Debunking the "profits come first" myth

If you have ever criticized an ad campaign, commercial, or anything that’s even remotely related to marketing for pushing a bigoted viewpoint, you will undoubtedly have come up against the argument that of course the reason the product is being marketed that way is because it’s more profitable. A company would never do anything to compromise its profits!

Which is, of course, bullshit. Many people have demonstrated how such campaigns hurt profit margins, rather than help them. The response is, of course, “but it doesn’t make sense for companies to put bigoted agendas over profits (and therefore they must have some secret knowledge about why it’s more profitable to discriminate against non-privileged groups)”. Before now I had never really had a good response to that argument (I was too busy being shocked at the leap of faith required to continue to believe that marketing is doing the best thing in the face of pretty damning evidence). But, thankfully, BetaCandy has recently blogged about her experiences learning to be a screenwriter, which has given rise to a discussion about how a non-profitable system perpetuates itself among industries that are supposed to be driven by profit.

In her post Why discriminate if it doesn’t profit?, she takes on the mindset that explains why the “profits come first” argument is, in fact, a myth:

The question this brings to mind is: why would they discriminate against a group when there’s more profit to be made by doing the right thing? That’s a good question, and one that deserves an answer.

n comments on the above-linked entry, I explained that I think it boils down to ego. Even greed is fueled by ego – it’s the ego that wants more than enough so it feels safe or better than its neighbors. It’s the ego that wants to feel important, unique, successful. Eliminating entire clumps of humanity from the “race” your ego thinks it’s in is a quick way to get rid of competition. It’s the same question you have to ask about store owners and restaurateurs who refused to serve African-American patrons whose money was as green as everyone else’s. They sacrificed profit, and for what? Ego.

But that’s not necessarily the only answer. Laziness is also a factor.

I would highly recommend reading the full post.

Give that man a cookie, er, Klondike!

Wow, a man refrains from violating the terms of his relationship agreement with his wife? Totally worthy of a reward. Give that man a cookie Klondike! <insert massive eyeroll here>

Actual analysis of Klondike’s latest series of commercials can be found over at The Hathor Legacy, in sbg’s post, Normal Behavior Rewarded as Extraordinary.

What's wrong with this picture?

Asiaphilia laptop style
Feel the cultural appropriation around us

I swear I don’t go looking for these kinds of things, they find me all on their own. I went to VoodooPC’s website to check their tech support hours (in the hopes of me getting my laptop back this century…) and I saw the above image.

When you mouse over it you get this lovely text:

Feel the harmony?

Do I even have to do an image and textual analysis of this for everyone to understand what’s wrong with a North American company (recently bought out by HP, mind you) capitalizing on the fetishization of Asian culture in order to sell its product? Okay, then.

Honestly, if I didn’t have so many things to do already I’d be sorely tempted to make a satire of the above ad using Christianity. The laptop as Jesus, anyone?

BK commercial redux: It's not about the burgers

About half a year ago I wrote about the infamous Burger King commercial and I haven’t stopped getting shit about it. Even more so because it’s apparently on the air again. Most of them I just delete, but there has been one sitting in my moderation queue for more than a week now.

daisy wrote:

As a married women, I saw this commercial and asked what my husband thought. He had a laugh and I asked how he wasn’t offended. He simply said, why do guys play football, wrestle with friends, or eat huge burgers. Boys will be boys. He left me with that thought and I agreed. This commercial is targetted at men, let them enjoy it, and let them eat their meat.

I probably should have let it pass without comment, but the whole “let them eat their meat” was borderline minimizing, as the implication is “you shouldn’t bother raising issue about this kind of issue.”

But, then, today I was reading an entry by Jill of Feministe on PETA’s politics where she discusses the connection between meat and masculinity. Ariel, who is not only a vegan but has done research into the intersection of vegetarianism and feminism, would probably the better candidate to discuss this issue, but I’ll do my best to convey more clearly this time why this issue is an issue not because of the burgers, but rather because it’s perpetuating a destructive view of masculinity. Continue reading

Oriental Barbie

Oriental Barbie Okay, so a while ago onebrownwoman has this awesome post critiquing the Diwali Barbie. This week, she posts a link to Oriental Barbie but doesn’t have time to comment on it.

Here’s what the page says about this lovely “Doll of the World”:

Oriental Barbie® doll is dainty and elegant in this beautiful costume reflecting the influence of the Orient. Her long, slender yellow dress is trimmed in red, and complemented by a red and golden-flowered jacket. Her lustrous black hair falls gently over her shoulders, and is pulled back to display her lovely face.

Compared to what’s said about some of the other barbies — Thai Barbie is “[a]s beautiful and exotic as the land she represents,” and “Chinese Barbie® exudes the simplistic grace of the Chinese culture.” — that blurb isn’t so bad. The only Asian stereotype that seems to be played up is the “dainty” part. Although it does seem that the American clothing tends to be called an “ensemble” while the non-American clothing tends to get labelled a “costume” (the Asian barbies seem to have their outfits almost exclusively labelled “costumes”).

Let me tell you what other barbies are in this list: India Barbie, Japanese Barbie, Korean Barbie, Malaysian Barbie, Chinese Barbie, Japanese Barbie 2nd Edition, India Barbie 2nd Edition, and Thai Barbie. Aside from there being an India rather than an Indian barbie (done to avoid confusion with the Native American barbies in another part of the collection?), what strikes y’all here? If you said that all of the other barbies come from an actual country and the Oriental Barbie is a blatant representation of the racist stereotypes that the West has lumped onto those they term “orientals” then you win!

I would argue that the term “oriental” is problematic no matter where in the world it is being used, but in America especially, is considered offensive and derogatory when being used on people. Though the doll is technically an inanimate object, she is being used to represent a human being so the usage, therefore, becomes derogatory.

More than that, the “Dolls of the World” series are being used to represent cultures. As I mentioned above, there is no “oriental” culture outside of what Western imperialists in the past lumped together under the heading of “east of us” — what the word really stands for is “exotic” and “Other”, with a focus on Asia and Asia Minor.

Now, it’s important to note that this barbie was not produced during some dark age in American history. It was the beginning of what the Barbie Collector Showcase website labels as the “Dolls of the World: Asia” line, with the date 1981 under it. The collection, by the way, ends with Malaysian Barbie in 1998.

Via Woman of (an)Other Color. Image from Sandys Doll Room.

Using Wikipedia as a Marketing tool?

The recently published How to Make Money Like a Pornstar comic has been the subject of some controversy on the blogsphere. The comic was given to Karen Healey, a well-known feminist comic’s blogger, (I Can’t BELIEVE They Sent This To Me )as well as to Kevin Church, another well known comics blogger (Review: How To Make Money Like A Porn Star). Their reviews are pretty negative, and have recieved some attention from other comic bloggers (see links at bottom of post).

Church followed up his review with one discussing possibly fake reviews (Marketing Conspiracy Theory Machine Go!). His sentiment is echoed by simargl_wings (Pass me the tinhat….), but with added controversy: discussion of the Wikipedia Entry for the comic.

I’ve stuck my nose into Wikipedia’s business exactly one other time. An attempt to make the VAWA article comply with Wikipedia’s NPOV policy. Since the controversy is still going on (check the talk page and the history), I wasn’t the least bit successful. This time I didn’t try to modify the page in question, but rather stuck an NPOV tag on it and addressed the issue in the talk page.

Wikipedia can be a great resource for non-controversial subjects, but the nature of it is that anyone can modify a page for any reason. And that includes advertising — even though it is against the rules.

Continue reading

Blog Highlight: Marketing to Women Online

Sorry I haven’t been posting. I actually have a few in mind, but it’s the end of semester crunch right now so I’ve been immersing myself in Japanese.

A small study done by University of Florida professors recently was highlighted by MSNBC because of an award it won. Although the study itself is not proof of anything on its own, it seems to have opened up the debate on the assumptions of marketing and will hopefully bring to light other research done on this matter.

To this end, I’d like to highlight a new to me blog called Marketing to Women Online. Holly has written a piece called Do Women Respond to Sexual Ads? where she says:

We’ve certainly seen how different genders react differently to advertising messages. What women want and are attracted to can be different from what men want and are attracted to. This is not true in every case, but depending on the subject matter, the differences can be striking.

Sex is one such subject matter. I’ve written before about studies on how men and women react differently to sex in advertising.

Now there is another study with similar results. Do fashion magazine ads that ooze with pictures of sexy seductive women work? Especially magazines ads aimed almost 100% at women?

Via The Hathor Legacy (another great blog new to the blogroll).

Finally, An End To Single-Sex Televisions

I recently saw a commercial for the Sony Bravia which billed itself as “The World’s First Television for Men and Women.”

At first, I thought they were advertising something like this, but after checking out the web site it turns out that it’s just a marketing campaign for a high-end HDTV.

I’m trying to figure out what the advertisers were thinking this one. I’ve narrowed it down to the following possibilities:

  • They noticed that purchasers of HDTVs were disproportionately male, and saw women as an untapped market; however, they were worried that a women-centered ad campaign would lose more male buyers.
  • They’re looking to provide the stereotypical man with justifications to his stereotypical partner for the purchasing decision.

Given the blatant sexism of the advertisement, I’m leaning toward the latter.

The headings for the reasons “why men like it” and “why women like it” are identical: “Amazing HD Picture”, “Wider Viewing Angles”, “Broader Color Gamut”, and “Slim Design.” However, the ad copy below has some important differences. Under the first heading, the explanations for men and women read, respectively (emphasis added):

With its lightning-fast response time, the BRAVIA LCD TV displays an HD picture that never lags. That means no more ghosting around your favorite running back. Its new S-PVA panels divide pixels into more segments that have an incredibly fast 8-millisecond response time that increases its refresh rate, making your favorite car chases even more exciting. Plus, the picture automatically adjusts to ambient light conditions so you get the same quality any way you watch it.

The BRAVIA LCD TV automatically adjusts to ambient light conditions. So whether the lights have been dimmed to watch your favorite cable show with the girls or turned off completely while you trick your beloved into watching a beautiful love story, the BRAVIA LCD TV consistently gives you the amazing HD detail you desire.

The “Mars” and “Venus” programming choices are the most obvious examples; I’m guessing her favorite cable show isn’t Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica here. (Actually, I think the last love story my girlfriend and I watched with the lights out was Re-Animator.) But the idea that women need/want to “trick” their (presumably male) beloveds into watching love stories is just plain insulting, as is the treatment of dramas (again, emphasis added):

So, the next time you escape the daily grind by sitting down to your favorite prime-time drama, even if what you’re watching doesn’t reflect real life, at least you know your television’s color will.

Silly women, watching dramas that don’t reflect real life. Not like men, who watch car chases.

The sexism in this ad goes beyond the gendering of programming, though. The “for men” copy actually tells you far more about the TV than the “for women” copy – we get specific data about the response time, while the copy “for women” doesn’t even mention response time or refresh rate. I don’t know if the writers were just lazy and couldn’t think of a gendered reason for women to want these features. After all, if “chick flicks” are just people talking and don’t have explosions or special effects, why would women care about refresh rates? And “8 milliseconds” sounds suspiciously like math.

In fact, a lot of the reasons “why women like it” have nothing to do with actually watching TV:

Why does the couch always have to be in the middle of the room? With the BRAVIA LCD TV it doesn’t have to be. Its 178° viewing angle gives you 178° of space to design. So rearrange the living room any way you want. You’ll still get an outstanding picture no matter where you sit.

It’s called the Living Room, not the TV Room. And the designers of the BRAVIA LCD TV haven’t forgotten that. With its slim design and stylish look, the BRAVIA LCD TV only steals your eye when it’s on. If only the same could be said for his football lamp.

Yep, that’s right. Sony expects women to plunk down several thousand dollars for a high-end HDTV in order to not watch it.

I hear the lines at Best Buy and Circuit City are around the block.

I am so glad I stopped eating BK

No, Burger King (BK) does not have the monopoly on awful advertising. Not by a long shot. But this new commercial combines sexism, racism, and probably a whole lot of other -isms that my mind wants to blank out into one nasty little package. I just… yeah. Didn’t Carl’s Jr. try this one before? And Jack in the Box? And, like, didn’t it fail? Miserably?

Shame on me for trying to apply Earth Logic to Marketing! I should know better, really. But, in all seriousness, this commercial is just plain bad. I don’t mean to pick on Burger King (well, I sort of do), but it’s making the rounds on ther internet (elsewise I never would have seen it, me being in Japan and all), and I can’t help but put my two cents in. Two cents that should be studying my kanji, but, hey, I got all but the hardest combinations right when my study partner quizzed me. I deserve a break.

So, without further ado, let’s begin with the analysis.

I. Pandering to the Caveman Mentality

Punching is Manly!Rarely have I seen such contempt shown for men as when they are portrayed as what I can only describe as “cavemen.” Uncivilized at heart, barely above animals (and, to be sure, in the minds of the person making the connections, animals are base creatures without intelligence), who have no real control over their actions. They’re men, after all!

The tagline, “I am Man, hear me roar!” (a dig at the feminist saying, as one feminist LJ commenter speculated?) sets the stage for the “caveman mentality”. Roaring, as we all know, is associated with lions (which also asserts men as “king of the jungle” — which, naturally, is to show that they are still supreme despite being closer to the animal kingdom than women). To further the lion analogy, the lines “‘Cause my stomach’s startin’ to growl, and I’m goin’ on the prowl,” show up.

Amidst all this prowling is two “manly men” punching each other in the stomach — male bonding, how quaint! And some guy ripping off his tighty whities and burning them. Given the “I am Man, hear me roar!” thing, I have to wonder if this is not another jab at feminism. The whole commercial is, after all, a backlash against the strains of feminist thought that say it’s okay (and — dare I say it? — good) not to succumb to the caveman mentality if you don’t want to.

And, really, we can’t forget the necessary “property destruction” part where they throw a guy’s van into a dump truck. For added bonus, the truck is being pulled by a man trying to get his “prize” — a whopper, of course! How manly! How virile! How… stereotyped. But, alas, you men just aren’t manly enough if you don’t buy into the caveman mentality.

II. Meat or Death!

Tofu... blechLater on I will discuss more in depth the role of “chick food” in the commercial, but here I would like to point out here that the entire premise of the commercial is based on conflating burgers with “MAN FOOD”. And, true to the Caveman Mentality, MAN FOOD (yes, it must always be in all caps) is meat. Red. Juicy. Meat. Mmm, manly. Of course, if one actually thinks about it, the BK whopper is a far cry from a steak which, in itself, is a far cry from what animals, or even our esteemed ancestors, ate. But, well, I’ve already established that logic has no place in commercials; it’s all about creating an emotional connection between your viewer and the product you want to sell.

So, back to the whole MAN FOOD thing. In order to set this up, the BK marketing team has chosen to go with an effective tactic: the dichotomy. People love simplicity, and what’s more simple than an “Us vs. Them” mentality? In this case, several dichotomies are set up. I’ll talk about the “chick food”/”dick food” dichotomy in the section on women in the commercial, but here I’d like to talk about the unseen dichotomy: carnivores versus vegetarians.

I am no expert on any form of vegetarianism (but perhaps Ariel will weigh in with her opinions on the matter?). I love meat. I love it so much that I’ve jokingly said on several occassions that I was a carnivore. However, this isn’t just pushing meat as a healthy part of a non-veg*n (catch all phrase for the multiple kinds of vegetarianism) lifestyle. It’s pushing it to the exclusion of foods associated with health, namely salads and tofu (they mention quiche, too, but I don’t know how healthy/not healthy it is supposed to be).

Seeing as men already have a tenuous relationship with their own health, I see this as a problem. A big problem. While I may find networks “for men” like Spike questionable in many areas (as I find their female counterparts, like Lifetime), one thing I noticed while getting my Star Trek fix is that the station will often emphasise the fact that men should take care of their health. They challenge the stereotype that it’s “unmanly” to take care of one’s health, often by advocating the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. I have always thought that this was a good thing — men deserve to not be shamed into leading harmful lifestyles.

What BK does with this commercial, however, is chip away at the progress that stations such as Spike have made. They quite obviously draw the line between “healthy” food (tofu, especially, is the poster child for “healthy food”) and MAN FOOD, namely BK’s burgers. And, you know what, I don’t think that’s cool. As someone who loves burgers, I don’t like one of my favourite foods being used to shame men into thinking that if they aren’t “carnivores” then they are less manly. I, frankly, see it as BK emasculating men who don’t want to buy their product. And, really, if anyone is going to be emasculating men around here it should be us feminists. I’m kidding! Jeez, y’all can’t take a joke. What are you, a bunch of humourless feminists? Ha, ha. But I’m serious about the BK thing. And that’s not cool.

III. The Sexualization of Meat

Eat This Meat!Meat already is tied to sexuality in our culture. Phrases like, “beating the/your/my meat,” are euphemisms for male masturbation. “Man meat” referrs to a phallus. Do I even need to go into all the sausage and hot dog references? Bottom line: meat is, in most Westerner’s minds, linked to sexuality, especially male sexuality.

Earlier I referenced a line in the jingle about “going on the prowl.” In the animal kingdom, this means hunting for food. For humans, however, it often means hunting for sex — most often used to describe men seeking out women. Already, here, burgers are linked with sex and conquest. Which puts burgers on the same level of women. Or, I suppose I should say, women on the same level as burgers. It’s not an overt objectification (that comes a bit later), but it is, I would argue, an objectification of women.

At another point, the lyrics go, “I will eat this meat,” and a large banner unfurls that says, “Eat this meat,” which has another one next to it saying, “I am man.” Now, dirty minded that I am, the first thing i thought of was some homoerotic action. Which, given the context of the commercial, I doubt BK would imply. Only heterosexual men deserve to eat whoppers, after all (must… resist… writing… on caveman mentality and heterosexism……). But, the first three times through, every time I saw that sign, it looked sexual to me. Now that I have to stop and analyse it, I’m sort of at a loss. Do any of y’all have thoughts on the matter?

IV. Happy Asian American Heritage Month!

All Asians know kung fu!Oh, yes, they went there. I find it subtly ironic that this little section appears in the commercial during Asian American Heritage Month (which, if I’m a good person, I’ll blog about before the end of the month). For those of you who missed it, I highly recommend watching A Chink in the Armour, which addresses (among other things) the false notion that “every Asian knows kung fu.”

But, I mean, come on, the only visible Asian American in the entire crowd and BK has to do that? And I noticed that he’s the only prominent suit wearer. There were only two others I could find — one (white looking) guy in the lineup who bare their manly arm muscles while bringing the burger to their mouthes (maybe I should have mentioned that in the caveman section?), and the other was a black man in what looks to me like a white leisure suit. Forgive me if the terminology is wrong.

I guess, if one was a fan of using stereotypes to fight stereotypes, you could see it as the AAM (Asian American Man) asserting his virility. He can be part of the caveman mob mentality, too! But maybe just him, as there didn’t seem to be any other Asians around. Of course, if one was more cynical like me, you could see it as reinforcing the asexual kung fu master stereotype without gainfully challenging any other stereotype associated with Asians. And since I am cynical like myself, I’m going with the latter interpretation.

V. What about the women?

Claim your PrizeThe commercial is, unsurprisingly, devoid of women. It’s about men, after all. However, it does make the few women present stand out. The first of whom is the assumed girlfriend of our protagonist. The implication is that she forced her carnivore boyfriend into eating at a fancy restaurant — excuse me, a women’s restaurant, which serves chick food. Although why they would serve chickens the kind of food displayed in the commercial is beyond me. I joke, I joke.

Seriously, though, Luke of Real Men Are Not (RMAN) comments on the potential harms of using the “chick food”/”dick food” dichotomy:

I really get tired of the old “men are carnivores” thing because on the flip-side it tells women to eat….guess what, SALADS. We know now, of course, that for reasons of anemia and what not, women and young girls should actually be eating more red meat but no, that’s not what the King with that chesire cat grin on his face would have you believe.

On the livejournal forums, other discussions on the implications of the “chick food” (salads, quiche, tofu… “rabbit food” as one commenter describes it) can be found here, here, and here (snark at the fact that BK used to offer vegetarian hamburgers).

The other woman, like the first, is only seen for a split second. She is the keeper of the prize — the hamburger. Much like the women at racing shows, E3’s booth babes, and other “acceptable” female jobs in male-dominated fields, I believe that this woman’s main appeal is to show off the hamburger. I must say, however, I am a bit stumped as to why they chose the woman (who does not fit the standards of beauty that I have seen levied on others of her profession type), or the outfit (which, to me, makes her seem more asexual than sexual). Is it to not detract from the focus — that of the burger? Is it that she is the kind of real woman seen in the kinds of events that the man is mimicing? Am I missing something important?

While not unexpected at all, the use of the two women in this commercial bothers me. I would much rather not have any women at all — and, seeing as the commercial specifically targets men, I don’t see why they strictly need to be there — rather than used to first set men apart (and above) and then being nothing more than decoration for the product that BK is selling. But, I suppose it is a relatively minor point when compared to the gross abuses of masculinities that BK has used throughout the commercial (thank you gender caste and gender cultism!).

VI. Conclusion

“I am a man”? All I have to say, BK, is if this is what you think men are, then you and your crack marketing team hate men a lot more than I ever could. I mean, at least I’m not out to kill them, which is more than I can say for this ad campaign.

Seriously, for all the men who read this blog, are you not insulted by this? Like, honestly? And if not, then why the hell not? Y’all are better than all this bullshit, and I know that for a fact.