March 18, 2010

Ad round-up: Advertising as mainstream porn

Jean Kilbourne has had it right for years. She said that “advertisements are America’s real pornographer” and ads have made porn mainstream.

We owe her immense gratitude for shifting the lens on advertising and making advertising a subject of inquiry to take seriously. I’ve been influenced, inspired and indebted to her since I saw Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Image of Women in 2001. I mean, I’d been a feminist for nearly a decade at that point, studying the mass media for approximately 6 years and I knew advertisers weren’t exactly the most noble of folks. Advertisers have always been in existence to sell a product by any means necessary.

But to see  ad after ad, reinforcing the same images and themes over and over again was mind blowing. Her film was the final piece of the puzzle. I continued to examine and collect ads in the same way Kilbourne did at the beginning of her inquiry decades before.

Each semester my students collect and deconstruct ads. In my newly created class, Women and Popular Culture (my dream class if you will), Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency created a blog for the students and myself to share our observations, thoughts and create a collective resource base and solidify the community. It is in this incredible virtual space that my students posted 3 ads they chose to deconstruct. Kristin E. caught on to the intensity of these advertising messages after seeing one after the other posted, creating an eerie and pornified collage. She took it upon herself to take many of the images the class had posted and put them together. After all these years, to examine the ads in this way, is still shocking and disturbing.

Take a peek.

NOTE: Edited April 16, 2010 after several people emailed me about the spoof ad in the round-up. I’m glad some people are paying attention and are already familiar with ad spoofs and culture jamming. Can *you* spot the spoof ad? Do you know who created it? Answer below in the comments.