Adsking and try some new stuff. Eat real crappy food. Now go and exercise for ten minutes and soon you will be giving Arnold Swartzenegger a run for his money. Life is good when you are a guy in this day and age, especially when it comes to advertising. Recently I picked up an edition of the latest magazine, Maxim and after reading, starring, and goggling I feel like I have just left a bachelor party.
Ad campaigns that are directed toward the male species believe it or not are constructed very simple: sex, booze, money, and did I mention sex? These are the very basic infrastructures of the male psyche. It is hard to believe that after a million years of evolution, placing a man on the moon, and constructing mile high buildings the basic ingredients to a successful advertisement to entice men to buy can be reduced down to sex or how to get it.
The January edition of MAXIM magazine (Maxim, 1999) that featured the model/actress Shannon Elizabeth in a very skimpy top is very typical of what men want to see. The cover stories included, “Her secret sex fantasy” and “100 women tell you what really turns them on!” Right. I hate to be a skeptic but why would women want to tell me what turn them on especially after they have kept it a secret up until this point, at least that’s what my dad says. On the other hand this could be the new Bible for men. The article of course is an advertisement for a book that I can easily purchase for a measly $9.97 plus shipping and handling. The ad instructs me that this is the latest book from Maxim’s secret vault and it is so hot that it should be illegal! Illegal? It is also packed with scorching photos that are too hot for them to show! As I read on I am instructed that I will not believe it till I see it! And I must act now to receive a complimentary poster for the first 100 orders. I thought to myself that perhaps they should have offered a free cold shower because that what I needed after I goggled at the ad for a minute or two. This of course is a typical ploy of marketers according to Jeffery Shrank in “Why you buy-how ads persuade”(Shrank, 1994) in which an illustration is made depicting a technique to persuade using buzzwords. By scaring the reader into thinking if they do not act fast or respond quickly they will indeed miss out on the opportunity. In addition to buzzwords that elicit sales another technique is used in this particular advertisement and that is of an emotional need. These ads do play on the emotional insecurities of men. Just think of meeting women and pleasing them like never before, they will want tell their friends about you and you will never be without a date again. The funny thing is that despite this blatant attempt to appeal to men’s insecurities we still buy into it. Maybe the bright side is that we can always claim stupid and we never knew any better. I am sure that the women in the audience will believe it.
The next advertisement that I came across was one for GMC trucks. It pictured a red truck just oozing testosterone: big tires, four-wheel drive, k.c. lights, and a v-8 engine. If God were driving a truck this would be it. Of course the ad read, “100% TRUCK. 2% Nuclear submarine. Well, I am not one to chant and brag about my mathematical skills, but how does this ad up? The ad continues to read, “the new GMC does not drive underwater or float. This full-size pick-up works purely on land. What we did take from the sea is a little technology. Under the hood you’ll find a 270-horsepower Vortec V8 engine. It is cooled by a fan designed with some of the same technology used to design the propellers found on the most advanced nuclear submarines. If we put this much into the engine, imagine the rest of the truck”. Where do I start? First of all, the use of an association between a nuclear submarine and a truck is to me a first, but maybe there is a connection? Apparently the ad would lead one to believe that the new technology used on submarines is being applied to trucks. This tie in demonstrates that “weasel” words are used quite frequently among advertisers to appear to make a claim for a product when in fact they are making no claim at all (Lutz, 1990). The advertisement above contains a few of these claims to make an unsubstantiated claim that the truck and the nuclear submarine share similar design and that must directly translate into nuclear power under the hood and can be accessed by simply placing your foot on the accelerator.This ad also uses a an expressive style of language to exaggerate the potential power of this truck, it is very effective style to tempt any man that same power that cave men felt when they discovered fire.
The next ad in thismagazine is a double page advertisement directed to the healthy endeavor of smoking. This ad is not as blatant as the previous ads for a couple of reasons. This is a picture of a good-looking man riding a horse in the dead of winter through a forest of elm trees. In the middle on the forest is what appears to be a stranded and helpless young calf, waiting to be saved by our young good-looking hero. That is it, no verbiage, no billboard saying’ “buy more cigarettes” absolutely nothing. This type of advertisement is demonstrated in which an ad can paint a very attractive image that all of us (or just men) want to be a part of (Shrank, 1994). If I started smoking Marlboro cigarettes I could be just like this man doing good deeds, saving a young calf from the elements.I could be riding around on a horse once I get one and gallop in the snow just like in the old west where cowboys were “real men”. The image perceived by the viewer is very strong influence on their buying trends. I started thinking to myself, “why not display an older man riding around or even an old cow. Well it is because that we are attracted to good-looking people and want to be around them. In addition, words have been removed from this ad altogether to reinforce the images without any distractions.Images take the form of words and theses directed combinations of images help involve in the ads that we look at (O’Niell, 1990). In addition, this ad also illustrates the use of transactional language that can be identified by the disclaimer in the lower right hand corner. The disclaimer indicated that this was an ad for Marlboro cigarettes. I remember some time ago when I purchased a watch because of an advertisement, which had a well-built man in a well-fitted suit and a well defined chin line, and was blow torching some metal figure. He was wearing this watch and I thought that if I had this watch people would view me as this good-looking man despite the fact that I did not have the suit, defined chin, and of course a blowtorch. Even when my financial lending institution told me that I did not have the adequate funds I resorted to the credit world that was all too familiar with me already. Despite my better judgement I purchased the watch and flaunted it around like a trophy for a day or two until I saw another watch advertisement with a jet fighter in it. The transition from wrist to retirement for the watch was swift.
Next in line of advertisers in this magazine was the famous brand name of Whiskey “Dewars”. This ad has a picture of two well-dressed men sitting on what looks to be a very expensive couch. The caption read, “When Whit and Richard walked out the gates of as major software developer to build a board game, friends thought they had lost it. But they put their heads together with an art guru, a wordsmith, and a talkative mime- and the result was Cranium. It is the first game board to use both sides of the brain. It is selling like crazy and they are looking pretty smart. They’re Dewars. Well once again I am to believe that because of these guys instant success with their board game that I can share their intelligence by drinking Whisky. I always thought drinking alcohol killed brain cells, but in this case maybe not for us guys. Oh did I mention the cerebellum floating in a jar next to them in formaldehyde? Perhaps it is all right to indulge myself with a bottle of Whisky; I owe it to myself. I should be able to become rich and successful in this capitalistic society and what better way to get started that some Whisky? Advertising that tend to endorse impulsive, self-centered feelings, and without the hedonism stimulated by the mass consumption, the very structure of our business enterprises would collapse (Ehernreich, 1990).
The last advertisement that I read was one that explained to me the benefits of a ten-minute workout. The model that was on display was doing two different sets of exercise that I was taught in seventh grade P.E. He was physically fit and it was hard to believe that he was able to attain his physic with these simple and effective techniques. The article read that all of the unwanted belly fat and side-rolls would be eliminated if I dedicated ten minutes a day toward this exercise. There even was a banner scrolled across the banner that informed me that this exercise was both approved and recommend by leading physicians. In addition, this exercise would help eliminate high cholesterol and prolong the aging process. I cannot think of a doctor that would disagree with the fact that any aerobic exercise would help increase the metabolism and help shed the weight. In fact, the more I think about it, is ten minutes even enough time to get heart rate up? I remember back in high school when I had to workout for at least an hour a day in order to maintain a somewhat trim physic. My desk job keeps me in the seat for the worst half of the day and when I get home I might be able to muster enough energy to dedicate ten minutes towards a work out. However it seems to me that these scare tactics are very typical of the technique of fear (Shrank, 1994). It is very easy to put fear into a man’s mind especially when it comes to our health. As long as men still have access to our daily intake of pork rinds we are accustomed to purchasing anything for a quick fix it solution.
As I turned the pages one by one I could not help but see the common thread that was interwoven in the fabric throughout this magazine.We live in a wonder-world like that of Disneyland with lights and sideshows to distract us while they take our money. We as men are easy targets and despite evolution we will continue to be an easy target for advertisements that lure us into this world that provides us material possessions that we think will help define us and how we want to be perceived. I think that advertisements are similar to New Year’s resolutions for the simple reason that they are quaint exercises in futility. Men are doomed to fail before we even sober up from our Whisky. This constant circle that goes around with advertisers and the way we want to be seen is an endless downward spiral to financial destitute with the ad people coming out on top.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Spend and Save. From the Contemporary Reader. Longman. New York. 1990.
Lutz, William. With these words I can sell you anything. From the Contemporary Reader. Longman. New York. 1990.
Maxim Magazine. January 2000 Edition. The Curtis Circulation Company. New York, New York. 1999
O’Niell, Charles A. The Language of Advertising. From the Contemporary Reader. Longman. New York. 1990.
Shrank, Jeffery. Invisible Persuaders: The Battle For Your Mind. Video Cassette. New York Times Production. 1994.
Shrank, Jeffery. Why You Buy-How Ads Persuade. Video Cassette. New York TimesProduction. 1994.
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