“Ironic” advertising

Remember that time when I blogged about ‘drinking Pussy‘? Or the time I wrote about Lynx commercials? Or hell, even the blog post about Brut deodorant? The question here is, what do all three of these products and subsequent advertisements have in common?

The obvious answer is “being obnoxiously ‘blokey'”, of course. But there’s more to it. Each of these advertisement portray themselves as being ‘ironic’. And how could they not? It’s quite certain that they couldn’t get away with portraying women as nothing more than inanimate objects (like, say a can of drink), or as a set of house slaves ready to do the bidding of men.


It’s irony – what Rosalind Gill (2007) describes as being “that catch all device that allows advertisers to have their cake and eat it [too]”. Hell, Lynx admits that their advertisements are tongue-in-cheek when rebutting claims of sexism against them. Between 2010 and 2011, Lynx had 9 sets of complaints lodged against them through the Advertising Standards Board. In each case, Lynx rebutted the complainants statements that their advertisements demeaned women by instead claiming that their ads were “cheeky” and “playful”, and that their intended “young adult male audience understands the playful and hyperbolic nature of the TVC [commercial] and its distinction between fact and fiction”.

Putting aside the fact that Lynx seem to be expecting quite a lot from their reasonably young audience, I’d like to simply consider the remainder of the audience – the older people, the younger kids, and the women. Apologies if this sounds like a ‘but what about the children!’ kind of cry – but I can assure you, it’s a little bit more than that. It’s more of a “but what about the women!” cry.



I get sick of seeing bodies – mostly female bodies – being used ‘ironically’. And not even in a vaguely clever way. Female viewers are not idiots, and for companies such as Lynx to turn around, after they have already been accused of sexism multiple times, and to say that their intentions are to be “tongue-in-cheek” and ironic are, quite frankly, offensive. I’m not stupid. I know what’s ironic, and what is simply idiotic. Advertisements such as this are the latter.

There are a multitude of ways to advertise to young men without simply screaming “SEX! BOOBS! BUMS! GIRLS!” from the nearest rooftop/billboard/television screen. I just wish these companies would be brave enough to attempt it.

Someone said ‘vagina’ in a TV commercial; world implodes

I’ve been away for over a month, so I missed the shit storm that erupted over the Carefree Liner TV commercial in recent weeks. To be honest, I’m disappointed in myself – I do love a good shit storm, particularly when it concerns vaginas.

In case you’re also not up to date on the latest tampon, pad and liner commercials that have been hitting our airwaves, here’s the advertisement in question:


According to the Daily Mail, viewers were left ‘outraged’ by the use of the terms “vagina” and “discharge” in the advertisement.

Personally, I know exactly what they mean. Why, whenever someone says “VAGINA” in conversation, I have to sit down and ask someone to fetch my smelling salts. Women should not be having such frank, open and honest conversations about THEIR OWN BODY PARTS in an advertisements discussing these SAME BODY PARTS. The very notion of it is appalling!

Even some ladies were up in arms (or legs, or vaginas) about the use of the word ‘discharge’ – because, you know, ewww, gross.

Look, the advertising industry still has a long way to go when handling advertisements about sanitary products. Even in this advertisement, the model used is naked, and has been placed in an all-white environment scattered with strategically placed orchids. . Why is she naked? Why is it all-white? Why are there orchids everywhere? Because we’re talking VAGINAS, people. Therefore we need to be doing it in a clean environment.

And as for the use of orchids…. coincidence? I think not. I’m just going to leave this here:

I have no idea why the girl is naked. Maybe it’s part of Carefree’s ‘honesty’ campaign – that she is required to be naked to Talk Vaginas. Maybe it’s because she’s an attractive young woman and they’re hoping we’ll be so distracted by her nudity that we won’t notice that she said ‘discharge’. Maybe it’s just Because They Could. Whatever, the nakedness is not required, and I wish they’d simply put some clothes on her, and taken her out of the White Orchid Prison. But hey, a girl can dream. For now, let’s just all throw on our Official Feminist Outfits and run amok, screaming ‘discharge’ and ‘vagina’ at the nearest pensioner.

Clean and Dry Intimate Wash (clearly, NSFW)

As self-explanatory as the title for this blog may be, I still have NO IDEA why I am writing this. To me, the product I am about to discuss should not exactly exist.

I thought it was all very basic. You get what you are given, and you embrace you lady garden. No garden is the same. Some of us are all orange trees and tidy rows of flowers – and others amongst us prefer thorn bushes and weeds. Heck, some of us just keep it bare.

But this article – and in particular, the product it is discussing – made my head explode.

This ‘product’ is called the ‘Clean and Dry Intimate Wash’, and is designed to make your vagina sparkle.

Oh, no, wait. That’s vajazzling. THIS product actually bleaches your bits to make them appear ‘whiter’. Congratulations on successfully encapsulating sexism AND racism, all in one 30 second commercial!

You want to see the ‘commercial’? Sure. But heed this warning: you will be sorely tempted to bang your head on the nearest desk at LEAST fifty times upon viewing:

I can just see the marketer’s thoughts now: ‘Sad, attractive girl… needs to be the right SHADE of white – and make sure she’s wearing a white t shirt, and sitting on a white couch – and she is SAD because her lady garden is too DARK.’

They even included the sad music at the start. What a thoughtful touch.


I’m sorry, but did the world go slightly INSANE? I mean, I took vajazzling. I didn’t get it, but I accepted it, because, well, people are idiots. Labioplasty? Again, didn’t get it – but cosmetic surgery is everywhere…..

…..But this? BLEACHING ONE’S SEXUAL ORGANS BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT THE RIGHT COLOUR? Excuse me, but what form of dumb fuckery is this? When did we wake up and decide that THIS WAS A GOOD THING TO DO? I did not vote on this at the last Sisterhood Meeting! I vehemently reject all concepts of altering or changing my parts to suit someone else’s skewed idea of what is an acceptable form of ‘beauty’!

I have nothing else. I need to go lie down.



Yogurt: The Food of Ladies

I’ve had a long, lasting, deep seated rage against yogurt. Full disclosure: I hate the stuff. I would rather lick the bottom of a dirty drain than pour some of that bacteria-laden stuff down my throat. This sloppy, mucky dairy product has never appealed to me.

In saying that, this is not a post about how much I hate yogurt, but rather, how much I hate yogurt advertisements. Sarah Haskins said it damn well when she declared yogurt to be the “official food of women… and these ladies are ON DIETS”.

Key Example: Yoplait’s Forme commercial that’s been doing the rounds recently:

Right. The problems I have with this ad? Obivously, there are many. But let’s start with the obvious.

WHY ARE ALL THESE WOMEN IN SYNC? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM? And why are they all eating the same thing? What sort of weird, alternative universe do they live in whereby they can only eat rice crackers and tuna?

Oh, that’s right. We’re in lady world. And that poor woman needs to be FREED from her RICE CRACKERS! Look at that poor lady on the left. She is clearly unhappy, living an existence containing endless rounds of tuna and rice crackers.

And the saviour? The solution to the tuna problem? A plate of biscuits, perhaps?

Oh, no. No, these ladies woul rather eat tuna and rice crackers than BISCUITS. (WTF?! Who are these people?!)

But, wait, perhaps one of them does want a biscuit, yes?!

Ah, no. My mistake. For a second there, I thought she was just going to take the biscuit and be damned with the consequences. Until Ms Sticky Beak on the left there gave our brave pioneer a judgy-wudgy, “You wouldn’t be thinking of consuming the FAT LADEN CALORIFIC CHOCOLATEY SPHERE OF GOODNESS, WOULD YOU?!”. And our heroine backed off, scared and confused. And then she ate a rice cracker.

(As a side note, every time I see this ad, I scream at the television, “EAT THE GODDAMN FREAKIN’ BISCUIT, YOU TWAT!”. But it never happens.)

And then the Voice Of God appears in the ad, and declares that all women can be “free from hunger”. Well, yes, this is true. Simply by NOT EATING TUNA AND CELERY AND RICE CRACKERS ALL DAY LONG, AND EATING SOMETHING MORE SUBSTANTIAL.

If I lived in this world, I would have impaled myself on a celery stick a very long time ago, my friends.

But the Voice Of God’s solution?

Eat Yoplait yogurt instead, of course! Just like this lady! And then you will sit in your office chair, and the sun will shine on your, and you will be free from the synchronicity of your lady colleagues and the endless cycle of celery and tuna.

The voiceover then tells us that the yogurt is “no fat, and high in protein and fibre to help you feel fuller for longer!”.

Hang on. It’s a DIET yogurt?

So, why then, do all of the ladies in the advertisement look like they are at a very healthy weight? Not one of these women need to go on a diet!

Jesus, Yoplait. Sometimes women like to lash out and eat FULL FAT YOGURT. In fact, sometimes we even like to eat chocolate biscuits. It’s not a SIN, so please stop telling me it is.

Victim blaming and taxi cabs

A friend recently sent me a link to an ad for the London comany, Cabwise. From what I can tell, Cabwise is a service set up by Transport for London (TfL) to assist  cab users to safely book a taxi to travel home in after a night out. Or, you know, to stop women getting raped:

Not only is this ad horrifically voyeuristic, it’s also terribly misguided. Who on earth thought that the best way to get young women to use this Cabwise service was to show them the alternative – one of getting raped by a cab driver?

Excuse me whilst I repeatedly slam my head against a wall for a minute. Because I honestly cannot comprehend how anyone thought this ad would be okay.

Christ. Did anyone pause for even a milli-second, and think, ‘Gee, maybe it’s NOT such a good idea to equate not booking a taxi with certain rape?’. Or did the advertising agency just convince Cabwise that it would provoke attention, and controversy?

The part that I hate the most about these ads are that they absolutely reek of victim-blaming. Didn’t book a cab, and you get raped? It’s your fault! Got into a taxi cab that you didn’t book, which immediately means that it’s a stranger’s car (which somehow also  means that you’ll be in danger) – your own fault!

How about, instead of blaming women for not booking taxi cabs, we blame the people that are raping the women? Why can’t they be ‘rape-wise’- as in, DON’T RAPE PEOPLE. Christ, it sounds like some dumb internet meme when I say it like that. But it’s true. Don’t rape people! Stop victim-blaming women for not booking taxi cabs, or for wearing a low cut shirt, or for going upstairs for a ‘cup of milo’ (yes, we’ve already discussed that).

I can’t believe I’m explaining something so fucking basic. Rape IS NEVER OKAY. Regardless of woman’s (or a man’s) clothes, state of mind, current environment or socio-economic status. Whether she’s inebriated, high, or unconscious – IT IS NOT OKAY.

And to portray that by not booking a taxi cab, a woman may be raped? That’s just foul, and stoops to the lowest levels of victim-blaming and fear-mongering I have ever encountered.

How do you feel about drinking Pussy?

But really, how do you feel about drinking pussy?

Oh, not THAT sort of pussy! No. God, don’t be so FILTHY. I meant the energy drink, clearly! No double entendres here, thanks very much. See, look, THE DRINK!

Straight from the Pussy website, apparently, “the name Pussy shocks and demands attention – that’s the point. Inhibition is a recipe for mediocrity. This is a premium energy drink named with confidence.”

Ah – so I am *supposed* to be shocked! Well, that’s okay then. Funnily enough, it doesn’t mention anything about me also feeling vaguely homicidal, and wanting to punch the creators in the face. Guess they had a limited word count.

The other part that I find vaguely hilarious (in between me head butting the wall, that is). “This is a premium energy drink named with confidence.”

Confidence? Really?! See, I would have gone with stupidity, sexism, idiocy, and downright blatant misogyny before I would have said “confidence”. Maybe they were confident in their idiocy? Confident in their ability to laugh off the ridiculous amount of sexism they’ve managed to pack into one marketing campaign?

After trawling through their website, I’ve reproduced a few of snappy marketing one liners on there for your amusement:

“Pussy starts conversations. It believes in having a good time as often as possible”

“Looking for Pussy? To find out which bars, venues and stores stock Pussy near you, call us on 020 7348 9870.”

“Pussy is a 100% natural drink. No nasty chemicals and nothing manufactured. It is made for people looking for a natural alternative.”

“Pussy is spontaneous, entertaining, optimistic and fun.”

(All quotes taken from the Pussy website)

(Also, if you’re my mother and you’re reading this, please skip the next paragraph).

Now, let’s theoretically pretend that this double meaning is ACTUALLY trying to refer to a woman’s genitals for a minute, and compare what they’ve said with the truth.

Is my vagina spontaneous? Only when it decides to send me my period a week early, or late. So I guess you can have that one, Pussy.

Is my vagina entertaining? Only since I taught it how to play the piano.

Is it optimistic? God yes. Sometimes my vagina and I just sit up late into the night, talking. And I’m all, “God, my life is SO SHIT”, and my vagina is then all, “Nawww, Jess, cheer up! Be happy! You’ve got such a good life!”. Yep. My vagina is definitely optimistic.

Is is fun? Of course. Sometimes my vagina and I just go out for coffee, and get our nails done together, and then we sit on the beach.. oh, wait. I’m thinking of this ad now:

Does my vagina start conversations? Perhaps not mine specifically, but I do know that, according to popular culture, it’s all that men seem to talk about. So again, correct. Though personally, my vagina’s not that chatty.

And if you’re looking for my vagina? You probably won’t find it by calling that number.

But, in all serious, and vagina jokes aside, this entire ad campaign and product is just foul. It’s disgusting, it’s stupid, and it’s trying to play into a market of double meanings and rude jokes.

Not only does it manage to take sexism in advertising to an entire new level, but it also does so whilst claiming that it is pushing the boundaries, and by not being “mediocre”.

The creator (a man, obviously), Jonnie Shearer, obviously did not consider the thousands of women who are going to be serving drinks behind a bar, or simply standing beside someone as they order a “pussy”. He is obviously never going to be in the position of being an 18-year-old bar maid on a busy Saturday night, when some sleazy guy leans over and asks her for a pussy. I’m not saying that Jonnie Shearer caused these situations – but by god, he most certainly had a hand in furthering the instances of them.

All things aside, it is NOT okay for this sort of post-modern, retro sexist, double-entendre stinking pile of crap to exist. It simply isn’t. Anyone with half a brain can see that their advertising campaigns are blatantly sexist, and if it was up to me, I would show Jonnie Shearer the world that exists outside of his male-dominated perspective. A world where rape exists, a world where “pussy” is actually sold in the sex trade, and a world where woman have to be confronted with their genitals treated as a form of humour for this “natural energy drink”.

And just in case you were in any doubt about whether this product, and their advertisements, are sexist? Here are a few more posters advertising the drink:

You could argue that, perhaps, these ads are empowering. I mean in the last one the woman is clearly getting *something* out of it. And in the others, all the women seem to be having a pretty good time.

But there’s a few things I’d like to point out. In all but one ad, the man is holding the drink- ie, he is drinking the pussy (and in the last ad, he appears to be literally doing that). The woman is always naked, the man is always clothed – he’s a position of power, and she’s in a state of undress (which, coincidentally, is how uncomfortable some women might feel after seeing these ads. Like they’re naked). And finally? The women are all typically attractive (as are the men – but the men aren’t naked). Yet another body image issue for women to be concerned about. The only women deemed suitable to have ‘attractive pussies’ are slim, have light skin, and are young.

I’ll leave the final word to the advertising guru, Don Draper.

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”

Pussy seem to have forgotten this while they were busy trying to create attention for themselves. Controversy wanes, publicity wanes, but happiness doesn’t. And who on earth is this drink supposed to make happy? Not women. Not the majority of men. That leaves them a very small market.

Don Draper isn’t pleased with you, pussy.

Phallic bottles: A follow up post

Because I appear to have an ongoing interest in perfume bottles and phallic imagery, I was intrigued to learn that the BASA (British Advertising Standards Authority) banned the ‘Oh! Lola’ advertisement featuring Dakota Fanning. In the wake of this, I thought I’d glance across the big bad world of Google Images to see what other phallic bottles I could find.

Lucky me.

Sometimes, the phallic images are clever. Like this one:

Sometimes, they’re pretty pathetic:

(I mean, really? A rocket? Could you be any more obvious?!)

And then there’s the rest:

Because nothing says sexy to me like a handbrake does….

Phallic imagery, and their poor cousin, ejaculation imagery, are featured *everywhere* in advertisements. Just in case you wanted escape sex, penises, vaginas and boobs for a minute of your life- you can’t! Not even with your lipstick!

I often wonder what it would be like to be asexual in a world full of advertising. To not desire sex, and yet have it surround you all day, every day. Kind of strange.

I’m somewhat impressed that the BASA has taken the time to ban the Oh! Lola ad- but it’s just one of many ads that use this sort of imagery to sell products. The problem with this ad was the perceived age of the girl involved (although she was 17 at the time, the advertisement made her appear a lot younger).

If you want to read a bit more about phallic imagery (or just sexual imagery in general) check out this post, and this post.