Lining Up to Face Objectification in Advertising

by Cactus on Avril 5, 2017 - 3:06pm

Above is an axe commercial released in Spain (Turn-o-Matic, in 2000 (15 years of Axe Effect: the world’s most sexist advertising campaign, by the Lola Madrid agency. What we see in this piece of commercial rhetoric designed to capture the eyes and the wallets of young men is a classic example how the advertising industry does advertising wrong in so many ways and on so many levels; especially when portraying men and women in society. In the image, a woman is laying atop a man while they lock lips and are about to engage in sexual intercourse. Most importantly, we can see in the foreground of the image that the woman is holding a waiting line ticket with the number “C77,” and in the lower right corner it says “the Axe effect”. The implications of this image are obvious: by wearing Axe colognes all the women of the world will flock to you in search of sex, regardless of the requirements- i.e. waiting in line to be the 377th person to have slept with you.  At first glance, this image may seem to be more or less acceptable or slightly distasteful, but what many fail to realise is that images like these have many adverse effects on individuals and their perception of themselves and of those around them.

The issue with this ad is that they placed a ticket in the woman’s hand. This is significant because it carries heavy connotations and portrays a rather contorted and harmful message to both women and men. What the image is saying is that the female body is an object made for mass consumption that is readily available and highly disposable. This creates a narrative that is disrespectful and degrading towards women even if they “are still displayed as attractive to men” (Anthony Cortese’s, 61). 

This type of imagery is an issue that should worry us because the messages it gives leads to a multitude of problems. One of the more prominent problems is self-objectification (61), which has a variety of effects on the individual who suffers from it. When a woman objectifies themselves it is because they become highly aware of themselves as an object within society and they begin to assume the role of the of the female “provocateur”(59). The provocateur is the “ideal woman” who is usually portrayed as young, perfect, without flaws and blemishes and is sexually attractive. The role that women must assume as a result is one that is “passive, [and] object-oriented otherwise, they are lead to feel guilt for their incapability to fill the role and are told through “cultural ideology” (59) that they are not desirable and cannot be loved. The woman must become a husk, an object that displays ultimate beauty. They become an object for the taking. If a woman were to adopt this sort of thinking it could lead to a large array of “psychological problems, including eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction” (61) which ultimately lead to serious health issues and problems within relationships.

In my stance, if the company wanted to alter the ad without completely changing the message they could change the scenario to be something more reasonable, realistic and that doesn’t objectify the figures in the ad. For example, they could show a scene where all the women in the background turn their gaze toward the male figure as they notice his cologne; and in the midst of all of this someone clumsily bumps into something or drops their possessions because they were so focused on the ever so handsome man perfumed with great cologne. Essentially, this example would require reversing the popular movie trope where a female character is walking through a setting and all the men are gawking at them. This way there is no need to place individuals in a sexual setting and the man still remains the centre of attention.

The objectification of bodies is a serious problem that causes people to absorb messages that are detrimental to themselves and others, especially women. It makes women into objects and can lead to self-objectification, which can lead to low esteem, eating disorders and a variety of psychological problems. Attraction can be displayed in many ways that work just as effectively as other methods. It’s simply a matter of working a bit harder to come up with a better solution.


"15 years of Axe Effect: the world’s most sexist advertising campaign." This is not ADVERTISING. N.p., 07 Nov. 2011. Web.

"Adsarchive." Axe Axe Deodorant, n.d. Web.

Cortese, Anthony. "Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising ." Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, . Third ed. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. 9-26. Print.