An "Easy" Ride

by octobersveryown on September 26, 2016 - 3:29pm

In 2002, BMW released its controversial “Ultimate Attraction” ad campaign and received backlash for its gender stereotyping and objectification of the female body. The ad features a couple engaging in sexual intercourse, the man on top and the woman on the bottom. The woman’s face is covered with a magazine showing a red BMW car and a caption saying “The ultimate attraction”. The man is longingly gazing at the picture of the car while her arms are laced around his neck, showing she is still engaged in the sexual act being exhibited. This advertisement sends numerous messages about gender roles to both men and women and it should spark concern in its audience about its negative messages.

            Firstly, the people in this advertisement have thin, attractive bodies. This sends a very specific message to both genders: these are the expectations that must be met by members of both genders to be classified as “beautiful”. Miss Representation, a 2011 documentary directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, explains how “slim, sexy” bodies are profitable. Slender figures attract potential buyers to the products they’re selling. Their bodies serve the purpose of seducing buyers. The second message that this advertisement sends is that men hold all power and control in relationships and are not in touch with their emotions. It does so by the man’s placement above the woman in a dominant pose, presenting the man as being in complete control of the act that’s taking place. Also, the man is staring at the magazine covering his partner’s face, as though the car is going to please him as much as the woman’s body will. This makes him seem shallow and out of touch with his emotions because he doesn’t seem to care much about the intimacy of sex with another human being. The third message this ad sends is that women belong to men as sexual objects that can offer them this service whenever they ask of it. The ad does so by the removal of the woman’s face, completely dehumanizing her. It turns her into a body without emotions, a mind, or a personality, transforming her into an object to which she is not owed the “privilege” of consent.

            The messages being conveyed by this advertisement are harmful to women and how society perceives them. According to Jay Walker-Smith, President of the Marketing Firm Yankelovich, “we see as many as 5000 [ads] a day [...]”.  (CBS News, 2006). People are being overwhelmed with so many different commercials daily. The danger in sending the wrong messages in these ads is that it can greatly influence society’s paradigm of a certain subject. If women are constantly objectified in omnipresent media, this can cause society to see them as objects rather than people. An example of this phenomenon is the perpetuation of rape culture and the “blurred lines” that surround consent when it comes to sex. This can relate back to ads like the BMW “The ultimate attraction” campaign in how the woman is completely dehumanized and turned into an object, and the sex doesn’t prove to be consensual.

            Much can be done to fix this advertisement. In a nutshell, it should focus on the sexual tension between these two individuals rather than the sex itself. The theme the original ad is conveying, sex, should be transformed into eroticism. Firstly, the models should be of average weight and height, so that the majority of the audience being targeted can relate to what is being presented. Secondly, the actors should be fully clothed to take away from the explicitly sexual content. The woman’s face should not be covered so that it is visible that she is a human being and not just a body. They should be positioned equally: the man should not be in a dominant pose over the woman. Thirdly, the couple should be engaged with each other to show that sexual tension isn’t only physical but psychological as well. This will take away from the “shallowness” of the man and the objectification of the woman. Once these changes have been met (and the ad is no longer supporting stereotypical gender roles), the BMW product that is being sold can be incorporated in many different ways. For example, one can compare the couple’s attraction to each other to their attraction to the car.

            Albeit the “Ultimate attraction” campaign is from 2002, 14 years ago, objectification in media is still an issue today. Luckily, there is a growing number of ad campaigns that are beginning to challenge gender stereotypes, such as the #ILookLikeAnEngineer, Pantene’s “Labels Against Women”, and Dove’s “Body Positivity” campaigns.

 

Works Cited

Johnson, Caitlin. "Cutting Through Advertising Clutter." CBS News. N.p., 16 Sept. 2006. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Miss Representation. Dir. Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Perf. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Geena Davis, Katie Couric. Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011. DVD. Web.

Unknown. "Major Essay 2: The Ultimate Attraction of Stripping Women." Neila100. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Comments

Hearing the campaign’s slogan, one would think of something extraordinary, something passionately desired. It gives the idea of a thing, or more specifically an item – being the car advertised or not – that many would want to have. Even so, seeing the poster itself, one finds out which association is to be made, so does the author of the post octobersveryown.
Observing the picture for the first time, it is hard to ignore the fact, that the sexual intercourse is standing in the middle of the campaign. ‘Sex sells’, some would say and so does it here. But is it so? The way the author describes this selling strategy shows, that it is not all about the sex. It is something more like ‘Sexism sells’ and this is the main point in octobersveryown’s analysis that I want to discuss. The author succeeds in describing the illustration, even though he does not analyse the position in greater detail. It is important to note, that it is considered as one of the most intimate ones, because kissing is easy accessible and the way the lovers lie, allows them a constant eye contact. This connection is broken by the magazine lying on her face – it dehumanizes her completely. It is questionable if he cares much about the intimacy in the act, as stated. The closeness is supposed to be between two human beings and the passion is being transferred to a non-living object. In return, the objectified woman is holding his neck, establishing a warm and familiar connection. This way, the campaign indicates the closeness and her unwillingness to let him go – just the relationship an automobile enthusiast would have with his brand-new BMW.
Assuming women and men must have such physics and pointing out how attractive this is, allows the ad to target a specific group of customers. Their youthful look and their romantic act symbolize vitality, passion, energy, also fun. It is often used by ad campaigns to appeal to younger people and elder ones, who wish to give their evergreen spirit a second chance.
It is said, that women belong to men. They must obey and take care of everything men wish for. This thought is being summoned in the reader’s mind while reading the text. Their effort, love and generosity is compared to a service a car could deliver. It is their duty to do so, ‘whenever [men] ask for it’.
Considering the year, the ad was released, it is sad to find out, that BMW was not the only manufacturer who has used such means to get to the customer. It was published 14 years ago and it would still succeed. Human beings not only like to see nudity; they seek for it. It is more likely for one to purchase, if their interest has been awakened. Young women and men with retouched half-naked bodies seem to be much more ‘beautiful’, if they meet society’s ideals – thin, sporty, healthy, chic and willing. ‘Normal’ people are too ordinary to get buyers’ attention and this is the reason such campaigns benefit from it.
Therefore, ads incite big discussions and it is supposed to be like this with all its pros and cons, reflecting our imperfect society, which allows such advertisements to prosper. Most people are easily being manipulated by commercials and the sadness lies in their incapability of willing to change that. They can hardly escape while being steadily attacked by the marketing industry. Known issues are hardly overcome and that is a problem today’s society must solve.