Tuesday, January 23, 2007

.

Advertising with bimbos

There's a TV ad for DirecTV, a satellite television service, that bothers me. A busty blonde waitress serves a customer, then turns to the viewer and says, in a thick southern accent, this:

Y'all ready to check me out in the amazing picture clarity of DirecTV HD? It's broadcast in 1080i. I totally don't know what that means, but I want it.

It bothers me on so many levels:

  1. The blonde is pretty and that's all you ought to care about, so you need a high-definition picture to get the full effect.
  2. The blonde has boobs instead of brains, and she's too stupid to know or care what “1080i” means.
  3. Never mind what “1080i” means anyway; you should want it, because we tell you so.
  4. Totally.

I always hate advertising with stereotypes. (To be sure, I pretty much hate everything that has to do with stereotypes.) I especially hate the “dumb blonde” stereotype. I hate continuing to imply that women are stupid, or that women are incapable of understanding technical matters. I hate the implication that all women are good for is being decorative and making their husbands happy (how many ads have that theme: “I clean the house by day, and I clean up well for the evening.”?). Pretty is nice, and we should always try to make those we love happy. But life doesn't end there, as it does in too many advertisements.

What bothers me about it more than the direct irritation is the training it gives to our daughters. Don't bother trying to understand that, honey, because girls just totally can't. All you need to worry about, pumpkin, is how clean-smelling and wrinkle-free you can get your husband's shirts. And speaking of wrinkles, you'd best keep them off your face, or that husband will trade you in on a younger model before you turn around.

Yes, those are the lessons we're giving with these things. Ads like that are not funny. Why don't we make sure they're not effective, either?
 


Update, 25 Jan: Thanks to scouter for his very cool, satiric comment. That aside, or maybe because of it, I wanted to try my hand at a rewrite of the ad. Wouldn't this one be much better?:

Hey guys... look at these boobs. Oh, you cain't hardly see 'em? Well, that's because you don't have DirecTV HD. It's broadcast in 1080i — that's a high-definition video mode [zoom in slowly to close-up of her face] that'll give you the crispest, clearest, most amazing view of these delicious lips. [She pauses to lick her lips.] That'll totally keep y'all sittin' at your TVs while we take over the world.

3 comments:

Maggie said...

Advertising has such a short time to get our attention that it relies on our built-in shortcuts, such as liking attractive people. And I suspect the "dumb blonde" is appealing in much the same way as the "dumb president" is appealing -- most people are suspicious of somebody who's smarter than they are.

Don't get me wrong -- I totally agree with you ;-), I hate advertising in general (for tricking us by using our shortcuts and for dishonesty in general) and I hate the stereotyped girls and women we see in advertising, magazines (such as Glamour, Vogue, etc.), and on TV. And I think it's going to be difficult for women to break out of the trap of worrying about the things advertisements tell us to worry about, because so many moms are in the trap. It's the moms who have to grow up and change, for their daughters. There's a fine line between wanting to feel attractive and having fun with it, and believing you have to be attractive or you'll have no value.

The reason the advertisement is sending the wrong message is because we don't take the time to know the person in the advertisement. She's just a tool. So the message is not only "be pretty and dumb," but also, "you're just window-dressing, and that's what you should aspire to." It's not about her, but she's there, being used.

scouter573 said...

Barry (I can call you Barry, can't I?), I know you have a valid concern here, but don't worry so much about it. This is just advertising. It doesn't really affect people. There's no reason to believe that a busty babe will cause people to buy DishTV (Dish - get it?) any more than a cute cartoon camel will get kids to smoke cigarettes. The mere fact that it appears on television doesn't mean that it will have any affect at all. The mere fact that we spend billions of dollars per year does not mean that there's any lingering effect whatsoever. Barry, my friend, this is nothing to worry about. Have another beer, sit back, and enjoy the show.
-The Advertising Council of Your Friends

Dr. Momentum said...

Not that it really matters, but that TV is a semi-parody of "The Dukes of Hazzard" and is playing off Daisy Duke's character. The idea (at least of the original Daisy) is that despite outward appearances and stereotypes, Daisy can take care of herself. This has little to do with the Ad campaign, though.

I believe your criticisms are valid. I agree with what Maggie is saying, but also TV advertising often caters to the least common denominator of society -- just like much of the rest of what is on TV. What is true for TV ads is pretty much true for TV in general, as it is all targeted at the same audience.

I would be interested to see an analysis of advertising over time. I wonder how much change happens in a generation, and how it might be measured.