With increased industrialization and various production machines, products that are available in the market are getting more numerous and diversified. In order to compete for a share of the consumer market, manufacturers are willing to spend vast amounts of money on advertising their products to attract the consumers. This may be an indication of economic growth. However, the keen competition has also led to many socially irresponsible advertisements as dry advertisements can no longer keep the products in the public eye. Socially irresponsible advertisements refer to the advertisements that have negative effects on our social values and norms.
In such advertisements, misleading or fake information is employed to exploit people’s emotions, rationality or even greed, so it is harmful to students if we publish this kind of advertisement on Sentinel. [The Bacardi Limon advertisement, for example, is obviously socially irresponsible and should not be published in our school magazine because it is not simply promoting liquor; it is guilty of promoting sexism, encouraging teenagers to drink, hiding the real effects of getting drunk ,so it is strongly recommended it not be published in Sentinel.]
The Bacardi liquor advertisement promotes sexism through its appeal to sex. Since all human beings have the “need for sexual intercourse” (Fowles 65), many advertisers are using the sex appeal, which is “an appeal to the audience’s sexual drives” (Fowles 65), to promote their products. In a Dodge commercial, a young man in an automobile peeps at a woman as she is dressing herself in her apartment (Solomon 54). Another example is a Black Velvet liquor advertisement displaying “an attractive woman wearing a tight black outfit, recumbent under the legend, ‘Feel the Velvet'” (Fowles 66). While in the Bacardi advertisement, the man is looking at the woman in a sexy dress through the glass. All these advertisements have exploited the sex appeal obviously. Apart from this, do you find something else in common? It is that those who are portrayed negatively are all women.
They all wear sexy dresses to seduce men or behave as if they are inviting men to come in and have them. Originally, the Bacardi advertisers are just trying to convince us that the rum is as attractive as the sexy young lady. However, it also affects women’s image in our minds. All the women in the Bacardi advertisement are in sexy barebacked dresses, while the men are decently dressed, either in leather jacket or suit. One of the men is looking at a sexy young lady through the glass in his hand; it seems as if he can control the woman in the palm of his hand. In addition, the word “Tempting” on the top of the advertisement is referring not only to the liquor but to the sexy lady as well. All these details in the advertisement give us an impression that women should be seen as men’s sexual desire, and are ready for whatever men want.
According to Laurence Bowen and Jill Schmid in “Minority Presence and portrayal in Mainstream Magazine Advertising: An Update”, females of middle age are more likely to be the readers of the mainstream magazines than men (82), where many advertisements are published. So, if the advertisers want to attract consumers by the sex appeal, why don’t they use half-naked males instead of women in sexy wear? Perhaps that is because while “sexual imagery is used, it conventionally works better on men than women” (Fowles 66), but I see no reason why advertisers could belittle women because of this. Is it that women are born to entertain men while men have superiority over women and it is seen as an insult for men to be half-naked to attract women? If we continue to allow this kind of advertisements to be published, equality of sex, one of the American dreams, can never be achieved.
Besides using the appeal to sex, the Bacardi advertisement is also using the appeal to affiliation to mislead us that drinking can enable us to belong and be accepted. As we all have “the fear of not belonging, of social rejection and of being different” (Solomon 56), “the need to associate with others is widely invoked in advertising and is probably the most prevalent appeal” (Fowles 66). Advertisers try to convince us that by consuming certain products, we will be able to belong and be accepted. In the Bacardi advertisement, many young and attractive men and ladies are hanging out in the bar, each holding a glass of Bacardi Limon. All the people in the advertisement are chatting with others happily and wearing smiles. When we look at the advertisement, we would probably feel the joy they are having and may even yield to an unexpected impulse to join them. One of the women is even offering us a toast.
Her action makes us think that if we hold a glass of Bacardi Limon, we would be qualified to join them and have fun together. The big bottle of Bacardi Limon on the right hand side of the advertisement is even trying to emphasize that it is the wine that has brought the people joy and friends. When Solomon talked about the use of this kind of appeal in advertising, he said that “fearing loneliness more than anything else, adolescents quickly respond to the group appeal of such commercials” (53). We can see that advertisements that use the affiliation concept have a really strong effect on teenagers. Teenagers, who are eager to be accepted by peers, are easily misled by the Bacardi advertisement that they can make friends through drinking. The Bacardi advertisement is obviously socially irresponsible because it tempts teenagers to drink with unrelated appeal.
The Bacardi advertisement tempts people to drink by hiding the real effects of drinking. In order to promote their products, advertisers are using various ways to mislead us to believe in something that we, on second thoughts, will be incredulous of. Say, when Angie Dickinson introduces a kind of diet food in the advertisement, “our eyes are too fixed on her for us to think if she got that way by eating mounds of guacamole” (Fowles 71). But, in fact, of course, her shape may have nothing at all to do with the guacamole. We are all aware of this, but this kind of advertisement is already appealing enough to persuade some of the ladies to buy the diet food. Similarly, in the Bacardi advertisement, advertisers are hiding the fact, known to us all, that after drinking; we would get intoxicated.
However, men and women who are portrayed in the advertisement are all attractive, trendy and happy. It seems that by having a glass of Bacardi Limon, we would be as trendy and happy as they are. However, in real life, this is usually not the case. Bars are always filled with people who scream, vomit and behave in a weird way in their state of drunkenness. But none of these are shown in the advertisement. Teenagers, who may be too young to think about the evil consequence of drinking, can easily be tempted by this advertisement to have a try of the liquor. In serious cases, some teenagers may even be addicted to alcohol after this “try”.
Nowadays, as dry advertisements can no longer attract consumers’ attention, more and more irresponsible advertisements come into beings. They all convey negative messages to us. It is good for us if we can ban all of them. Such as the Bacardi advertisement, as mentioned above, is not simply an advertisement which promotes liquor. It humiliates women, encourages people to drink and hides the negative effects of drinking. It is strongly recommended that it not be published on Sentinel so that our students will not be exposed to its evil messages.
However, as far as I am concerned, banning is not a good way to protect our students from socially irresponsible advertisements. Since there are too many irresponsible advertisements around and there is always strong argument as to whether one advertisement is harmful or not. In order to free ourselves from socially irresponsible advertisements in a more effective way, it is important that we consumers be able to read the hidden message behind the advertisement and boycott the advertisements that convey unhealthy messages. In this way, I believe that all socially irresponsible advertisements will disappear even if there is not a ban on them.