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Original Ad – Svedka Vodka Billboard, 2011
This billboard advertisement by Svedka Vodka, posted throughout major US cities beginning in the spring of 2011, outwardly objectifies women in a “passable” way due to its cartoonish or “render” appearance, allowing its message to dehumanize the full-figured female-subject of the ad “just enough”. The association between alcohol and sexual consent is a salient one and is integral to the theme of rape culture, characterized as the outward promotion, implication, and normalization of sexual violence, often victim-blaming those who have been violated. The text stating “I send mixed messages” speaks directly to this notion of “blurred lines” or absent sexual consent in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, almost poking fun at anti-rape-culture narratives, whilst blatantly objectifying women as the “fembot” lays with her legs spread, in a hypersexual, submissive position. These marketing tactics permeate our subconscious and channel the “sex sells” phenomenon in advertising, appealing to our “less evolved brains”, which are “receptive to suggestible, basic imagery that taps into our fears and desires” (Bashford, 2016). The prevalence of these problematic advertisements speaks to the systemic oppression, objectification, and subversion of agency surrounding consent, hypersexualization, and stereotypes reducing women to their sexual actions or behaviours whilst actively shaming and subjecting them to the male gaze. Desire in advertising taps into the eroticization of the female body, simultaneously communicating unattainable beauty ideals to women as well as unhealthy sexual expectations that threaten consent. By engaging with the “basic sexual needs” of the brain, women become objectified and commodified along with the product in question, a powerful association that presents women as the objects of lust and desire – equating the mystique of female sexuality with their product.
“Jammed” Verison – Svedka Vodka Billboard, 2019
The Jammed version of this Svedka Billboard drives home the “blurred lines” imagery, emphasizing that the product in this ad comes secondary to the commodified body of the female, and uncomplicated, uncontested, implied sexual encounter. Advertising operates in a cyclical manner, reflecting the desires of the public whilst simultaneously shaping culture and views surrounding consent- in addition to being associated with situations where alcohol is involved specifically, in this case. Furthermore, by blurring the text and the product, this jammed version of the Svedka billboard portrays the blurred face of the female figure, implying a lack of identity, and hypersexualized, submissive compliance, reminiscent of a sex doll. Appealing to the “desirability factor” of these themes further unveils that a (male) consumers may feel compelled to buy this product simply because of the undeniable sexual fantasy they associate with the product (AKA“sex-sells”), which is ultimately a rumination of rape culture. While the imagery in this advertising is overtly sexual, the meanings behind the imagery certainly operate latently, subconsciously promoting unhealthy sexual relationships and endorsements of assault, which legitimize these themes and are equally as harmful as overt portrayals rape, sexism, and sexual violence in advertising. As consumers of culture, we must be aware of these problematic portrayals of femininity that are embedded in everyday advertising- as these depictions of the female body pray on the insecurities of women (“to be desired by the male gaze”), and the desires of men (“to conquer the female body). These minor alterations to the original ad seek to facilitate a paradigm shift surrounding the importance of explicit consent, as well as demonstrate the violence and the plethora of sub-text that accompanies portraying the female body in such a hypersexual, subservient manner.
Bashford, S. (2016). Has advertising lost its influence? Shaping culture, conscience and commerce. Retrieved from https://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/04/25/has-advertising-lost-its-influence-shaping-culture-conscience-and-commerce.