Super Bowl Sex Appeal

Super Bowl XLVI fans were treated to a variety of sexy commercials this past weekend; from cars, flowers, and even candy retailers didn’t mind showing a little skin in order to get viewer attention. These commercials normally feature beautiful women in provocative outfits, but this year we saw international soccer star David Beckham and his ad for a new underwear line at H&M.

In living rooms, blogs, tweeter, and even classrooms all over America the commercial generated buzz. One blog exclaimed “eye candy for the female viewers,” as the men shift uncomfortably in their chairs. Eventually this brings us to the question, “What is the target audience for this commercial?” The first answer we may come to is, men. The commercial is in fact for men’s underwear but, something about this commercial doesn’t seem like its intended for the straight male population. Lately men’s underwear commercials have been reserved for Michael Jordan and men dressed as fruit but, audiences don’t even get a little shoulder out of them. One could argue that the commercial is for women. On the surface it makes some sense but, it seems that the very style of the commercial would turn women on while simultaneously alienate their boyfriend or husband. This brings us to the most likely conclusion, gay men. Gay men are the group most likely to both be interested in the ad and shop for this underwear with the least amount of discomfort. In fact the commercial reminds me of a recent Calvin Klein underwear ad that left little room for interpretation when it came to their target audience.

Both commercials are in black and white, featuring attractive men wearing only underwear, and feature soccer stars. (The Asian gentleman in the Calvin commercial is Hidetoshi Nakata, is an Olympic soccer star.) The Calvin commercial is unapologetically targeting gay men; did you notice, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” The H&M ad target audience is more ambiguous which makes it more intriguing that the makers decided to feature rock sample from the Animals “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” in the background.  The biggest difference I can see is that H&M’s commercial ran during the super bowl which has a massive heterosexual male audience therefore the creators made a commercial that had to appeal to gay men yet still appear as if it were for straight women for the sake of the male viewers.  Why would this be necessary? What is it about using sexy men in marketing that makes straight men uncomfortable?

On Sunday Ronald Martin of CNN got himself in trouble for a tweet he made in response to the commercial that read “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckhams H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!” GLAAD quickly reprimanded him for his intolerant remarks sighting that the comment promoted violence against homosexuals.  Martin’s sentiments are not uncommon.  A study out of Cornell University says masculine overcompensation or “overdoing gender” is the idea that men who are insecure about their masculinity will behave in an extremely masculine way as compensation could help explain some attitudes like support for war and animosity to homosexuals.”

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5 Responses to Super Bowl Sex Appeal

  1. There are many men that are metro or fashion conscious and not gay. The X ad, while more than likely attempting to reach male consumers 18-40ish and not necessarily gay male consumers, was a slam dunk for women. I know it is hard (no pun intended) to believe but, your wife, girlfriend & even Mom enjoys looking at chiseled male bodies barely covered. Women love it although they may not mention it around their partners or men in general because of the fragility of the male ego. The four models in the X commercial are straight (hetero) not gay. There are two extremely popular athletes (Fernando Verdasco, tennis & Hidetoshi Nakata soccer) who not only are great at their sport but fashion icons. The other two (Kellan Lutz fashion & Mechad Brooks) are fashion models/actor. At the end of the commercial when Mechad asks, “What the F*** are you wearing??” he is directly speaking to male consumers that still may be wearing boxers or fruit of the loom. While definitely enticing women, gay men & any one that appreciates such perfect specimens of male, ultimately Calvin Klein just wants to sell underwear. For as long as I can remember Calvin Klein ads have been creating controversy getting people to discuss their ads just like we’re doing. It works!

  2. Mary Casteen says:

    Interesting take on the David Beckham H&M commercial! I took a women’s studies class last semester and this reminded me of a conversation we had about rap artists and the way they present themselves in the media. Our discussion focused on homoeroticism. It was interesting to notice how the super macho artists were shirtless and oiled up a majority of the time. This led to the question, was this for a female audience or a homosexual audience? Whatever the answer, I agree with the comment above me that the main point is to get people to talk about the ad. Advertisements that create buzz are a success!

  3. taniabiaa says:

    I thought that this was extremely interesting. I watched the superbowl and noticed the David Beckham’s commercial and did not expect for the demographic of the video to be directed toward gay community. I don’t see anything wrong with it but it just didn’t hint to me that that’s what they were going for. And for the X commercial, the “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” didn’t catch me off guard either. I just assumed that they were referring to women showing their body parts first, then they’ll show theirs. But I see where it could refer to the gay community, and if it is true, then it is quiet excited that society is staring to make “gay” commercials.

  4. casom001 says:

    There is nothing wrong with this commercial. I think it’s just a commercial trying to appeal to all audience, not necessary targeting gay audience. It certainly appeals to women by telling them “Hey David Beckham is sexy. So if he is wearing it, your man will definitely look sexy with then on.” It appeals to men (whether gay or straight) by saying “Hey, you’re going to wear boxers anyway, it’s better to have an idea on how you going to look in them.” Almost all commercials use sex appeal to grab people’s attention, so I don’t understand why men feel uncomfortable when they see that commercial. The Cornell University research that was conducted really proved a significant point. A real man will watch it and not be fazed by it. Majority of boxers sold in retail stores have pictures of naked men with boxers on its’ boxes; so I wonder how males troubled by this commercial purchase their boxers.

  5. tatumk says:

    I agree it was a very interesting take on the targeted buyers for the H&M ad. I think that most advertisements today use some form of sex appeal in their ads, that is those except ones for kids. The use of sex appeal helps the companies sell their product. However I don’t believe it is the only way for them to sell their product or get its point across, but it is the easiest. Thats an interesting study i completely agree with the first pare, but not so much with the “homosexual” part.

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