Billboards Covered in Tits

May 12, 2015 / Features

By Jake Dypka

Does the advertising industry have a moral duty to support the feminist cause?

It is an undeniable fact that sex sells. I don’t think anyone can refute the power of the human body, preferably scantily clad, to stimulate our desires in order to push a product. I recently began a project with the poet Hollie McNish and listening to her poems is bringing into question my own loose set of morals, which I had hoped I had buried far enough in my own subconscious to allow me to go about my daily life. I do work in the advertising industry after all. 

Advertising from the beginning has used sex as a weapon to grab people’s attention. My views are fairly liberal on the subject of images of nudity in the public sphere, after all some of the best of art centres around the human body. The problem for me is more a matter of taste. As much as we would like to convince ourselves otherwise advertising is rarely art, and sometimes some campaigns clearly cross the line when using sex to sell things.

I am reminded of the recent ‘Are You Beach Body Ready?’ billboard, where advertisers took it upon themselves to attack people’s insecurities. Seeming to suggest if you didn't match up to their impossible standards then you weren't ‘Beach Body Ready’ and your place wasn’t at the beach but presumably hidden away behind closed doors.  The first time I came across it I could taste a faint hint of bile at the back of my throat and it wasn’t even targeting me. I was glad to see the force and speed of the backlash with pictures of the campaign defaced with graffiti or altered in Photoshop to represent a more realistic curvy figure. I find it all rather liberating, this trend of the masses responding with their wit and imaginations to demonize some of the worst offenders. Change is in the air and advertisers need to watch their step.

If you don’t use Instagram or haven’t heard, there is a campaign at the moment to “free the nipple”. Instagram bans users who post material deemed inappropriate and one such regulation is no image can show the fully naked breasts of a woman. The defining insult seems to be that as long as the nipple itself is covered then the image is ok. Many people understandably argue that, as the naked chest of a man is apparently ok then why not a woman’s? You can understand the problem of course. Many of the images posted are beautiful and entirely inoffensive but if you ‘free the nipple’ as it were, how long until Instagram is ‘covered in tits’, as Hollie McNish would put it, and more offensive material becomes the accepted norm.

These are very strange and exciting times. The internet has thrown out the rule book. Views and opinions of individuals can now be shared at the click of a button allowing the status quo to be challenged in a way that has never existed before. Cultures across the world are seeing the effect of voices so often kept quiet in the background now having a platform to be heard. One of those voices gradually gaining listeners is Hollie’s.

Hollie and I were classmates back in school and one clear memory of her that springs to mind is me struggling away in an English exam watching Hollie a few rows up repeatedly asking for more paper to continue writing after running out. It was clear to me then as it is now that Hollie was destined to do great things. Her poems on all things social, cultural, personal, and provocative have been steadily growing in momentum over the years, and by some beautiful twist of fate we are working together to make one of her poems ‘Embarrassed’ into a film. If you haven’t heard the poem I urge you to do so, but in short it attacks everything from aggressive formula marketing to the double standard of anti-breastfeeding discrimination in a world of “billboards covered in tits.”

Is this some form of double standards on my part then? I am after all working as a director in advertising. The industry Hollie so cleverly vilifies for its own double standards.

I know from personal experience how individuals in the advertising community become extremely passionate and dedicated whilst working on projects with a positive message. Charity films are well known to attract directors and production companies alike willing to work for free to get a decent film made. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that most of us suffer some quiet moral dilemma when required to use our skills just for the purposes of selling. Do the brains behind the ‘are you beach body ready’ campaign lay awake at night ruminating on the negative ideas they have spread? Does the advertising community then, who gain profit for exposing breasts, have a moral duty to support the feminist cause whole-heartedly? I hope so. Perhaps I can make a start by exposing breasts on camera for all the right reasons.

 

Jake Dypka is a director at Indy8 and is working with Hollie McNish and Indy8 on a film based around Hollie’s poem Embarrassed.

Comments (1)

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    by Mindy on 2015 08 11

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