Although, perhaps not apparent upon first glance, the product being advertised in this print ad is a men’s cologne called ‘Cool Water.’ The majority of the ad space consists of a good looking and muscular white man with his shirt off. Pictured at the bottom right corner of the advertisement is a bottle of cologne, which makes up less than 10% of the image. It is clear that, despite cologne being the product for sale, it is societies construction of masculinity and the promise of becoming a “real man” which is being sold to consumers.
In Pamela Morris’ article, Gender in Print Advertisements: A Snapshot of Representations from Around the World, she suggests that depictions of masculinity and femininity in advertisements, may not tell us how we actually behave, but they tell us how we should act and more importantly think others should look and act (Morris, 2006, p.13). This idea is evident in this advertisement’s use of language. The advertisement contains limited text but offers two words to express the notion of masculinity. These words are “Power” and “Cool.” This choice of words expresses the idea that men must be powerful in order to be real men. There is also a sense of emotional indifference and coldness expressed by the model and his surroundings. The man appears comfortable laying on a hard rock, further exemplifying the necessity for men to be strong and unemotional. The use of the colour blue in this ad also serves to reinforce gender constructs which, historically have begun at birth (blue for boys, pink for girls). The bottle of cologne as well as the general colour scheme of the advertisement is a steel blue. This representation of men is problematic for a number of reasons. This ad neglects a large population of men who do not fit the presented mold (white cis-gendered man). This ad also has potential to be shaming for men who do not fit the image of male beauty expressed (muscular, tanned). Further, this advertisement offers a very limited perspective on masculinity and the way in which men should behave.
In my jamming of this advertisement my aim was to address the often times problematic conceptions of masculinity and gender portrayed in popular media, while also demonstrating the covert and exploitative nature of its messaging. By changing “the power of cool” to “the power of insecurity,” I challenge the viewer to reflect honestly on their initial response to the advertisement and question the feelings which it initially evoked. The jammed statement calls out the exploitative techniques used by the advertisers and invites the viewer to take a more honest look at the ways in which they may have been targeted.
The imagery and text portrayed in this advertisement were all carefully designed to evoke insecurities in men while cleverly offering a remedy for said insecurities, in this case, a 4.2 oz blue bottle of cologne. By calling out the techniques used by advertisers and the subsequent impact this messaging has on one’s self-image, the advertisements negative messaging loses its power.
I have also chosen to change the name of this cologne from Cool Water to Shame Water. My thoughts on making this change were mainly focused on pointing out the absurdity of a cologne’s ability to enhance one’s sense of personhood. Aside from this, the jamming of this text also expresses the narrow-mindedness of the brand and its disregard of human individuality. I also wanted to point out the comically in your face nature of branding this product, “cool” and how this speaks to the lack of personal opinion afforded in a consumer-based society. Rather than inviting individuals to determine what “being a man” or “cool” means to them, consumers are force fed conceptions of each, ultimately shaming those who do not fit into these rigid understandings.
– Trevor Gray