is the content and the way to express desire. Now, I could go back some decades and fill this blog with articles about this particular sexual - social behavior, which is very interesting, but I want to focus more in the present times, because they are really disturbing. Somewhere in the long run, sexism and treating people, specially women, like meat became the newest way to shock and promote a fragrance.
Women are usually framed in a position that sends the message of submission or that the only instrument she has is to use her sexuality in order to get what she wants.

In the world of rapers-hip hopers, women are objects with huge butts, to shake and be spanked by very cool dudes with huge chains on the neck. Most rap videos show women in a submissive degrading stereotyped situation, so no wonder Mr. Sean John's fragrance campaigns will have the same controversial sexual attitude. Here you will see the advertising for his fragrance Unforgivable Woman. Unforgivable is the advertising showing Mr. Sean forcing himself onto the female model. If you look at the model's face you will see pain, not joy. So either he wants to say that women should be submissive to all men's desires, or he is kinda in his way to rape her... Yes my friends, forced sexual intercourse is called rape.

In another unforgivable perfume ad by the same hip hoper, you will see that Mr. Sean John is sitting naked on the bed holding an Asian woman on his lap. Take a close look at her face -she is looking to nowhere. Im my opinion it expresses disconnection to the real world, the look of dead meat. Again, you will see that he is selling a product that his demographic loves the most: male dominance and female objectification. This time with a minority - Asian girls. Probably suggesting massage houses of Thailand, strip clubs in Vietnam, Japanese geishas etc, etc, etc...stereotypes...
It is obvious to this blogger that Mr. Sean thinks that fame and success is the door to wealth and superiority, and the message is very clear "use my fragrances and you will get some of my power over women". Ok, you might argue with me that the first advertising presented is in fact a fragrance for women. I noticed that - but hey! Women over the years were educated to have a protective male around, someone who takes care of you and if he shows who is the boss, it is "natural", just accept it.

Take you time to watch the advertising video of One Million by Pacco Rabane.
Here you will find many stereotyped situations, where the guy who wears the fragrance is successful, famous and rich. He has an expensive sports car, he has paparazzi following him every where he goes, and most of all - in a snap of his finger women undress for him. Yes dears, we women are reduced to prostitutes and gold diggers. The minute we see his greens we undress.

What is the common element in these campaigns? Female submission. The man is always holding women from behind, with their arms around the body or neck. It does suggest that these women are receiving pleasure, no doubt about it, but the man is controlling the game. These advertisings somehow recreates some sexual scenes of pornographic movies, that we all know, are made only for men.

Now let's move to fragrances for women, where female models are advertising the perfumes:
As noted by Tom Reichert, author of The Erotic History of Advertising 
Aromatic Aphrodisiacs: Fragrance, “Sexual content in fragrance advertising is manifest in the usual ways: as models showing skin-chests and breasts, open shirts, tight-fitting clothing-and as dalliances involving touching, kissing, embracing, and voyeurism. These outward forms of sexual content are often woven into the explicit and implicit sexual … promises to make the wearer more sexually attractive, more likely to engage in sexual behavior, or simply ‘feel’ more sexy for one's own enjoyment.” 

The message advertisers are really passing by is not only the promise of a steamy sex life, but also that women are confined into certain roles and a unreal image of perfectionism and youth. The ideal body, the perfect hair and of course the young age is imposed to females. No wonder why we have seen so many women fighting depression, putting herself into starvation, surgical interventions, Botox, silicone, fake hair...who can compete with the perfect body that adverting sells? If you are not like that, you don't exist!
Rose The One by Dolce & Gabbana went back to the 50's to update the icon of Marilyn Moroe. Scarlett rolls on the bed eating strawberries...showing the curves, clivage...pretending to be Marilyn. We all know that she was and still is, the ultimate sex symbol of all times, not to mention the one responsible for the stereotype of dumb blondes. Marilyn always played the hole of a woman looking for a rich man to marry, the naive woman with such a sexual appeal that made men go nuts for her. According to her biography, the actress always wanted to be taken seriously and would prefer to do theater than musical comedies, but Hollywood wanted her sex appeal, not her skills, nor her brains. Sixty years later Dolce & Gabbana still thinks that blondes are like that or if they are not, at least this is the image they like to project.

Another blonde, another sex symbol...Gisele is the celeb endorsing The One by D&G. The perfect body, the perfect hair, mouth half opened in a lusty moment. The tiny silvery dress sliding of her shoulder...the clothe, the body, the looks and the position that every men desires...this advertising is selling her body, her sexuality, not fragrance. 

Now, this brand has gone to far this time...

This advertising is simply outrageous! It is IMO suggesting gang rape! The male model is holding the female model down by the arm, coming onto her while others are around just waiting to take their turn on her.

Who to blame? Consumers - because marketing managers rely on research to make their campaign? The female models signing the contract to be a part of this type of adverting? The brand for continually perpetrating this kind of thing? Hard to choose...

I would like to present here also some fragrance campaigns that do not rely on sex to sell. Just to bring a light, refreshing feeling to this friday...and to show you, that not only sex sells. Flower by Kenzo is one of the brand's best seller. Also L'Eau D'Issey is his best selling fragrance, while Moschino brought to advertising the fun and the beauty of pastel colors.

The newest fragrance by Oscar de La Renta has been launched recently and it is already a success. the advertising shows a woman "smelling" the flower/perfume bottle..."inhaling the spirit"...
I will finish this article by saying that if you are a woman - you don't need to be beautiful nor skinny or young. Just be yourself. And if you are a man, the woman you are objectifying today, will be the mother of your children tomorrow. And if you will have a this the future you wish for her, to be objectified?

My message to brands like Gabanna, Tom Ford, Dior, YSL, Gucci etc etc etc...when a fragrance is really good, you don't need all that crap!!


Francesca said...

Great article ! Last night I was at my city's Business Woman of the Year Awards. The room was filled with an incredible array of talented women. I would have liked to see the opening song sung by a woman, not a man as was the case, however i do feel we've come a long way. Sadly we still let those adverts for perfume, the offensive ones , into the magazines we read.and sometimes they're so subtle we just ignore them and let them be instead of writing to the magazine and complaining. Its not only for us but our daughters and granddaughters we are protecting by objecting to this portrayal of women.So thanks again Simone for bringing this to our attention.

Anonymous said...

I could see that coming from miles. You are so right about all the points you make. However I fear that advertising is not shaping society, it rather reflects it. Women are tired of trying to be super models/ career women/ super moms/ hot wives and they like to see themselves as bimbo-ish femmes fatales.

Men feel that it is not enough any more to bring in the bacon, not drink and not beat the wife so they like to see this image of raw power, it makes them feel secure.

We are living in times of world crisis and in such times people always turn to extremely conservative, if not reactionary ideas.

As for the more abstract advertisements, who wants to think or be moved when they reach for their wallet? Let's hope that the success of Oscar de le Renta's new release marks a departure. As for Moschino's bottles and campaigns, they were the most innovative, thought provoking, artistic concepts in perfume.

I love it when you get political :)

+Q Perfume Blog said...

Francesca - when I look at these advertisings I see that society has accomplished freedom to express sexuality - which it is a good thing. Also conquered freedom to have an opinion - which is immensely great.
BUT, women are still framed as the dependable, the submissive and the fragile sex.
Before we stand up for the rights of lesbians - we have to stand up for the rights of being a woman! For equal rights of sexes.

When a woman shows her body in public or has many affairs - she is sluty. When a man show it, or has a line of women after him, he is hot.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

I think marketing - as I mentioned, is based on research. I believe that advertising reflects what society wishes to be/to have - great example is One Million - a success in the middle of the biggest financial crisis of all times :-)

BUT I do believe that advertising and marketing "educates" the public and shapes the ideals and create a need.

Do you need 100 perfumes? Do you really need Coca Cola? Do you really need a Chanel dress to be happy? NOOOO, marketing makes you think you need those things to live. And this is exactly why brands invest more in marketing than the product itself.
Take perfumes for an example - how many mil the spend on advertising and how much they spend in raw materials? If advertising was not building a desire why to hire Coppola and many famous movie director to make the film?

I agree that we don't have to be moms, business women etc etc all the time - we do want to be the lover, the whore, the Marilyn Moroe and the ace in bed... but going from that to being raped? That is implied in these 2 campaigns!
I can tell you that this is not exactly what society wants and I will give you an example. La Bundchen made a Brazilian TV commercial where she asks her husband for the credit card - and she is dressed...he denies to her. Than she comes in underwear and she asks him again...of course he gives to her...
This commercial was banned by the District Attorney for being a explicit film where women are objectified. Now, he, as a representative of the society's interest and the law was not censured by the public. Brazilians agreed to his decision.
That said, I am not sure if our female society wants to play this game, or we succumb to centuries of male domination!

P.S.: being a dame everywhere and a whore in bed is always the best combination - I love it :-)

Magnifiscent said...

Great post +Q!
I'm with MoS about this, commercials are a reflection of the society.
Maybe you forced a bit things because some of the Scarlet ads I didn't find them so objectifying (she's dressed, just feeling pretty) but of course Sean John doesn't leave that much to immagination. What's truly sad is that I think sex still sells and not only for men. Perfumes are nowadays mostly bought by women so all that ads are directed to them and seem to work. Point is, you, me, and people here maybe are just more conscious about the real meaning of them rather than milions of objectified women out there.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Darling! Thank you sharing your thoughts!!
I know Scarlet is dressed, but don't you agree that Marylyn was the most objectified woman in the history of Hollywood? According to her biography she wanted to be something else, but she was framed as the dumb sex bomb. So here she shoes a bit of flesh, but what she represents is what bothered me. I am a blonde and till today I have to hear dumb blonde jokes because of her.
Also I think the ads where women snap their fingers and men seem to follow them like puppies is kinda ridiculous. I know we have the power to drive men crazy sometimes, this is nature, sex is nature...but you are so right...perfumes should be sold for their beauty.

Ulysses Borges said...

Adorei o post! em especial o final.... "And if you will have a this the future you wish for her, to be objectified?"
Uma ótima reflexão sobre a publicidade dos nossos tempos.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Querido Ulysses, obrigada pela participação! É raro ver meus brasileiros perfumados compartilhando idéias!!
bjos e bom Natal :-)

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