Monday, April 27, 2009

My humble opinion

ok- here's my personal opinion:

I don't believe I, as a woman, am turned on to a product by seeing an advertisement utilizing sex appeal. In fact, I think that women are much more keen to consubstantiality than sex appeal. In many of the sex ads, women as the advertisers focus, I desired to be like that women, have what that women had, and look like that women looked like.

In the most recent ads that I have posted, advertisers have tried to appeal to female demographic. In my humble opinion, it isn't effective. Men are sexually/visually turned on: women aren't. Seeing a sexy man in the nude isn't going to make me want a specific brand of toilet paper, a "naturally soft" laundry detergent, or even a wedding dress. In fact, I find that more offensive than persuasive.

What about the rest of you? Do you find an ad like this persuasive or not?

This ad is a great example of my point. I find it flagrantly disrespectful and crass. Sexual appeal is not always appropriate, especially advertising something as important and sanctified as marriage. The naked man in the background is in no way selling me this dress...

I'm very interested in hearing other peoples' opinions...

Sexy Toilet Paper

Ok, here's another... A sex ad geared towards women.

I pose the same questions- is it effective?

Is sex capable of selling a household product such as toilet paper?

For every girl out there: what do you think the underlying meaning is behind this image? Is sex a reasonable advertisement for household products?

Technically that is what this ad is saying... Women can buy everyday necessities, but this brand is so much better because we can buy into the ideal that by using this TP, we will somehow look like these models or be like them in some way...

It sounds crazy, but somehow effective...

What are your thoughts?

All the single ladies!

LADIES- this is for you!

Are you persuaded by this sex ad? Does seeing a naked man in an advertisement turn you on like Paris Hilton gets every guy in America to buy a burger?

Are you persuaded?

Is this technique effective on a female demographic?

you tell me....

Women want it too?

Shay brings up a great point in her comment on the Carl's Junior ad, see below. We've seen how the our sexist culture has created a sexual appeal; many advertisements are explicitly sexual, and women are depicted as sex objects and subordinate creatures.

Shay suggests that advertisements should "
maybe focus more on women since we are the ones who balance the check book."

Are there ads that focus on women? Can you think of any? And if so, what ideology are these ads trying to sell? Family life? Happiness in a pocketbook?

Why do we assume that sex ads are only geared towards men?

It is perfectly clear that women are a TOTALLY different demographic, but has our visual/sexual media reached both the sexes?

Lets find out....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Go Vegetarian?

Here is another EXTREME:

Go Vegetarian?

Even vegetarian advertisements have resorted to the ideology of "sex sells." There are countless ads of this nature- ads that use female nudity ot splash this lifestyle across the media. Is it effective?

This week I was reading an article about sex in the media. Dissent, Injustice, and the Meaning of America, by Steven Shiffrin, states that advertising promotes a sexist culture. The appeal of many commercials is explicitly sexual, and women are depicted as sex objects and subordinate creatures.

Do you think Shiffrin has a good point?

Do these ads depict women as sexual objects? How about subordinate?

Paris and Carl's Junior: a sexy burger

Ok... Now that we have some theoretical knowledge under our belts, we can start to really delve into some famous "sex ads."

First off: FOOD!!!

Many of you have seen this commercial- The first time I saw it, I honestly thought it was a wildly erotic way of selling bathing suits. I even would have gone for a place like Octopus, just trying to sell a car wash. I soon came to find out that someone who can't even eat an entire hamburger is selling hamburgers. Twisted huh? Let's take a look...

What were your first impressions?

Were you confused by the subtly in this ad?

Do you think this type of ad is effective? Why or why not?

Personally, I am convinced that this ad is geared towards one particular audience- three guesses as to whom? The ad is quite effective in aiming towards that audience and striking with deadly force. Also, the ambiguity in the beginning (the ad doesn't advertise its product until the very end) creates an even more heightened sense of longing and desire...

Let's say you're sitting on your couch and this ad comes on the TV. You are watching it with anticipation, an anticipation that only grows with a lack of information. Does the ambiguity make you desire the product more?

Seriously... who wouldn't drive to carl's junior after this advertisement hit the air?

Friday, April 3, 2009


WOW... That's one racy image...

And what's even more shocking is that this epic love scene is in fact advertising a purse!

How is this ad persuasive? There is no denying that this ad is trying to generate a blatant sex appeal, but lets look closer, shall we:

There are two women in this image, and only one man- what does this tell us?

The only item of "clothing" is a purse, and it is even a nude color. How does this affect your interpretation?

When looking at this ad, do you find the desire to be like this woman or man? Passion seems to be the overal theme. After reading Burke and understanding his idea of indentification, do you as a reader, desire to identify with this image or the characters in it? Have these models set the standard of so-called beauty that we are so desperately wanting to obtain?

If you start analyzing these ads, you will start to see all of the hidden persuasions... it will open your eyes to a whole different media. Beware!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Identification is key

So now you're wondering, "what in the WORLD does Burke have to do with SEX?

I'm sure you have all thought of that exact same question... Although Burke lived in a time of censorship (I'm sure he never dreamed of the hot, racy ads that we see on TV everyday), he put his finger precisely on the answer to my previous question: Why does SEX sell?

The answer is identification. We all want to be "consubstantial" with each other. As humans, we have an innate desire to identify with other human beings, although we can never fully do this. Every commercial that you see, every film that you buy, every magazine you read, you do this because you want to relate, to identify with these things. Beauty has been standardized; sex has become the largest, hottest, most prized commodity.

But why is sex so appealing? Why do babes in bikinis sell alcohol? Why is playboy the most sold magazine in the world, to both men and women? You know why- because each and every one of us, whether we will admit it or not, wants to identify with these images. We all want to look like these people, be like these people, and have what these people have.

In the next few blogs, I'm going to show this to you first hand. There are countless sex ads/commercials/media floating around, and we will be able to delve into these intimidating questions in a more reasonable and systematic way.
there's more to come...

The World is a Stage

Kenneth Burke was born on May 5, 1897. He was a major American literary theorist and philosopher
. Burke's primary interests were in rhetoric and aesthetics. He was heavily influenced by the ideas of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Frederich Nietzsche.

Burke identified a revolutionary study of rhetoric- he believed that interactions in our contemporary world are, in some ways, "more complicated" than can be understood by viewing persuasion solely as the explicit, intentional acts which a rhetor directs to an audience.

The term identification became an important catalyst for Burke's philosophy. Burke explains identification as a process that is fundamental to being human and to communicating. He contends that the need to identify arises out of division; humans are born and exist as biologically separate beings and therefore seek to identify, through communication, in order to overcome separateness.

We are aware of this biological separation, and we recognize additional types of separation based on social class or position. We experience the ambiguity of being separate yet being identified with others at the same time: we are "both joined and separate, at once a distinct substance and consubstantial with another."
(Ambiguity plays a HUGE role in Burke's philosophy.)
Consubstantiality This is a term that Burke used to describe how we, as human beings, share a substance with each other. This substance can never be identical, but it can be share. We can find common ground in any situation bcuse we desire to be consubstantial with each other: Burke found a way to describe that human desire for a relationship, for a common ground, and for similarity.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

New Leaf

It’s time to roll into a new phase with this blog...

I believe that colors were an important start to the study of visual rhetoric; colors have the power to persuade both subliminally and blatantly. But it’s time to start a new leaf. I have given you the tools- now you need to know how to use them. Like I’ve said before, every experience (and modern rhetoricians share this same view) is relative and each individual person sees the world through his or her own lens. There can be no finite map for the study of rhetoric because it relies on preconceived notions and individual perspective.

With that being said, I have decided to focus on the “Sex Sells” aspect of the media. We have all heard this term. We have all encountered it first hand. But why is sex so affective? It certainly hasn’t always been. The next posts are going to be dedicated to “speculating” the answers to these questions. How and why does sex sell? Why is it so persuasive? Are we even aware of how these sexual images shape and mold our standards of beauty, normality, and attraction?

When studying rhetoric, it is vital to understand that there is no right or wrong answer. Many of us have different views on sex in the media. We like having standards because if we somewhat resemble these iconic images, we are glorified. But if we differ from them, we are shunned. It’s a matter of opinion…

What’s yours?

Monday, March 9, 2009

1984- Conformity versus Independence

The Macintosh 128K was released on January 24, 1984; it was the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and a graphical user interface rather than a command line interface. Macintosh was also the first lucrative personal computer to use images, rather than text, to communicate.

1984, the name of the commercial, used an unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity." These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother."

What are your thoughts?
What is the symbolism in this contrast between black and white?

The location of the dystopian society is very bleak, dreary, and dark. But note that the heroine in the advertisement is wearing a white shirt and she has almost white hair...

more on white in the coming posts...

Symbolism of darkness

(It is hard to read, but the text on the bottom reads, "smoking isn't just suicide, its murder.")

This is a very persuasive and almost morbid anti-smoking advertisement. Let's take a different approach to analysis than we have in previous posts, shall we?

This is a very dark advertisement with a very dark message.

Is a black background appropriate?

Does the blackness in the ad present a specific mood?

What kind of symbolism does the black background have?
(use the explanation of the color black given in the previous post)

The answers to these questions can be quite personal... The dark nature of the ad can be interpreted as evil, as power, or even as emptiness. I am interested to hear your analyses.

"It is still color, it is not yet light"

Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, grief, death, evil, and mystery.

Black is a mysterious color associated with fear and the unknown; therefore it usually has a negative connotation.

Black gives the feeling of perspective and depth, but a black background diminishes readability. When designing art or photography, you can use a black or gray background to make the other colors stand out. Black contrasts well with bright colors. Combined with red or orange – other very powerful colors – black gives a very aggressive color scheme (as we saw in the Chick-Fil-A ad).

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gender Specific- Yay or Nay?

As previously mentioned, as opposed to emotionally warm colors like red, orange, and yellow, BLUE is linked to consciousness and intellect.

But is this color gender specific?
One study says that blue is highly accepted among males, but another says it has no gender specificity. Here is an ad that i want each of you to examine and give me your feedback on. There are several messages being presented, and each observer might analyze the gender roles differently. When looking at this ad, try and step away from your initial observations; look at it objectively...

What is the message?
How do you think the advertiser is using blue to relay their message?
Do you think this ad is more appealing to men or women?
Does the blue surrounding accentuate the male or the female?

Here is my personal assessment...

I believe that blue is not a gender specific color in this specific ad. There is a clear purpose, and colors are used to achieve that purpose. To me, the blue in the ad accentuates the man and woman, but in separate ways. His stance gives him power, he has his legs firmly planted, he has his blue power suit on, and you can't see his face, which is another domineering gesture; he is indescribable and yet attractively attainable.

The woman, on the other hand, is not seemingly submissive. Instead she is alluring and identifiable. (Kenneth Burke has some very interesting ideas on identification, and I will delve into that subject in posts soon to come.) The woman has her own power; she is provocative. The blue surrounding her, also reflecting in her glasses, accentuates her as well. She is beautiful, collected and unabashed by this mans stance. She holds power, but in a completely different way than the man.

What are your thoughts? There is no right or wrong answer:)

something old, something new, something borrowed, something BLUE

Blue is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith and truth. In many diverse cultures blue is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away. Blue conveys importance and confidence without being somber or sinister

Although it is not an emotionally warm color, such as red and orange and yellow, it is used throughout advertisements in a way that draws you in... not in a blatant way, but in an almost intellectual/thoughtful way.

According to one website I found, blue is a very masculine color, and it is highly accepted among males. In another website that I was researching, the author states that blue is the least "gender specific" color, having equal appeal to both men and women.

So let's put this to the test...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nobody likes a vague disclaimer...

Before I move on to the next few blogs that I have planned, I want to share some thoughts and theories with you. I know that visual rhetoric is a broad topic, and there are many facets to its study... I will try to be as brief and simple as possible because I don't want this blog to be blown over because of it's difficulty.

Therefore, I wanted to give a little more background to visual rhetoric. I think it's important to understand what philosophers and theorists have said about rhetoric- this may help us make our own conclusions and theories.


Images are created to express an idea or an emotion- they are used to imagine alternatives or to create new ways of looking at something:

Visual Culture
This term is of recent origin. The three primary modes of communication in our culture is the written word, the spoken word, and the use of images. The term visual culture defines the study of how cultures use images to convey certain messages and meanings, perhaps even more so than the written word. That is a debate that is long-lasting, and one that i will not enter here...

We live in a very visual culture- the use of fashion, icons, signs, advertisements and images are part of this American visual culture. For better or worse, our society as we know it is dominated by visual images.

We are bombarded by images of persuasion which are trying to motivate, change, or alter our perceptions of reality. The term perception could be a blog on its own- according to many philosophers, our perception is individualistic. We see the world through the scope of our own situations and circumstances, and thus we all have different realities. There are countless realities because there are countless existences.

That being said, this blog is not trying to blow that domination of images out of the water- on the contrary; I am trying to create a catalyst to the structure of our own individual realities. By this, I mean that I am an advocate for "visual literacy." I want my readers to understand how images work and how they persuade, and this will ultimately lead you on a path all by yourself- a path in which you must see the media through your own lens, not one crafted by naivety or "illiteracy." So from now on, understand that I am trying to help you achieve awareness... I want you to be visually awake, alert, and on guard. If you become so, the study of visual rhetoric will open so many doors for you.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NSYNC- It takes me back!

This is visually stunning. The entire video is made up of light blues and tans and browns- and then the box is dropped....

Makes you hungry for some ribs doesn't it?

Poor cows...

  • What is the message of this ad?
  • What does your eye gravitate toward?
  • How does the red title contrast with the black and white?
  • How are these advertisers getting you to become aware of their product?

This makes me see red

Our reaction to color is almost instantaneous and has a profound impact on the choices we make everyday.

Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, and raises blood pressure. It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red.

In advertising, red is often used to evoke erotic feelings (red lips, red nails, 'Lady in Red', etc). This color is also commonly associated with energy, so you can use it when promoting energy drinks, games, cars, items related to sports and high physical activity.

Red brings text and images to the foreground; a keen use of red as an accent can immediately focus attention on a particular element. Advertisers use it as an accent color to stimulate people to make quick decisions; it is a perfect color for 'Buy Now' or 'Click Here' buttons on Internet banners and websites.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A New Symbol System

COLORS are used symbolically (we can use green for envy and red for power and yellow for happiness etc...) In contrast to the symbol system of words that at least has a dictionary to which we can refer for direction, color has no such equivalent. In this context, how can we interpret the use of color as a symbol?

I have found that every experience (and modern rhetoricians share this same view) is relative and that each individual person sees the world through his or her own lens. There can be no finite map for the study of rhetoric because it relies on preconceived notions and individual perspective. I do not presume to know how to categorize or label any symbol system, and that is why this blog will be interactive. I want to hear everyone's opinion- let's face it... we all have one!

In the coming blogs I will focus on why color has become its own symbol system and how these colors can persuade both blatantly and subliminally.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 6, 2009

What is visual rhetoric, you ask?

In its broadest sense, rhetoric concerns both the practice and the study of effective communication in art and literature as well as political and social discourse. As Aristotle defines it, rhetoric is understanding the available MEANS OF PERSUASION...

This blog will provide an in depth introduction to the study of visual rhetoric. From Aristotle to the present, I will be gathering, exploring, surveying and examining the rhetorical and stylistic analyses of billboards, commercials, campaigns ads, magazines ads and so on. I not only want to analyze how and why these advertisements persuade but how they have become such an available and provocative mean of persuasion.

So buckle up cuz' this blog is going to be an eye opener!