Does sex in advertising really affect viewers?Sex in Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal. Edited by Tom Reichert and Jacqueline Lambiase. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003, 294 pages. Cloth, $65.00; paper, $29.95.
This edited volume is quite ambitious. It not only attempts to challenge a widely held assumption (i.e., sex in advertising has an effect on viewers), but it also strives to offer a voice to various disciplines (e.g., psychology, history, marketing, mass communication, journalism), provide "synergy" for a range of perspectives, and incorporate quantitative and qualitative data analyses. Quite a chunk to bite off Verb 1. bite off - bite off with a quick bite; "The dog snapped off a piece of cloth from the intruder's pants"
bite, seize with teeth - to grip, cut off, or tear with or as if with the teeth or jaws; "Gunny invariably tried to bite her" , chew, and swallow successfully!
The volume, by and large, shows a relatively high level of quality. The mixture and placement of articles seems logical and the majority of sources used are both convincing and timely. Some readers may notice that missing from the text is a vigorous debate about the definition of sex and/or sexuality, but the absence of this debate does not detract from detract from
verb 1. lessen, reduce, diminish, lower, take away from, derogate, devaluate << OPPOSITE enhance
verb 2. the overall value of the text, especially considering that the editors admit they are merely initiating a conversation about an inadequately investigated topic.
Chapter 1 discusses the goal of the project, declaring notions of "synergy" and "diversity." It renders some voices and perspectives invisible, particularly sociopolitical so·ci·o·po·li·ti·cal
Involving both social and political factors.
of or involving political and social factors and sociocultural so·ci·o·cul·tur·al
Of or involving both social and cultural factors.
soci·o·cul voices and perspectives (e.g., sociological studies, political science studies, legal studies, anthropological studies, race studies, class studies), but no one text can be all things to all people.
The book fittingly begins with a relatively formal review of the relevant literature in the second chapter. Reichert discusses cornerstone and newly generated qualitative and quantitative research Quantitative research
Use of advanced econometric and mathematical valuation models to identify the firms with the best possible prospectives. Antithesis of qualitative research. on processing effects, attitudes, sexual stimuli in advertising, and definitions of key phrases while providing compelling examples. It is a fine way to begin the text, clearly delineating key concepts and ideas. However, the author frequently wanders from the past to the present, blending research from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s with more contemporary findings. This technique suggests that the entire body of literature offers an ahistorical a·his·tor·i·cal
Unconcerned with or unrelated to history, historical development, or tradition: "All of this is totally ahistorical. , unified voice, a suggestion that is much too simplistic sim·plism
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.
[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple and surely misleading.
Chapter 3 unmistakably refutes the myth of a unified voice by providing readers with a comprehensive historical discussion of the who, what, when, where, and why of sexual ads as well as a healthy consideration of the purportedly inherent connection between advertising and psychology. This chapter concludes with the following provocative statement: "Advertising's explicitness does not provide proof of the depravity of its creators and sponsors, but is evidence that some of the restraints in force are outdated" (p. 61). The editors' selection and placement of this chapter is first-rate. Chapter 4 follows with a fascinating consideration of the fetish fetish (fĕt`ĭsh), inanimate object believed to possess some magical power. The fetish may be a natural thing, such as a stone, a feather, a shell, or the claw of an animal, or it may be artificial, such as carvings in wood. in advertising. It also introduces race and sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. as important themes, although in most cases the book ignores the significance of race and sexual orientation in advertising.
The title of Part I (chapters 2-4), "Research Approaches to Sex in Advertising," might imply that readers will have an opportunity to critique approaches to researching sex in advertising. In this respect, this section is mediocre at best. Additionally, the editors claim Part I will provide "coherence." I find this section falls short of that objective as well. However, if the editors simply intended to expose readers to compelling yet distinct perspectives on sex in advertising, or to help identify spaces for additional research, they were successful.
The heart of the book seemingly commences with Part II (chapters 5-8). Unfortunately, it becomes evident at once that the reader must make a huge leap to understand the vocabulary in the early chapters of Part II. The editors clearly failed to expose readers to the jargon du jour in Part I. Chapters 5 and 6 bombard bom·bard
tr.v. bom·bard·ed, bom·bard·ing, bom·bards
1. To attack with bombs, shells, or missiles.
2. To assail persistently, as with requests. See Synonyms at attack, barrage2.
3. readers with terms like advertising-stimulated tension, high activation, lack of contractualism con·trac·tu·al·ism
See contractarianism. , and bipolar comparator comparator
Instrument for comparing something with a similar thing or with a standard measure, in particular to measure small displacements in mechanical devices. In astronomy, the blink comparator is used to examine photographic plates for signs of moving bodies. . Both chapters yet again establish the topic of sex in advertising as legitimate, and while chapter 5 supposedly juxtaposes the jargony dribble of the past with the more lucid investigations of today, neither chapter makes the debate more user-friendly. Additionally, the chapters fail to offer anything new. The results, in general, mirror findings dated 13 years earlier (i.e., exposure to sexual ads do not produce uniform responses, overly explicit ads may produce a negative response, and men and women do not respond identically to sexual ads).
One might argue that chapter 7 (by Brooke), with its eloquent language and profound statements like "'sex sells' might more properly be understood as 'spectacle sells'" (p. 135), should have launched Part II. It not only summarizes the overall topic in a reasonable and logical manner but also validates the scientific jargon of chapters 5 and 6, introduces readers to the notion of "brand loyalty" (p. 139), and challenges previous authors' and editors' hubris Hubris
An arrogance due to excessive pride and an insolence toward others. A classic character flaw of a trader or investor. [e.g., "In a culture increasingly defined by the remote control, advertisements compete not only with each other, but also with the whole range of choices available to consumers, with other channels, not to mention other media" (p. 137)]. Brooke is also brave enough to problematize Prob´lem`a`tize
v. t. 1. To propose problems. the pseudo-scientific prattle found in chapters 5 and 6, declaring that "Analyses of advertising often cling to antiquated notions of how marketing functions" (p. 134). Overall, readers would not have suffered had chapters 5 and 6 been excluded from this text, but considering the purpose of Part II their inclusion is appropriate.
Part III is a collection of writings by a seasoned group of recognized experts in the field. It is no surprise, then, that this section is the most comprehensible, interesting, and compelling. It begins by addressing the societal impact of objectifying women and reducing sex to narcissistic nar·cis·sism also nar·cism
1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See Synonyms at conceit.
2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in pleasure. Following Kilbourn's brilliant piece is one by Twitchell examining the history of notions of beauty in the U.S. and their relationship to advertising. Here is an answer to the classic chicken and egg question: Did advertising help to shape notions of beauty and hygiene or did changing notions of beauty and hygiene govern advertising? Twitchell suggests the latter, yet examines how both have contributed to an enthusiastic (re)construction of femininity and the continued subjugation Subjugation
king to whom God sold Israelites. [O.T.: Judges 3:8]
consigned to servitude in retribution for trickery. [O.T.: Joshua 9:22–27]
curses him and progeny to servitude. [O. of women to men. Twitchell's article begins well but ends with a surprisingly anti-(radical) feminist pity party that weakens the overall argument to some extent. Still, the essay is quite provocative.
The section ends with a deliciously enlightening Marxian essay about subliminal messages. Key not only mulls over artistically crafted subliminals and the impact they have on society, but addresses the circumvention of this discourse in academia. The close scrutiny of a Betty Crocker ad is both titillating tit·il·late
v. tit·il·lat·ed, tit·il·lat·ing, tit·il·lates
1. To stimulate by touching lightly; tickle.
2. To excite (another) pleasurably, superficially or erotically. and disconcerting dis·con·cert
tr.v. dis·con·cert·ed, dis·con·cert·ing, dis·con·certs
1. To upset the self-possession of; ruffle. See Synonyms at embarrass.
2. . Part III alone makes buying the text worthwhile.
Part IV (chapters 12-14) concludes the text. It begins with a moderately engaging discussion by Stern of masculism, manly ideals, and advertising. This article is followed by a captivating cap·ti·vate
tr.v. cap·ti·vat·ed, cap·ti·vat·ing, cap·ti·vates
1. To attract and hold by charm, beauty, or excellence. See Synonyms at charm.
2. Archaic To capture. essay that delves into the use of "social, sexual and image codes" (p. 229) as advertisers rise to the challenge of convincing gay and lesbian consumers that they are "connected" to the market. This is the only chapter explicitly acknowledging the importance of sexual orientation with respect to advertising. Chapter 14 provides readers with an informative overview of critical questions to ask when researching sex appeals in advertising on the Internet.
So, does sex in advertising really affect viewers? This book reveals that it not only affects viewers, it influences our society in multiple ways. In general, the book provides a satisfactory overview of sexuality in advertising. Some of the chapters are more noteworthy than others, but this is true of most edited volumes. Missing from the text is an overt consideration of race, class, and sexual orientation. However, taken as a whole, the book is solidly researched, timely, and suitable for advanced undergraduate students, graduate students, and researchers in the fields of mass communication, behavioral communication, psychology, marketing, advertising, media studies, women's studies and gender studies.
Reviewed by Gloria Y. Gadsden, Ph.D., Fairleigh Dickinson University Fairleigh Dickinson University, at Florham-Madison and Teaneck-Hackensack, N.J.; coeducational; incorporated and opened 1942 as a junior college, became a four-year college in 1948 and a university in 1956. , Department of Social Sciences and History, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.