Wednesday, 1 February 2006

Guest Slapper of the Month I

Recently, on this very blog, FullTiltRedhead (a fellow perfume lover) suggested this slap and, trying to reassure me of her good intentions towards me, ended her comment with ‘Your fan’. She didn’t actually say, ‘Your No 1 Fan’, but I thought it wiser to let her have her say. I do care about my shins, you know. LOL!

So, without further ado, here is FullTiltRedhead’s Slap of the Day!

Have a look at the ad that Estée Lauder is currently running for their new men’s cologne, called ‘Unforgivable’, in connection with Puff Daddy – no, that’s P. Diddy – no, wait, it’s Sean Jean now. Or Jean-Sean. I can’t keep up. (I had no idea he was French.) Through their subsidiary, Aramis, of course, because who would want to actually put the Estée Lauder name on this vile piece of macho posturing.

To start off with, P. Diddy's apparently flipping us the bird. He's got himself two ho's and he doesn't care too much what anybody thinks about it. Unforgivable. It's none of my business what he does in bed, so who's supposed to be forgiving him? Are we to understand he's messing around on someone? He plays around behind her back, and he doesn't care if she doesn’t forgive him. And EL thought that was so cute, they made a perfume about it. EL, come here so I can slap you!

Ok, maybe that’s a reach, an imaginary partner in an imaginary back-story. Then why the name, Unforgivable? It’s been suggested by greater minds than mine that what’s Unforgivable by racist standards is that P. Diddy has managed to overcome the oppression of The Man; he’s rich enough, powerful enough, and independent enough that he can achieve the ‘two women’ fantasy. That makes sense; he is, after all, flashing the bling, reminding us that he’s got enough money to hire all the women he wants, and threat them however he feels like. Life is, after all, all about the money. I'm happy for him. So why is the ad so hostile, so domineering, so full of stereotypes, so disgustingly cliché?

For example, where are the Asian woman's arms? I’m guessing we’re meant to think she’s handcuffed, or at least that he’s restraining her. Ah, the stereotype of the passive Asian woman! She’s gazing with apprehension into his lap. Is it THAT big? Well, you know what they say about black men. And there's what looks like maybe a Latina woman in the background. She doesn't look pleased. Well, you know how demanding those hot Latina women are!

There are no black women. Why? Black women don't figure in black men's fantasies?

And lastly, here's the bottle. Why, it's ribbed for her pleasure!

Thank you, Bela, for allowing me to come here and SLAP the fool out of Estée Lauder for this racist, sexist, and vulgar piece of work.

As the heading of today's slap indicates, I intend Guest Slapper of the Month to be, well, a monthly feature here (less work for me, more fun for you). However, this will be by invitation only (unless I’m really scared of you), so don’t form a queue yet.


  1. It's very easy for advertising to pass you by without really questioning its meaning, rationale, what it claims to represent. But you're right, FTR - it is created by a bunch of people thinking very hard and very cynically, and the combination of the attempt to influence us mixed with the attempt to highlight or represent some aspect of the zeitgeist means it is a form of 'art' we should take very seriously. It's a real mirror to our society - but it can also take us one step further towards the bad, which is what I think this does. So I'm happy to join you in slapping Estée Lauder and their ad execs.

    Oh, and I love the killer last line!

    Great idea with the guest slap, Bela - people need to vent. People REALLY need to vent *hopping up and down*.

  2. Hey, I can comment on my own blog as a visitor today! LOL!

    You're right, L, we hardly ever question what we see. It goes straight to some subliminal level in our brains. Very sneaky. I agree with the slap. (Oh, ok, I wouldn't have posted it if I didn't).

    Scare me enough, L, and you could be next.

  3. Hey, Lulu, thanks for joining me in the slap - and in the idea that we should scrutinize what's presented to us in advertising and speak up accordingly. I'm sure I'd enjoy hearing your concerns and recommendations for Slapees.

  4. Excellent post. I am just so tired of the two-note repetoire of images used to sell perfume. There seems to be vulgar, needlessly explicit sexuality; and then there's the gorgeous-dress fantasy-woman sales pitch. You can go down Bela's blogroll and find all kinds of women who can write about perfume in a million different ways, and come up with all sorts of different images. Why is it so hard for multi-million-dollar corps. to do the same?

  5. This is what I try to convey to students -- every single element of an ad is constructed, and every element is meant to communicate something. As your perceptive Guest Slapper pointed out, the choice of the female models is particulary interesting. White models are out because they would instigate protest from consumers tired of the use of White women as status symbols for Black men, but Black models were also deemed unacceptable even though their presence would (theoretically) instigate no such protest. It's a myth, by the way, that White consumers won't buy products hawked by Black models (unless those products are ethnically-oriented, like hair relaxers); research shows no difference in purchasing behavior or attitude toward the product based on model race (presumably because, in the U.S. at least, White consumers think *everything* is for them unless specified otherwise).

    As you wrote in a recent post, plus ça change... we see the same hackneyed one-man-with-two-women theme (which Calvin Klein did much better by reversing the genders in his '80s Obsession campaign), plus the same old colorist pairing of dark man with lighter (but not too light) woman(en), which we've been seeing for eons, everywhere from wedding cake toppers to, well, everywhere else. Yawn.

    So what does the juice smell like besides Sean John's sweat and dirty sheets? I looked it up and it seems it's a Mediterranean-style citrus, fresh and clean -- which is a hoot given the campaign.

  6. Wow, I'm not following that!

    Winterwheat has said any and everything that I could possibly come up with...and more cohesively at that!

    I'll try later.


    Has anyone ever heard of subliminal messages in advertising? I cut and pasted a couple of areas from the ad. Most interesting to me was the last one, which I rotated 90 degrees. It is exactly in the line of vision of the Asian woman in the ad.

    They say the juice is very nice. It was characterized as fresh and clean smelling, with a bergamot top note, and a Mediterranean air accord and a Cashmere accord.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Sorry - trying to get the url to the picture I mentioned in. It cut off in the post I deleted, above.


  10. Well, I'm not one to keep quiet just because everything's already been said, so (big breath in) here goes:

    The middle finger Mr Combs, or whatever he calls himself, is showing at the viewer seems to be a direct attempt to call our attention to the way advertising uses the consumer (hereafter referred to as "us"). He is mocking "us", showing contempt for the gullibility of "us". It is a black man, lucky enough to 'make it' within a white, capitalist oppresive hegemony, uniting with all the other oppresseds, calling us to revolt against the shameful way we are used and bled (financially) dry. He wants us to grow a little self respect, I reckon, and question the advertisers' messages. You can almost feel how dry the two women have been bled by the advertisers selling them the lifestyle they wear. You can tell he has no respect for them from his sneer. I don't think there is an 'unforgiveable' fragrance at all, it's just a clever consciousness raising ruse.

    (breathe out)

    But then I like to see the best in people.

  11. Well I guess my question would be, wouldn't the consumer also be at a blame for perpetuating this angle of advertising.
    Agencies when hired by companies do not just randomly create campaigns, they are very well thought out processes which are then passed by focus groups before launching to the mass media. And the focus groups are made up of a sampling of the target customer.
    Yes the beauty industry is a fantasy driven huge billion-dollar corporation... so obviously these campaigns, degrading as they may be are fulfilling someone's, many someone's fantasies or advertisers would promote other images.
    So as I said, the consumer whoever she may be, will also need a bit of a slap. Or maybe a boycott of the product? And if that were the case there would be very few purchases being made on any level of any kind. From Ivory Soap, Gap Jeans to dishwashers you will usually find sexism, and escapism and everything in between.

  12. Personally, I don't mind threesome ads. It's not that, for me. I know it's the #1 male fantasy. Whatever! I don't like the way it's portrayed in this instance, is all. I wrote to Estee Lauder to protest the ad. I am not buying any more Estee Lauder products whatsoever, under any of their trade names. Which means I have to change foundations. So you know I'm serious.

    To each his own, and we take our stands where we can, right?

  13. Fulltiltredhead - I love, love, love the way you articulated this.

    I am impressed with Puff Pappy (or Knick-Knack Diddy Whack, or whatever the HELL he's calling himself these days) for his business abilities. And nothing else. I've seen interviews with him on the talk shows, and he's one of those people who keeps asking "y'know?" and "know what I mean?" over and over. GAH! I hate that SO MUCH. If I do know, then your questions are redundant. But if you're already sensing that I don't know, then why don't you bother just fricking explain it already, instead of asking me a question that I have no ability to respond with "no" because you just keep on truckin' with your mindless chit-chatter and cavalcade of "y'know"s? Perhaps I take exception to that bad habit too strongly. Know what I mean? (See, irritating isn't it?) Although, I do ask that question myself sometimes, because I am genuinely asking in case I'm not being clear. I have a sad habit of not articulating myself very well occasionally.

    Bela, love the idea of a guest slapper! And this really was fun, you're right.

  14. Hi, Katie. Thanks! A compliment from you means a lot. I read both your blogs pretty religiously. I think you articulate like a mofo. Know what I mean?

  15. FTR absolutly, stands are necessary and I think you made a good one but to switch your foundation!?! That's crazy talk ;-)...just get some letters written, the beauty industry is in constant change and will be creating a new campaign next season anyway. But I get you.

    katiedid I can't STAND the "you know what I'm saying thing" either. I think that their vocabulary is not extensive enough to adequately get their thoughts across, so they have to just hope that the listener fills in for them. That's what I'm getting at least. And why they would choose him for a campaign I have no idea, he is the most irritating of all.
    But in his case I do understand it because he's probably got those big-money lawyers to do his big thinking for him.

    And yes, Bela you are absolutely on target with hosting a guest slapper of the month it also gives your hand a moment to cool down.

  16. I have tried this fragrance for the first time in December (before I saw the ad), and I must say that experiencing it in conjunction with the ad is very strange. The fragrance itself is very elegant, clean and understated. There cannot be more of a sensory disconnect between the two.

    This ad is designed to stir the controversy, to bring attention to the fragrance, and in pondering this, I am saddened by the fact that this is what fragrance marketing has to resort to these days. Really, the fragrance is objectively good enough to float on its own. The market is so oversaturated that the companies use all means possible to draw attention to their products. However, I in no way condone this practice. This is just a very sad reflection of the current state of affairs and the industry's conception of what their consumers are like.

  17. There is so much depth and content in the post and comments, seriously. I like SL's point about the consumer assuming some responsibility for the pap they ingest ... and their behavior after ingesting. Me, I've always wondered what the plural of ho is. xoxo

  18. I love this slap. Beautifully deconstructed ad.

    I have to say though, Bela, that I can't imagine you being "really scared" of anybody. You scare ME and I'm one of those women who scares people.

  19. What strikes me are the expressions, as well as the body positions:

    1. Sean John looks bored and not energized enough to do more than flip us off, presumably because the "exotic" women have exhausted him sexually.

    2. The Latin woman looks mildly amused or triumphant, she is also the most fabric-covered. Her expression could be read as if to say, "Heh, the Asian has to suck his c---. (I only had to do anal.) And anyway, that's what Asians are good for. He made her go down on me, too." Hence, we have a racial hierarchy: African American and powerful, Latin and second-most powerful, Asian and powerless.

    3. The Asian woman looks dead. Necrophilia anyone? Before you laugh, I took a class in subliminal advertising in the late 1970's, at that time images of death, sex, sex with dead thins, etc., were prevalent. Liquor adds frequently had suicide images like nooses, guns, skulls, too. Cheery.

    Still Life is right in that advertisers use what works. The sad part is that only part of it is under our conscious control. What stimulates us is often subconscious. I'll go out on a limb and say that if we were more comfortable with our shadowy, ugly bits, they'd be less titillating. Every kid wants what's forbidden, no? Culturally we work so hard to distance ourselves from qualities like greed, cruelty, violent impulses, etc., that, since they are inherent and won't go away, must end up sublimated.

    And, it's also the case that we can be trained, programmed, inured. That's part of the marketing picture, as well. Things become more extreme over time because that's what's required to capture our attention.

    If I were feeling more eloquent, I could bring this around to explaining why "Back to Old Tym-ie Values" can't ever work. But I'm not.

    Thanks for this slap. It's "teh ballzorz". >;P

  20. In the absence of my Guest Slapper I would like to thank everyone for contributing such interesting comments. :-)

  21. Sorry I've been away. I read your insightful comments this morning with great interest. Thanks for posting! -- Has anyone seen Estee Lauder's newest, the Tom Ford ad with naked Keira and Scarlett, in which Tom Ford is shown as much darker than he really is, and the women look dipped in plaster white? Wonder what's going on with that?

  22. I've seen it. It's very odd. But wait till you the new French Connection TV (I think) campaign! It's really something. LOL!

  23. This is a message for the attention of the cowardly MUAer from Vermont who tried to leave an anonymous comment on my blog last night but was too stupid to notice that comments were moderated and therefore her moronic comment didn't have a chance in hell of appearing here. She's also too much of a cretin to know that statcounters enable bloggers to discover where their readers come from, their IP addresses, which site referred them, etc.

    I would also like to thank the member of BB (whoever she is) who first brought my blog to the attention of her evil pals: as far as my statcounter is concerned 'the more the merrier'.