Monday, December 17, 2007

David Beckham for Emporio Armani

One of my biggest issues with advertisements is pointless objectification. The last thing that's going to make me want to buy your product is a half naked women lounging next to a bottle of perfume. I've often sat flipping through magazines with a friend and wondered aloud why there are so many images of naked or nearly naked, hypersexualized women, and so few of men. It's not like women don't enjoy a little male eye candy (and not the "guy with his shirt off" sanitized, cheesy Cosmo type), or sometimes think about men in purely sexual terms.

Well, my wish was granted last week when Emporio Armani unveiled their new underwear ad (warning, probably not safe for work), featuring David Beckham laying on a bed in tight briefs with his legs spread. While an advertisement featuring a female model in the same position, wearing a similar amount of fabric probably wouldn't get a second glance, Beckham's ad is actually pretty shocking, considering the rarity of such images. Basically, it's all about his package, and what those Armani briefs do for it.

I was a kid during the heyday of Calvin Klein underwear ads, and I couldn't think of another mainstream brand that's used sexually explicit (I use this term loosely) images of men in their advertisements, so I looked up some older ads to see how they compare to this. It's interesting that they generally feature the men standing up and facing the camera, whereas Beckham is laying down, face is covered in shadow, while all lines lead the viewer's eye to his bulging underwear. Mark Wahlberg looks sweet and goofy, Antonio Sabato Jr. stares you down and Michael Bergin poses like a Greek statue. There's something more sensual than outright sexual in these ads, and it's just striking to look at how much the Beckham ad differs.

I think the ad raises the question of whether advertisers should objectify men. On the one hand, it feels unfair that women are always reduced to pieces of meat, but alternately, that doesn't mean that men should be too. I was surprised to find that I felt kind of uncomfortable with the ad, similar to the way I feel about hypersexualized images of women in advertisements, but a quick survey of my friends showed that most of them just thought it was hot and liked the fact that a man was being totally objectified for once.

The fact that Beckham is an A-List star and not just a model is especially interesting, since it's pretty rare to see top male actors and music artists sexualized that much. Female stars are expected to be sexy in addition to talented, and the media reflects that in advertisements, photo spreads and performances. A famous actress posing in her underwear rarely makes headlines in the way that this ad has gained so much attention.

The ad has gotten a lot of press (unsurprisingly), but it will be interesting to see how successful it is for Emporio Armani, whether consumers actually go out and buy more underwear or if they just spend time gawking at Beckham's body. I'd be very curious to see whether this ad appeals to both straight and gay men, since sexualized portrayals of men are pretty rare among ads aimed at straight guys, and I'm not sure whether this much of an aspirational image for straight men.

Are you a fan of the Beckham ad?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see the "before" picture on this one to see how much air brushing and enhancement of his body was actually done.

Pattykate said...

This ad doesn't do a thing for me. Personally, I don't care for the Beckhams--they are an overrated, overhyped, publicity seeking couple. He isn't sexy to me and she looks like a shrew--as someone else on another board said, she shouldn't have her picture taken next to Katie Cruise because Victoria looks like an old hag next to Katie!! As to the sexualization, well, what isn't sexualized these days?!! I guess it just doesn't phase me anymore and it sure doesn't prompt me to buy.

Anonymous said...

I didn't give the ad a second thought. Those kind of ads all look the same to me. But I don't aspire to brand names or magazine-ish ideas of sophistication, sex, etc. I rare read magazines at all; I must have saw that ad online somewhere, maybe in some kind of story about it. But it left no impression other than a rich guy in his drawers. I didn't even remember what brand he sold. I never get why people buy things because celebrities wear, consume, drive them. How is a celebrity using a product going to make it better for me?

Doggerelle said...

for me the best thing about this ad is Posh's comment on it...I'll let you do your own research ;)

Honestly, it does nothing for me. I don't find him irresistible, and the style of ad is downright boring. Give me some imagination, with or without flesh, anytime!

Georgie said...

Am I a fan of the David Beckham ad? Uh, YES!

Seoul said...

I've long since stopped paying attention to magazine advertisements and the Beckhams in general. Is there anyone in their 20s that gives this crap that much attention? I feel like I don't have time to sit around thinking about David Beckham's junk. Nor do I care enough to do so. Let's move on people!

jakjak said...

Yes, it made me feel uncomfortable too. I want the women objectification to stop not for the men to have to join in. Thanks for a great post

CompassRose said...

If despite his multi-million dollar career he still feels the need to wh*re himself out this way... that's his business. He's not my type; my type would be unlikely to sprawl his bits across a gatefold.

I'm so tired of people who are "celebrities" for no worthwhile reason other than marketing.

styleLush said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE the ad! As a graphic designer and a fan of David Beckham's body, this is a great ad. SEX SELLS MY FRIENDS>> this ad may be risque for american advertising, however across European countries we are seeing more and more provocative advertising. I do not see it as lewd but as a man or a womans sexuality. and if youve got it flaunt it. 2 words: SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING

styleLush said...

and in response to "he is a celebrity for no good reason.." He is a soccer player, a star and yes you may say he is "whoring" himself out there - but I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with what he is doing. How easily this suggestive ad has made people forget all of the charities he has supported, UNICEF, his fight against Malaria in Africa and M.L.S. works..funny that no one thinks that the recent cover where Christina Aguilera is pregnant and naked across the cover is "whorish"

Anonymous said...

We need the sexulisation to stop not everyone join in! I can only speak for myself, but as someone who really struggles w self esteem issues, images of women like this just ruin my day. Pity brain scans aren't sexy - - heheheh

Teresa said...

WHOA. hubba hubba.

Anonymous said...

"Funny that no one thinks that the recent cover where Christina Aguilera is pregnant and naked across the cover is 'whorish.'"

Stylelush, are you SERIOUS? Christina Aguilera is practically incapable of looking anything *but* whorish. The magazine cover is no exception.

Kells said...

one word: SEXY... it's appealing and undeniably so it's a campaign for underwear and that's what it needs to sell.. let's put it this way it got you talking and THINKING

Anonymous said...

Hey, what makes you leave a comment here regarding the adv? don't say you are not a fan of him, and don't say you are not interested in this kind of adv, he got you comment on him whatever good or bad, he got you think what you are going to say about him. don't say no A list star do what he's doing, that's why he got the attention and money as well. H is unique!!!

A2xistguy said...

I just wonder how MUCH of the $40,000,000 he got for the Armani underwear ad campaign is REALLY going for any charity other than his and Posh???

IF he's this world-class athlete, then why does he need to spread his legs, obviously have air-brushing on his crotch to make his genitals look HUGE and then in some "poor pityful Pearl" fashion, TELL us of all his charitable goodness.

I don't remember Meryl Streep or say a Jennifer Garner for that matter, in the movie world, doing such things. Oh yes, Jennifer is representing cosmetics but she's not butt-ass naked, legs stretch wide apart with a compact in her hands!!

David and Posh, go back to the UK where people "think you're "something". You're just "cheap trailer trash" here, no matter how many millions you may have and HOW many charities you may SAY you support.

I don't remember the late, beautiful Audrey Hepburn, in her campaign for Unicef and then establishing The Audrey Hepburn Children's Foundation straddle some chair in panties and a bra to help the needly children around the world. She HAD and HAS class, just being herself, while David Beckham and that wife, if you can call here that have NONE. Styles change, styles don't, David. You DON'T have style.

Ditto said...

David Beckham photographs well and the fact that the eye goes straight to the underear when you look at the ad means that the photographer and marketing team did their jobs well. It's an underwear ad, not a head shot! Nevertheless, I understand (and somewhat agree with) the position many people are taking...I love mystery, and I don't necessarily want to see ANYONE objectified in this manner...But I do have to admit that the man is beautiful!