Advertisements, Sell to Both Sexes!
by Trevor Hopkins on Friday, February 20th, 2015
First published in 1964, over fifty years ago, the swimsuit addition of the Sports Illustrated magazine has become a staple of the company. Clearly, this display of female models’ showing off their looks in bikinis is geared towards a particular audience. This magazine being just one of many examples, it is apparent that much of popular culture remains unable to progress into the modern era.
In the specific case of Sports Illustrated, if sexual objectification really is the best way to attract readers, why have they yet to make a swimsuit addition of men? Often in magazines, the type of advertising that requires male models often uses them to complement the clothes. In male fashion magazines, one may typically see a suit being displayed on a handsome man, but this choice of model more often is done in a way to draw attention to the clothes. In fashion ads that show females, often their form rather than their clothes are highlighted.
Unfortunately, statistics show that, in a culture still dominated by males and scientifically proven to often be wired visually, these approaches are still more profitable for advertising companies. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is simply another side effect of a larger systemic issue of an imbalance of power between men and women.
However, sexual objectification is not the only area in which advertising bias takes place. If you watch any NFL football game, there is a good chance that at one point in the commercial breaks, you will see an advertisement for a Budweiser beer or a Ford pickup truck. The media, since its installment in our culture, has chosen to label these very much as “manly” thing? Why were these stereotypes created and how have they persisted, becoming so integral to our society that they now seem impossible to erase?
As our society progresses socially, many have discovered that women enjoy sports as much as men. They articulate happy surprise at how times have changed, because “twenty or so years ago women had no interest.” However, women who like sports are not a new phenomenon. The public has simply become more aware of the changing gender dynamic, and it has become acceptable for women to share their views on such topics as sports. However, it does seem that public advertising remains drastically behind our times, as they still refuse to believe that they have a valid audience in the female population. Yet, of the 97.5 million people who watched the 2008 NFL Super Bowl on television, 40% were women. As communities become more accepting of women in a once thought of “solely male” realm, advertising companies often perpetuate old fashioned stereotypes and slow progress.
Not only is this behavior unfair to women, but, economically, it seems negligent for companies not to attempt to tap into a new and growing audience. If around two fifths of sports viewers are now women, and companies are missing out on nearly half of their potential customers.
Sports franchises themselves often seem to push female audiences away. The most prominent example of this behavior can be found in the NFL’s handling of the multitude of violence and abuse cases that have arisen over the past year. When Ray Rice is getting only a fine and a two game suspension for knocking his girlfriend unconscious, the NFL sent a clear message that it can tolerate violence toward women.
It makes no sense morally or economically, for sports and sports advertisers to alienate women as they do today. For our society to further progress into a more equal society, it would media and franchise must look past profit statistics and attempt to find new methods to target and attract both genders in potential audiences.
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