Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Emergence of Sexuality in Advertisements from French Owned Companies: 1960/1970’s vs 2000/2010’s

By Jennifer Liu

Advertising has become a very influential part in today’s society and with countless ads surrounding us everyday, advertising techniques have to be modified according to social and economic shifts in order to be relevant and grab the attention of the consumer. The 1960s/1970s was an important era in France because of the May 1968 protest in France that is now considered the defining moment of the shift from a conservative moral ideal that was religion, patriotism, and respect for authority, towards a more liberal ideal that is sexual

liberation. The shift towards the sexual liberation now more or less better describes French society today and comparing ads from the time frame around the protest to advertisements now a while after the results of the protests have had more time to be absorbed into French society, should be able to show visual evidence of the sexual liberation that occurred and is now resonating in the 2000s/2010s. For the research, four French companies/products were reviewed: Dior (perfume), L’Oreal (cosmetics), Remy Martin (alcohol), and Gauloises (cigarettes).

DIOR 1972

“A great deal of physical gender representation in advertising takes place visually through the picturing of bodies and body parts.” (Motschenbacher, 4). The use of the woman’s hand in the advertisement is effective because it creates a connection with female consumers that this product is for them. However, the ad still seems pretty ‘tame’ as only a hand is being shown and the main focus is the product that is being sold.


The focus is clearly the product that is the bottle of cognac and the two other illustrations around it are directly related to the cognac: how it is made, and where it comes from. There is no human model in the advertisement, therefore the product speaks more to selling the actual product rather than an idea of what a person who uses the product is associated with. Strategies around the 1960s appeared to have more of a direct focus on the product being sold and if there was a model selling the product in the advertisement, the model would be drawing attention to the product being sold. After the protests that led to sexual liberation in 1968 in France, ideologies in society changed and this naturally translated to show up in advertisements as well. With the liberation to more accepted sexual freedom in France following the 1968 protests, putting more models and their body parts better allowed consumers to build a personal connection with the products even when the products are sexualized. Advertisements from more recent years should illustrate a different approach to selling products and more openness to displaying sexuality.


This more recent ad puts the perfume bottle in the corner of the ad instead of front and center. Instead, the main focus of the ad is the female model draped in gold sheets that takes up the majority of the advertisement space. This type of advertising shifts from focusing mainly on the product to sell the product into focusing on who uses the product, what she looks like, what she represents and how she can be an idea or image that consumers want to be.


Remy Martin’s 2008 ‘Things are Getting Interesting’ advertisement, also does not have an actual image of the alcohol product in the ad. Instead it puts it’s company logo on the bottom of the page under two women that are meant to suggest something sexual is about to happen between them. “Sexuality relies on sensual, suggestive and erotic imagery, sound and wording, and is sometimes combined with the depiction of violence against women in ads showing them in harmful, subservient and helpless positions” (Jean, 5). Compared to the 1959 ad which only featured a standing illustration of a bottle of cognac to this more recent advertisement defined by sexual references and not even a picture of the product in the ad, advertising strategies with Remy Martin underwent a significant change after sexual liberation. Jean Baudrillard writes “seduction is not so much a play on desire as a playing with desire. It does not deny it, nor is it its opposite, but it sets it in play” (22). More often than not, seduction in advertising is used to bring up personal desires in the consumers that make them identify with the advertisement and seek to fulfill it buy buying the product being sold. With the advancement of new technologies and cross-media platforms, there is a globalization phenomenon with most media, even advertising. “The current EU represents the culmination of years of effort toward greater European unity... there is evidence of the existence of a single European market as a result of the unification process. Research on advertising standardization has found that... building a uniform brand image across markets is the single most important reason to standardize” and soon advertising approaches will follow similar formats across the globe (Okazaki, 2007). The future of advertising across different markets has the possibility to use a uniform strategy and because of this globalization, there may become less and less distinction between advertising across different geographic regions.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. Passwords. London: Verso, 2003. Print.

Jean, Boddewyn J., and Loubradou Esther. "The Control of "Sex in Advertising" in France." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (2011): 1-15. Print.

Motschenbacher, Heiko. “Speaking the gendered body: The performative construction of commercial femininities and masculinities via body-part vocabulary.” Language in Society (2009): 38(1), 1-22. Web. 8 Apr. 2011

Okazaki, Shintaro, Charles R. Taylor, and Jonathan P. Doh. “Market Convergence and Advertising Standardization in the European Union.” Journal of World Business 42 (2007). OmniFile Full Text Mega. Web. 8 Apr. 2011.






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