Sexualisation of women in ads a social norm

Sexualisation of women in ads a social norm

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Women continue to be portrayed as objects of sexual desire in advertisements in face of continued criticism because consumers cannot see them any other way ... at least, this is what ad agencies say.

Elipsis Malaysia servicing head A.Ashvin said even those who were critical of this practice did not get a 'rise' when looking at 'normal' images of women.

"Truthfully speaking, who does not want to look at a pleasant picture? Advertisements need to look presentable as it has to be appealing to everyone," he said.

"Putting aside the sexual factor and the exploitation of women, we as an ad agency have to look at things realistically.

"In addition to complying to needs of clients who have requirements which they feel would best sell their products, we also hold the responsibility of ensuring that the message gets across to consumers," he said.

There is a tendency for advertisements to depict women in an unflattering light.

Ads for women's hygiene products, for example, depict women as grumpy babies in uncomfortable diapers, incapable of handling daily agendas.

Another ad portrays a hungry man as a dainty female singer, suggesting that women are weak.

Ashvin added that there were no assurances that people would not turn around and scrutinise ad agencies if they used larger-sized or darker-skinned women.

"People might just accuse agencies of insulting these women for putting them up on billboards.

"There is always going to be scepticism, but if we go by it we can't sell products," he said.

Ashvin said consumers also have to understand that the ad agencies adhere to specific briefs from their clients.

"Things are not like how they were before. Clients today present us with mood boards and examples of how they want their products to be and we just comply with their requests.

"People need to accept the fact that this is just a business," he added.

Anton Lim, a creative director, said the design and acceptance of an advertisement depends on society values.

"In the past, advertisements have used irrelevant images of women to advertise certain products - mostly targeting men - simply because this is attractive to the customers," he said.

However, he said if they were to "put men in the position of women or exclude the human element altogether, the acceptance from the consumer might not be as good," he said.

Anton noted that Malaysian advertisers generally felt that using on women to sell a product would actually cheapen the image of the product and the company, and most try to work away from that.

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