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For the citizen of the world, advertising is an everyday thing. It occurs on every channel after or before a suspenseful part in a movie or show or after an episode, in every store (this shouldn’t be surprising), in between songs on the radio, and even on the clothes made for consumers. Advertising is becoming as common to the daily life of a person as breathing is. The very thought of being without advertising may even seem to harm the human race, as it’s become such an important part of our society. But what may surprise people is the change that advertising has gone through, especially recently and especially involving males. Susan Bordo wrote her essay on this shift in society. She brings up some very good points. Men are now being put in the spotlight of being criticized for their looks.

The definition of a man has become a living being, rather than a stone statue. This is because of many things, including advertising. What a man is has been implied by the occupational form of providing for his family; a man was clearly definable when he had to stake out his property and farm and till the land in order to protect and support his family. Nowadays, however, a man can do whatever he wants in life. He can be a hair dresser, a policeman, a mall cashier, or any other beneficiary to society.

For instance, look at the picture above. It doesn’t directly include a man. But the question “you mean a woman can open it?” implies that men usually have the brawn required to open such jars and bottles. It sticks to the underlying definition of what men once were. They were the muscle, the provider, the protector of the family. They were there to open the jars when his wife couldn’t. They were there to put the meat on the table and bring home the bacon. This image implies that a man is muscle and that a woman doesn’t even need a man to open the jar. A woman can now do what a man was once needed for.

As advertising has changed, so has the stereotype of the male body. Women in any time period in any culture are more attracted to the physically fit, buffed up body of one male than the leaner, smaller body of another male. This isn’t to say a girl won’t like a male with a smaller body. But a woman will physically pay a guy more attention if he has broader shoulders, bigger muscles, and is more physically fit. The Calvin Klein ad below is a good example of a male stereotype in advertising. The advertisement isn’t prompting the heterosexual male consumer to look at the body of the model. But to the woman, the exaggerated, defined body of the male in the background screams for attention and physical touch. He becomes the main focus, whereas the actual product the advertisement is for is located in the bottom center of the picture. The entire purpose of advertising is to sell a product. But advertising has become more than the product.

The product of this image is questionable. Is Calvin Klein selling the man, or the cologne? Notice the placement of the two. The man may be in the background, sure, but his eyes are directly challenging the observer, the authority thereof, even the very manliness that makes the observer separate from the picture. His eyes challenge the partaker of this image to figure out who is actually observing who. They distract you from the actual product being sold, which is conveniently placed in a smaller, less outstanding manner at the bottom of the picture. Imagine a scenario in which this picture is placed, in a huge window display, on a busy street in downtown New York. The people walking by wouldn’t notice the small picture of the product. The male in this picture takes up too much space to not be noticed.

Another example of a manly man advertisement is the one shown below. The large boot is clearly the focus of the ad. The brand name on the tongue of the shoe is clean and neat, and it stands out with the orange background. But look at the top and bottom of the shoe. The steel toe in the front of the shirt is scraped up and dirty, the side has mud on it, and the bottom reveals that the shoe has clearly been used. But this shoe isn’t entirely work. Look at the direction the light is coming from. Subconsciously, the consumer will notice the shine the material on the shoe has and the neat, cleanliness of the shoelaces. The precisely detailed and orderly laces and tongue of the shoe show that this boot has more than one use; it’s good for doing the dirty work while looking good.

Now look at the wording of the advertisement itself: “Safety footwear for men who screw, bang, ‘n’ drill.” Needless to say, this is more than intended to be taken in the literal sense. This innuendo reveals to the reader that this man is not only physically fit—because he buys heavy duty shoes to use for physical labor—but he is also sexually active. Also notice, down in the bottom right corner, the wording there: “It’s gonna get dirty.” This reinforces the advertisement’s underlying idea that this isn’t just a flower bed the wearer would be working on. This boot is for the real, dirty, hard-working man.

The next advertisement plays out for the older generation. Men tend to lose their hair as they age. This product is from the hair brand line, “Just for Men.” The smaller text on the page says “The results of a 30-year scientific study of lions in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, show that lionesses are more attracted to darker maned beasts.” However, the even smaller text of the product itself can barely be read! The “Just for Men” logo is about as much as can be legibly seen. The larger focus is on the bold, white words. “Lionesses prefer lions with darker manes.” This focuses on the more animalistic sexual behaviors of humans, derived from the behavior from lions. The main point of this advertisement, though, is in the imagery.

The male, lying on the bottom, underneath the female, has very dark hair. This is what the ad is actually trying to sell: the ability for the product to help keep a man’s hair full and dark. The implication, however, with the female on top, changes everything. The way her hair falls across her face shows that her head has been moving recently; it’s very loose, clearly not her focus right now. Her hands placed on each side of his head, and her body being on top of his, show physical dominance over the male. His hands on her shoulders shows he’s not being attacked and he’s trying to push her off; it shows he’s enjoying himself and pulling her closer. For an advertisement about hair, this one took a rather odd twist.

However, all these advertisements seem to be effective. Otherwise, the agency wouldn’t have enough money to produce ads. Susan Bordo’s view on the shifting in society towards men in the advertising campaign is very much a common thing. Males are being portrayed more these days, especially in the advertising genre of culture. Sometimes, the actual product that is trying to be sold can be hidden by the overly dramatic use of a strong male presence in the picture. Take, for instance, the “Just for Men” ad I used. Sure, the ad might actually be effective, but it probably isn’t practical. The former boot advertisement, on the contrary, is very effective. The plain layout with the simple background is extremely informative in a very sensible way. The underlying point in all these advertisements is males in advertising, and this is clearly visible. So the next time you see an advertisement, pay attention to the small, sometimes unnoticeable details. They make the biggest differences.


  1. Nice Job. You did a good job and really got your points across. I really like your first ad, it reminded me of the Geico commercials that show that their company is so simple even a caveman can do it. Were women really seen as such a lower capable populations to men as cavemen. It is definitely something to think about. You did a really good job though. The Lioness ad is very interesting. You are definitely correct in saying it is “a rather odd twist.” Good ads though they support your ideas and you described them well. Good Job!

  2. I really liked your essay because you were successful in getting your point across. You also described the ads with good details and your own opinion thrown into it. I think that you did really well with this essay. Good job!

  3. I really like the descriptions that you have included with you ads. I also really enjoyed the ads that you included they were very interesting and funny. I also thought some of your main poits that you brought up were really interesting for example towards the end of the essay you mentioned that if the ads didnt work then the companies wouldnt have money to keep producing them. i thought that this was a very valid point overall good job.

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