Sex sells in advertising

Deana Smith

Any given person at Washburn sees at least one advertisement a day, and this is most likely a gross understatement.

“We are exposed to a minimum of hundreds of advertisements a day [and] the media has an enormous impact on our attitudes and behaviors,” said Dr. Sangyoub Park, a professor in the sociology department. “More importantly, advertising subconsciously affects us.”

Given this knowledge, it is no surprise that big brand names are willing to pay millions upon millions of dollars for advertising, and pay even more for special circumstances like trying to get a 30-second ad during the super bowl.

Advertisements in today’s world show on a base level what we might have as ideals. Although many things, such as stereo types and assumed traits, have gotten better through the years, some ads still reinforce what internalized stereotypes we have left.

But Park said one of the most damaging effects of advertisement has been called “the culture of thinness.”

“This is because the images in advertising present an idealized image of what women are supposed to be: sexy and virginal, thin and big breasted.” Park said. “The ideal beauty, not realistic beauty, puts

an enormous pressure on young girls. It is no wonder that so many girls suffer from poor body image and eating disorders. Constant images from advertising and media encourage them to focus on looks. Beauty means ‘thin.’

Look at what’s happening to Jessica Simpson today. A few extra pounds put her in the headlines. The media continue to reinforce the importance of a thin body as a measure of a woman’s worth.”

This is a lot different than the subliminal tactics you may have heard about at some point, which are based on things you really can’t see in advertisement.

“Subliminal perception is based on the idea that there is a certain level, or threshold, that a stimulus must exceed in order for it to be perceived,” said Michael Russell, an associate professor in the psychology department. “A sound has to be so loud for us to hear it.  A light has to be of certain intensity for us to see it.”

But these are not nearly as effective as the point blank images we see in advertising every day.

In the end, here are a few underlying messages you may not know about:

Covering someone’s (usually a woman’s or girl’s) mouth can be seen as symbolically silencing them.

Portraying people as animals (particularly women) can dehumanize them.