Sebastian’s Culture Jam Assignment

Used Car Ad Campaign

Image 1: Used Car Ad Campaign

The advertisement above depicts a youthful, seemingly naked ‘beautiful’ girl. Beautiful in terms of western societal constructs. The ad was published by the international auto maker, BMW. As noted in the text next to the BMW logo at the bottom right, it is promoting their “Premium Selection Used Cars”. As a luxury car brand, many well-off individuals may buy a BMW new and then upgrade to the newer model within a few years, leaving an excess of used BMW’s in the market. So it makes sense why they are promoting their used cars. That being said, their approach offers some mixed messaging. The text near the woman’s neck says “You know you’re not the first.” What this means is that she, like the cars, “has been used”. The question is how has “she been used”? Well I’m sure one could come up with a variety of interpretations, but due to the fact that she appears to be naked, is touching her chest and has her arms somewhat spread in a welcoming position, there is a clear sexual tone. Under the BMW logo it says “Sheer Driving Pleasure”, pleasure in this case aligns with the sexuality of the ad This means that she has essentially had sex with other men, but because she is young and ‘beautiful’ it shouldn’t matter that you are not the first one to have “used her”. It is clear the automaker is trying to promote the sexiness and of their cars. Aside from reinforcing western beauty standards, the result of this ad is that it objectifies women by associating them with an inanimate object such as a used car and reduces the woman to a commodity. Furthermore, even though it is trying to justify that not being the first is okay, this simultaneously implies that if a woman has had sex with others she is less valuable. This plays in to the notorious double standard of sex expectations between men and women; where men are glorified for having more sex, while women are shamed. The ad acknowledges the devaluation of both used cars and the woman in the advertisement, but tries to depict it as an commodity worth investing in because it is (still) sexy.

Image 2: Customized

Image 2: Customized

To show how inappropriate this message is I only had to change two words. In the bottom right, I changed “BMW Premium Selection: Used Cars” to “BWM Premium Selection: Used Women”. Second, I changed “Sheer Driving Pleasure” to “Sheer Sexual Pleasure”. The rest of the ad is the exact same. If someone who had no prior experience with BMW were to see this advertisement they would probably think the company is an escort/prostitution service. Since the female is headlining the advertisement, by removing the reference to cars and changing it to women the ad becomes much more aligned in it’s marketing. This highlights the original issues with the ad. Further, the commodification of the female body here becomes much more obvious. I left the quote by her neck that reads “you know you’re not the first” because I think this is already blatantly sex shaming women, which was the worst text to put over a naked girl in the original ad.

I also considered changing the appearance of the woman to remove the Western beauty standards. I would have done this by making her less ‘beautiful’: add some wrinkles, skin blemishes and have a less symmetrical face. I believe making these edits would further highlight the sexual double standard that is prevalent in Western society, for if the text remained overlapped on a less attractive woman there wouldn’t be the same appeal. To elaborate, if she were only average looking, society tells us she is less valuable and even more so less valuable if she has been ‘used’. This would juxtapose how it is being portrayed as acceptable in the original ad, with the original beauty standards. Unfortunately, I do not have strong photo editing skills or else I would have made these changes. As a whole, the implications of the original ad normalizes western beauty standards and also commoditized the female body, while playing into the sexual double standard between men and women. By removing the car references and by drawing attention to these undertones from simply changing a few words, this becomes particularly clear.

Image 1 drawn from:

Image 2: Personal changes to Image 1.