Buy the Woman, Get a Car.
by LilChanofrom79th on February 24, 2017 - 3:41pm
In 2008, the world-famous German automaker BMW released an ad for its pre-owned vehicle division that came under much criticism. The focal point of the ad is a close-up picture of an attractive woman making a seductive face at the camera. Below that, the tagline reads: “You know you’re not the first”. In its proper context this statement refers to the reader not being the first to drive a pre-owned BMW, and the sexual connotations of the tagline refer to the reader not being the first to engage in sexual activities with the woman, but both imply that the reader would enjoy it anyway.
The ad itself is a simple one. It prominently portrays a nude woman lying on her back and looking into the camera. The creators of the ad assume that the average potential customer of a pre-owned BMW is a male, and therefore they took advantage of the sexual appeal of a woman’s body in order to attract attention to their product. Not only does this method of advertisement objectify women, but the use of such an attractive model also portrays unrealistic standards of beauty. The woman in the ad matches up perfectly with Cortese’s definition of a sexualized woman in an advertisement as well. The woman in the ad is “a form or hallow shell representing a female figure” (Cortese 10), with her sexual and pouting face, and her seductive eyes. BMW clearly knew what they were doing.
The major issues regarding this advertisement arise when you consider the fact that the creators of the ad used a woman’s body as a metaphor for a car, and a used car no less. The ad implies that the reader would love to have that woman, and therefore they would also love to have one of their cars. BMW is no stranger to this type of advertising technique. In Anthony Cortese’s book, he brings up another instance where BMW uses sex to sell their cars. He states “While women are still displayed as attractive to men, the auto is the “the ultimate attraction”’ (Cortese 61). He later supports my argument on the matter by stating that regardless of what the true intentions of the advertisement are, it still sexually objectifies women.
Furthermore, the BMW ad directly relates used cars to women who are not virgins. The ad implies that women who are not sexually pure are generally considered less desirable than other women, similarly to how people feel about buying second hand cars. As if women are valued based on how many times they have had sex before, in a form of slut-shaming. The message of the ad is that it doesn’t matter if a BMW is used because the car is so beautiful that it is worth it anyway. The use of the image of the woman implies that only really beautiful women are worth having sex with if they are not virgins. It is almost as if they are trying to sell you the second-hand woman, instead of a second-hand car.
The BMW ad is one of many in the market that employ these techniques in order to gather attention and to sell products. Why wouldn’t they do it? They know that the sports car market is generally made up of male buyers, and what man wouldn’t enjoy such a provocative and sexy ad? What BMW should do with their ad campaign is figure out other ways to appeal to a male dominated buyers’ market without sexually objectifying women. There are other topics that interest the average male just as much as women do, such as sports, money, or if they are feeling risky, even cars. An ad without the woman, and instead some stereotypical manly themes, could achieve the same goal. What BMW should do is figure out a way to appeal to both the males and the females in their target audience, because maybe they don’t realize it, but women buy cars too.
Sexual objectification of women in the media is nothing new. It exists in music, movies, on television, and in advertisements. BMW, however, took the sexual objectification to a new level of inappropriate when they released their “You know you’re not the first” ad. Using the woman’s body and sexuality in order to appeal to a male buyer’s market makes sense from a business perspective, but from a feminist perspective it is degrading and offensive. Comparing a woman to a car, let alone a used car, is an inappropriate metaphor because you cannot just “own” a woman in the same way you own a car. Also, comparing a woman with a sexual history to a used car is inappropriate because it promotes the idea that a woman is less valuable or less equal if she has a sexual history, and that only beautiful women can get away with having sex with many people without being labeled as a slut. All in all, BMW’s mistake arose because they tried to sell women in the same way that they sell cars. Sticking to stereotypical male themes like sports would have eliminated this problem, but it would only have been a matter of time until another company did the same thing.
Cortese, Anthony J. "Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising." Provocateur 3 (2008) Rowman & Littlefield. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.
Cortese, Anthony. "Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising." Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising (2008): 57-89. Rpt. in Gendered World Views Course Pack. Comp. Sarah Waurechen. N.p.: Eastman Systems, 2017. 2-24. Print.