Under the Digital Knife



Photo courtsey of Peter Monsees/The Record/MCT

Breeana Leyva, Opinion Editor

With the amount of advertisements that filter through American media, marketers are using increasingly radical tactics to break through to the everyday consumer. A tactic that advertisers are using more and more often is one that is based on basic human desire. The need for sex is one that is deep rooted in human nature and knowing this, companies capitalize on it. Although this use of sexuality in advertising is undoubtedly successful, one might think of the negative connotations that arise from the art of “selling sex”. From burgers to beer, there is no doubt a target audience that marketers are bombarding these messages to. These advertisements not only depict unreal sexual situations, but they also illustrate unattainable ideals of beauty. More so than ever, consumers are being exploited by marketers and advertisers to buy their products using different techniques that cater to gender specific evolutionary needs.

An editorial written for The Huffington Post UK, posted on April 10, 2013, titled “American Apparel Adverts Banned: ‘Sexual and Objectifying’ ” discusses how an American retailer, which is synonymous for pushing the border when it comes to advertising, has had it most recent advertising campaign  banned for its depiction of  its young  models. Their most recent spread of advertising is just that, a female model in a bodysuit and thigh-high socks with her legs open.  From the photos the models face is not shown, but the main emphasis of the advertisement is the models groin area, rather than the garment itself. Another one of the photos is for a body suit as well; the woman is on a bed with her legs in a similar position, with text on the side of the image reading, “Now Open”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are currently investigating a complaint against the company, in which many feel as if the women depicted in the advertisement were objectified, over sexualized and appeared vulnerable. In response to this claim, American Apparel stated that it “did it best to abide by standards of the industry as well as creating authentic, honest and memorable images which were relevant to its customer base”. Customers of American Apparel have come accustomed to these images of young women wearing almost nothing, but for many, these images breached the line of sexy and gratuitous. The ASA retorted American Apparels claims stating:

“We considered there was a voyeuristic quality to the images, which served to heighten the impression that the women were vulnerable and in sexually provocative poses. For the reasons given, we considered the ads were likely to cause serious offense to visitors to American Apparel’s website. We concluded that they breached the code.”


What most consumers fail to realize is everything from television adverts,  to music videos, and every print material has gone under the digital knife. There is no denying that Photoshop is a wonderful tool, but the use of it in today’s media has opened a big can of worms. In an article posted in Up Lift Magazine, titled, “Beauty, The Photoshop Way” Sarah Barnes goes in depth as to how much photo editing has altered the way beauty is perceived. In the article, Barnes interviews a woman by the name of Alesha Dixon. Dixon then recounts her experience at a re-touching studio; “You don’t know what’s been retouched to what extent. That’s the whole clouded part of our industry, that everything you see at some point will be augmented.” There is now no escape from seeing re-touched imagery, and the media is distinctly lacking in images that truly represent real beauty. Barnes brings up the idea that each advertisement that has been at all altered should carry a disclaimer. The problem with this is since there is so much re-touching in the world; every single photo would carry this disclaimer.

What needs to be done is what Barnes calls, “Media Literacy.” If there was a program that taught girls and boys from a young age that these images have been extremely altered, then maybe as they grew they would not face so much self-scrutiny. According to the article, seven in ten girls believe that they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members. With this low self-esteem, there is the problem of Reality vs. Perception.  Young girls see emaciated models on covers and perceive this as healthy, and end up making exorbitant measures to live up to this image.

All in all, marketers and advertisers only job is for their consumers to want to buy their product. There is little thought put into the repercussion of the sexual objectification that they use to market what they are selling. No matter what, sex will be used to sell everything. As consumers it should be known that everything is not what it seems, and true beauty is only a few mouse clicks away.