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.”