Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seduction in French Print Advertising

The media image, as Baudrillard explained it, "creates a fatal attraction to itself" (Hayhoe). This fatal attraction is built on by an element of seduction, a sort of magnetic pull to the allure of the image. While seduction often carries with it somewhat of a sexual connotation, it is more accurately a way "to tempt, to fascinate, to attract, to charm, or to entice. A good French advertisement is one that tempts the consumer with its offering" (Taylor). In the process of analyzing seduction within French advertisements, it is interesting to look at ways in which the woman's body is incorporated with the idea of seduction, from the nearly nude female form present in most luxury brand perfume advertisements to more subtle forms of a woman's sensuality in which seduction is often accompanied by other elements such as humor.

Especially after women’s liberation in the 1970s, women were encouraged to take control of their bodies, and this cause an increase in both body awareness and self-confidence that has perhaps influenced the view of the woman as the “seductress.” When looking at a perfume advertisement in a magazine, one does not usually see the model actually spraying the perfume on herself. Perfume advertisements in particular maybe do not distinctly note the perfume's function, but rather embody the scent in the visual, and in order to sell a scent, like all other products, it is first necessary to sell the image. In this case, there is a rather overt and literal element of seduction rather than a mere suggestive one, focusing mainly on the sensuality of the model's body.

In this ad, in particular, there is no model, nor is there an actual advertised product. One can only assume that since the men are all staring straight ahead, instead of at the girls next to them, so it must be another woman that they are looking at. The label “Wonderbra” reinforces this assumption. This ad plays with the way that lingerie advertisements are usually seductive, because there is no image on an actual woman, and whereas most time the male gaze would be directed from outside the image, this time the male gaze comes from within the image. Because of this, it is more likely that the advertisement is targeted to all women, to make them feel desired, to place themselves in the context of the image as the model for once.

In this ad, sexuality is not portrayed in a conventional manner, therefore it is hard to say that these images are in the same way seductive as the previous advertisements showing images of real women. Some viewers might even say it appears more disturbing rather than sexy. However, that is one way these images are able to seduce, by capturing the viewer to take a second glance at them because of their humorous yet bizarre realistic quality and sexual suggestiveness. "In advertising they [the advertisers] try to touch our sensibility, for us to see the person we love in the product or ad…they try to…let us enjoy it…” (Taylor). In the interview with Robert Singer, he noted many times how people outside of France might have an inaccurate impression of seduction in French advertising, and that most images deal only with sex and the over-use of women. “Perhaps that is one element of seduction that has resonated within French advertising, but seduction has in fact become very broad. Focusing on the woman’s body is just one aspect of it, and even that, as we have seen, can be shown on a different amount of levels” (Singer).

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