Coca-Cola recently came under fire for its new ad campaign which features naked, pin-up styled women covered in barely-there dresses made of milk. The ads are for a high-end, premium milk product called Fairlife, which is set to launch in the United States this month. Several of the photographs are loosely based on Marilyn Monroe’s iconic skirt-raising pose in The Seven Year Itch and feature tongue-in-cheek slogans such as “Drink What She’s Wearing,” Better Milk Looks Good on You,” and “More Good, Looks Good.” Coke’s hypersexualized marketing approach hasn’t gone over well with consumers, who have taken to social media to criticize the company for its sexist ads. Whether the Fairlife ad campaign is in bad taste or simply leaves a bad taste in your mouth, sex still sells, and according to a 2012 study by the University of Georgia, ads featuring sex are on the rise, again. Here are 12 of the most sexist contemporary ads.
12. Swiffer: Rosie the Riveter
Rosie the Riveter is a World War II cultural and feminist icon. She represented the economic power of American women, many of whom worked in factories producing munitions while men were off at war. If the muscular, bandana-clad woman depicted in the 1940s “We Can Do It” posters saw Swiffer’s rebranding of her image, she’d crack the skull of whoever is in charge of advertising. Swiffer depicted the WWII icon doing domestic chores like mopping the floor. The public backlash was so great that Swiffer quickly pulled the ad.
11. RadioShack: Beats Pill Speakers
In 2013, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was called the most date-rapiest hit song of the year, and the video, which featured naked women prancing around fully-clothed predatory males, wasn’t just sexist but misogynistic. However, the song and video generated buzz, and RadioShack capitalized on that buzz when it rebranded, err, copy and pasted the official video and added phallic-shaped Beats Pill speakers for effect. According to Forbes, 90-year old RadioShack has lost ground because of its “lopsided focus on wireless tech” and competition from Wal-Mart and Amazon. When a company loses ground to its competitors, it’s time for an ad campaign that features half-naked models fondling speakers that look like a giant sex toy.
10. Belgian Organ Donation Foundation
“Becoming a donor is probably your only chance to get inside her.” In other words, donating your organs is almost like sex, at least that’s the message the 2008 ad for the Belgian Organ Donation Foundation is suggesting. What better way is there to get across an altruistic message than to objectify women? Still, while the ad drew harsh criticism from both parents and religious groups, especially in the United States, advocates argued that it brought humor and lightheartedness to a serious subject, which in turn has the potential to get people thinking about donation.
9. Sony’s Playstation Vita
Sleeker, slimmer, and lighter, the PS Vita handheld console has high-precision dual analog controls and a built-in memory. The product launched in late 2011 and was the subject of the company’s largest marketing campaign. The ad for the Playstation Vita features a four-breasted woman, her head cropped around the jawline, and the slogan: “Touch Both Sides For Added Enjoyment.” Any ad depicting a woman with four large breasts, a tiny waist, and no face is going to come under attack. As Vita is geared towards teenage boys and young men, the ad basically says that a woman’s body is an inanimate plaything -there to be touched and groped.
8. 42 Below: Stil Vodka
New Zealand vodka brand 42 Below incensed Russian women everywhere in 2006 when it marketed Stil Vodka with a “Win a Russian Bride” competition. The ad features a woman on her hands and knees scrubbing a kitchen floor. According to the promotion, Russian women are ideal because “they don’t care if you watch cricket on Valentine’s Day, hell, they don’t even care if you’re short and fat.” The winner of the competition didn’t actually receive a Russian bride, however, but went on a holiday to Moscow for a “Find-a Bride” tour to meet local singles. The campaign is said to have garnered over $90,000 in sales.
7. Elite Luxury Car Rental
Sex and cars have always gone hand-in-hand in advertising. However, Elite Luxury Car Rental’s ad campaign, “Get There Faster,” is more scandalous than most car ads. A young, long limbed model is on a bed wearing high heels and sexy pantyhose that look like a road. The road, of course, leads to her private areas.
6. BMW: The Ultimate Attraction
In 2002, luxury car manufacturer BMW launched its “Ultimate Attraction” campaign. The ad shows a man having sex with a woman with a picture of a BMW covering her face; the man is on top, looking down at the picture of the car. Detractors of the ad called it sexist, bandying about phrases like “male gaze.” And while the ad does suggest that women’s bodies are commodities, there’s a catch. BMW also printed a version of the ad with the woman on top and a picture of a car covering the man’s face. Whether or not it was part of the initial rollout or a response to the controversy remains to be seen.
5. Remy Martin: Things Are Getting Interesting
Remy Martin, a company that specializes in Cognac Fine Champagne, launched its “Things Are Getting Interesting” ad campaign on a series of billboards, magazine spreads, and websites. The ads depict women in degrading bondage positions.
The worst offender shows a woman with a chain in her mouth; a second woman’s head is thrown back and the chain is wrapped around her neck. There’s a man between them, in the background, which implies the women aren’t having a hot lesbian affair, but putting on a kinky and lascivious show for the viewer.
4. Lamb Fragrance
It has long been said that advertising takes cues from the adult industry. Despite strides in female empowerment, sexist trends like bondage and rape still appear regularly in all forms of advertising. In an ad for Gwen Stefani’s fragrance, Lamb, Gwen’s head is tossed back in a sort of orga*mic throe and a tagline reads: “I Want You All Over Me.” Maybe the slogan is about the perfume, but the image of Gwen clearly reinforces the degrading idea of women as sex receptacles.
3. Natan Jewelry: Closed Legs/Open Legs
In 2002, Brazilian jewelry company Natan raised eyebrows when it published its “closed legs/open legs ad.” The ad underscores the idea that marriage is so essential to women that they will open their legs for it; however, it also suggests that men only propose to women because they want to have sex with them. Both ideas emphasize sexist gender stereotypes. Nevertheless, the man appears to have the upper hand, as Natan’s seems to be suggesting that when a man gets married he gets to open more than just a joint bank account.
2. Nando’s: Classic Double Breast Burger
A Nando’s ad featuring a flaky, dim woman whose breasts are so big she can’t find the fries on her plate was banned by the Advertising Standards Bureau. CEO Fiona Folly, said, “While the Board recognized the intended humor, it also considered a significant proportion of the community would be offended and find there was an element of sexuality and objectification of women that was concerning.” This isn’t the first time that Nando’s has been accused of insensitive and sexist advertising. In 2007, an ad featuring a topless pole-dancing mom who gyrates in a G-string before serving her kids chicken attracted more than 350 complaints, according to the Advertising Standards Bureau. It was not only the most complained about advertisement of the year, but it received more complaints than any other commercial since 1998.
1. Dolce and Gabbana: Spring/Summer 2007 Ready-To-Wear Collection
A woman is pinned to the ground by the wrists by a bare chested man. She has an alienated and absent look on her face. Three other men stand in the background looking on, waiting. Dolce and Gabbana’s ad was widely castigated as a glamorization of gang rape and banned in several countries, including Italy and Spain. While the ad promoted D&G’s spring/summer ready to wear collection, it seems more like a film still for a haute couture X-rated film.
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