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The sexiest pages in the magazines are two things – jeans and fragrance advertisements. There is nothing more provocative than people getting all wet in jeans, or women and men staring passionately at each other when incensed by perfume. Once in a while, companies even put perfumed pages in the magazines to let you smell feel what those models smell and feel too. Ads are powerful things. A simple ad in a magazine may seem harmless but the mere act of looking at it sends your brain into clockwork. Seeing something beautiful creates desire, envy, want, and most importantly, the impulse to purchase.

Just like that, the ad has done its job. This essay aims to read, analyze, and compare three men’s fragrance advertisements – Armani Code Black, Azzaro, and Aramis. Contrary to what we may perceive of the market for fragrances, men actually comprise of a big chunk of the consumers. The concept of the metrosexual, or the straight but very stylish, trend-conscious man, has dictated that fragrance for men is practically like underwear. You don’t see it, but it HAS to be there. “Advertising is not a form of communication but a way of using forms of communication to achieve effects.

” It is, however, always dealt with in media and communication studies because it supports the commercial values of the media. Its effect on the economy is huge. The income it generates gives us commercials and TV and radio shows, as well as cheap newspapers and magazines. It creates jobs by creating greater demands for products. Burton asserts that advertising is as significant within the media for its accepted use of persuasion, just as news is significant for its position as an informer. Advertising, therefore, does not waste airtime and newspaper or billboard space.

All the elements in an advertisement are intentional and studied thoroughly by a group of creative directors and marketers. In this light, we can see advertising as a `miniature of the basic process of communication. ’ It has three sources: the original organization that funds the entire project, the creative team or advertising agency that brainstorms and executes the project, and the medium that broadcasts the advertisement or the image. It is encoded for a specific media – in this case, for billboards or print, which are the channels of communication.

The ad, or the message, carefully and laboriously constructed to be attractive to the audience, carry a meaning to be decoded. In this case, it is to sell the product through a variety of meanings. The feedback is established by researching on how much the target market reacted to the ad by purchasing or not purchasing the product. Advertising uses different modes of visual communication. In order to analyze and criticize these ads, we must employ an image and content analysis of each of them. “Image analysis seeks to break down the elements present in the image and find out how the meaning of the image is constructed into it.

” Ads are more often than not composed of an image, the brand name and logo, an image of the product (in this case, the perfume bottle), and a tagline. Look at how and where the camera is positioned and where it places its audience. This is the most immediate tool in recognizing the aim of the image, in this case, to sell the perfume bottle so notably displayed. John Berger’s Ways of Seeing asserts that even the positioning and angling of the camera in relation to his subject already says a lot. A basic example would be the upward angle that signifies a powerful subject, and vice versa.

Next is to take note of the devices used to put the image together, such as the focus, lighting, framing, and composition. These elements affect our understanding of the ad and its message. Finally, the content of the image are analyzed. Content analysis includes the taglines, the objects and their placing, and a discussion of the big idea of the ad campaign. This final step lets us look deeper into the picture and may disprove earlier snap interpretations. Basically, it tells us what the image may mean. Fragrance advertisements almost always have the following qualities – beauty, sex, and fantasy.

It is these elements that advertisers shamelessly exploit to sell. Fragrance ads tend to make outright promises of sexual gratification, especially when targeting men. Armani Black Code is no exception. “One thing is certain: marketers play to people’s fantasies. A study in 1970 conducted by marketing analyst Suzanne Grayson revealed that sex was the central positioning strategy for 49% of the fragrances in the market… In Grayson’s analysis sexual themes ranged from raw sex to romance with the fragrance positioned as an aphrodisiac – an aromatic potion that evoked intimate feelings or provoked behavioral expressions of those feelings.

” Analyzing the image requires looking at all the elements in the ad. Capturing the image in black and white eliminates all other unnecessary elements that may confuse the audience. The three-point lighting technique is used, highlighting select points – the man’s face, the woman’s bare shoulder and back, and a part of her face. A light source, possibly a spotlight, is hinted at one corner. The contrast is stark and high. The quality of the photo, the way the light hits on the woman’s smooth skin reminds us of a nude painting or photo.

The composition is almost theatrical – from the lighting to the facial expression. The focus is on the eyes of the man, looking intensely at something off camera. The woman’s back is turned to the camera. Her face is not shown. She is in her underwear, while the man is fully clothed in a smart suit. The man is immediately the center of the image. The fact that he is fully clothed as opposed to the naked woman suggests power. The woman’s attention is entirely on him. She seems to be in an act somewhere between kissing and smelling his neck (suggesting the fragrance of course).

Her tilted head, engrossed in the man, implies submission. His off-camera stare suggests that his attention is not completely on the woman. His mind is occupied with other things. Sex – usually a woman’s weapon in taming a man – does not seem to work on him. This ad basically captures the entirety of male fantasies (if there were a car in the picture it would be complete). The image promises sex, submission, confidence and cockiness. It equals manliness. The tagline – The New Fragrance for Men – does not really do anything for the ad.

The fragrance may be new but the concept and idea, not at all. In another light, the tagline and the entire ad may also imply a break from the 1980s trend in fragrance advertising. In 1990, Forbes writer Joshua Levine said: “Advertisements today frequently picture women as sexual aggressors or at least equal sparring partners, rather than available sex objects. ” It is a far cry from the second ad. The Azzaro Chrome fragrance ad looks like it is selling insurance or one of those Philip Patek luxury watches. It is light and airy, very easy and restful to look at.

There are three people representing different generations. We assume that the man looking at the camera is the central character. He is the father of the blond boy sleeping comfortably on his shoulder. His father, the boy’s grandfather, is looking down at the boy adoringly and caringly. The ad is wholesome and family-oriented. It almost gives you an idea of how the fragrance actually smells like (light and subtle, not overpowering). It has no carnal and sexual referents. Much like a Chanel No. 5 perfume ad, it is classy and not at all sleazy. Even the bottle is similar to Chanel’s.

Putting in three generations of boys/men tells us that the perfume is for everyone, that it transcends age and tastes. It also implies timelessness. The entire construction of the ad clearly aims for a more mature audience though, probably 35 and above. This ad debunks the grand tradition of selling sex to men in order to profit. Putting in elements of family means selling stability, maturity, and even love. This would be the fragrance that women would buy for their fathers or husbands. It is practically as if it were meant to target women, to buy a bottle for their men. The tagline – Reflections of Men – also supports this.

This ad is how women want to see men – stable, grounded, happy (and still handsome at any age). All these factors add up to a greater market – men’s fragrance that is enticing for both sexes to purchase. The third ad is of Aramis Life. It is a black and white image of a handsome, smiling man buttoning his cuffs. His shirt buttons are strategically left undone. The man has a wedding band prominently displayed on his ring finger. The tagline is ‘Life, It’s a Great Game. ’ The man’s easy smile and kind eyes, as well as the unbuttoned shirt suggest a carefree mood, very much supported by the tagline.

The presence of a ring connotes marriage, but he is alone and has a very easygoing and playful attitude and mood going on. The ad sells the good life. His ring does not constrict his lifestyle in any way. The unbuttoned shirt could even imply sex. He enjoys his marriage and his life choices. The ad sells easy confidence and utter masculinity (with the model’s rough looks). Comparing the three advertisements would undoubtedly yield different results from different people. Personally, however, I find the two latter ads to be more effective.

Sex is hardly or mildly used as a referent. The use of family and the implication of marriage clearly show whom the target market is – mature, powerful, career men who can afford it. These are men who are set in their ways and whose life choices are not easily swayed by promises of sex. “Visual analysis of advertising images will make it clear that they are selling values as well as products and services. It will discover devices of persuasion. It exposes the use of stereotypes and the covert messages embedded in much advertising material. ” Advertisements tend to use stereotypes.

These representations of people (the Casanova, the mature family man, the cool, easygoing guy) are easily recognizable by different men. It may who they are, who they were, who they want to become. Seeing these stereotypes, the audience tends to fill in the blanks, create their own storyline starring them, only better, in relation to the message that the advertisement wants to send out. And this is where the fantasy part comes in. Ads sell a certain lifestyle that supports the luxury product. It may not be the target market’s lifestyle, but a better, enhanced version of it.

“The function of advertising is to deliver audiences to the market… mass communication allows them (advertisers) to build up particular class, age, and gender-related constituencies whose habits can be recognized…so when market research uncovers new social trends advertisers are feeding back to us versions of ourselves. ” Advertisement as communication is essentially very selective but also very persuasive. Similar to how editors and broadcasters have the power to tweak and filter what comes out on national television or the newspapers, advertisers are very specific to the objects included in an ad campaign.

They structure an entire advertisement as to how they want the audience to react. This tendency can be related to the agenda-setting function of media. This is a three-part linear process. First, the media agenda must be set. In planning an ad campaign, advertisers (companies) and the advertising agency (the creative team that executes the campaign) get together to brainstorm on the concept, idea, and the entire look. Next, the media agenda interacts with the public agenda. The ad introduces the product and weaves a narrative of its quality, coaxing people to buy the product.

That is its essential goal and purpose. The public then reacts to the product. The uses and gratification approach on the other hand focuses on the consumer. This asserts that the audience is active and goal-directed. Out of all the options present in the media terrain, the audience chooses what gratifies his needs and what benefits him the best. The uses and gratification approach states that the audience has needs from the media that may be gratified by availing information, checking media role models for behavior and a sense of identity, as well as diversion and entertainment.

This is why fragrance ads, or ads in general, offer so much rewards in various ways. These rewards are mostly psychological (In relation to the fantasy-creating tendency of advertising). Pleasure can be obtained from the text or the message that the image tries to send. We may also tend to identify with some elements in the ad. If you identify with the personality that is represented on the ad, you tend to want to purchase the product. Envy is also a strong device. An ad offers you a way of life you find extremely desirable, and so you also feel the need to own the product.

Of course, there is always the factor of needing the product. After all, men argue that since they wear very minimal accessories, fragrance is a requirement. (This actually may as well be one of the selling points of fragrance companies. ) The entire essay has repeatedly emphasized the power of the visual communication of advertising. Every single element is a symbol to the audience. These symbols mean many things to different people but they all team up solely to sell. Advertisers will make all kinds of claims (to a certain extent) and promises to get the target market to buy.

However, no matter how good the advertisement is, it is still the audience who holds the power to its success. Its effectiveness relies on how the audience perceives and reacts to it. Its shelf life relies on whether the audience likes it enough to buy it. The audience therefore is entirely responsible for its own choices. Azzaro Chrome, Armani Black Code, and Aramis are only some of the many men’s fragrances out in the market. It is their ads – the people and objects in the ad – that give them personality and make them sell.


Burton G, More Than Meets the Eye, St.Martin’s Press, Inc. , New York, 1997. Hart A, Understanding the Media, Routledge, London, 1991. Littlejohn S, Theories of Human Communication, Wadsworth Publishing Company, California, 1992. McQuail D, Mass Communication Theory, Sage Publications, London, 1983. Reichert T, The Erotic History of Advertising Aromatic Aphrodisiacs: Fragrance, AEF. com, 2003, Retrieved on 20 November 2007, http://www. aef. com/on_campus/classroom/book_excerpts/data/2476 Rodowick DN, Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy After the New Media, Duke University Press, London, 2001.

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