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Essay on Advertising - Gender and Social Stereotypes

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Marilyn Monroe, Marlboro Man, Hugh Heffner, Pamela Anderson, and The Rock are all examples of the society of idols whom the American public has looked up to in various media forms. In today’s society there are many gender and social stereotypes that remain a prevalent part of the advertising tactics of the media. In the particular ad that I have chosen are examples of gender stereotypes that I would like to analyze and discuss using Douglas Kellner’s article “Advertising Images”. Kellner states that the tobacco industry in both the past and present use subliminal messages with the intention of portraying lifestyles and choices to the American public. Cigarette ads in particular, Kellner argues, “contribute to identity formation in contemporary society” (188). In this analysis I will show that Kellner’s ideas of identity formation are located throughout the Camel ad that I will analyze.
     In a Camel cigarette ad from Rolling Stone Magazine is the classic Marilyn Monroe pose with a woman standing center stage as men fawn all over her with smiles and outstretched hands. The woman is dressed in a high-class, strapless evening gown as she smokes a cigarette using a holder so she doesn’t blacken her gloves. She is blonde because “blondes always have more fun” and she has perfect hair, perfect teeth and a very flashy smile. The entire scene, a woman on a raised stage with men around, hands out stretched with tips, portrays the atmosphere to be that of a Strip Club or a Gentlemen’s Club where she might be performing on stage. The spotlight is on her as she seductively moves in front of a blue, sparkle curtain. The men located at the bottom of the ad are also very well dressed in suits or tuxedos. Good-looking gentlemen, they smile at the woman as they reach out to her with hands and trays of Camel’s finest in three different varieties. They all seem to be enjoying the show and offering her their gifts of pleasure in the form of cigarettes in exchange for their pleasure of watching her. None of the men in the ad seem to be smoking.
     Kellner states that everything portrayed in the ad is a media ploy to “create an association between the products offered and socially desirable and meaningful traits” (189). The woman in the ad is being looked up to adoringly by several men; she is the spotlight, and steals all men’s hearts. Therefore, the ad is stating, ...


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...so he/she can make an educated judgment on how the product being advertised will or will not affect his/her life. The advertising companies play on the fact that most consumers are oblivious to the fact that people can be subliminally influenced. Whether it is print ads, pictorial ads, radio, or television; we as consumers are bombarded with hundreds of different messages a day. It may be to buy the latest cereal bar because it will make your now hectic mornings run more smoothly, or to buy the latest Nike shoe because it will make him/her jump higher and run faster. No matter what audience media ads speak to they all use the same type of thought process. The companies have products that they want to move to the consumer so why not make their product seem desirable and speak to their target audience by playing on everyone’s sense of self-betterment. Who wouldn’t want to become a better person, and if a product can do that, then why not invest in that product? Be advised wary consumers, advertising companies know you walk around in an oblivious state; they are waiting to pounce on your one moment of cognition when their ad catches your eye and they can pitch you the perfect life.


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