Textual Analysis of Trojan Condoms Advertisements


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Textual Analysis of Trojan Condoms Advertisements

  1. 1. A Textual Analysis of Trojan Condoms: Depiction of Gender Roles: Final Paper Dalia Hamzeh May 3, 2010 COMM 492 Seminar in Corporate Communication Bridgewater State College Bridgewater, MA
  2. 2. Have you ever been told by your mother to “act like a lady”, or been told by your father, “be a man”? Do you remember growing up and only girls wore the color pink, and boys the color blue? These are some differences in gender which have maintained their position as the ‘norm’ in our society. Embedded in our culture are guidelines which determine what is appropriate for a male and female. For the most part, these expectations are given to us through advertising messages in the media. The portrayal of gender has become so strong, it cannot be ignored. The proposed study aims to examine this vital area of research. The advertising industry generates more than $180 billion a year. It has been estimated that, on average, most people see 3,000 advertisements each day, and each person spends approximately 3 years of his or her life watching advertisements (Mastin 230). Thus it is understandable that advertising critics argue that a) advertisements are deeply woven into the fabric of American culture, both drawing on and redirecting commonly held perceptions and beliefs; and b) advertisements have a major role in both shaping and mirroring society (Mastin 230). Advertisements are more complex than just simplified messages which promote a product or service. More specifically, advertisements shape society by using stereotypical images to establish shared experiences among consumers, and advertisements mirror society by promoting stereotypes, biases, and the dominant values of patriarchal society (Mastin 230). Advertising images are often assimilated into people’s learned expectations of individuals comprising various groups, and therefore have the ability to influence individuals’ perceptions of and interactions with others. In particular, advertising images can reflect, reinforce, and perpetuate sexist and racist attitudes, opinions, and behaviors already engrained within a given
  3. 3. society (Mastin 230). With such an influence on our consumer-driven society, it is important for research to be done dissecting the messages which we are so vulnerable to. Using a critical approach, this study will examine a specific birth control advertising campaign, which has strongly portrayed gender in their advertisements and products. The contraceptive industry remains an unexplored chapter of American History. Studying the birth control movement chiefly as a medical or political phenomenon, historians have discounted the social significance of its commercialization (Tone 487). Therefore, using textual analysis, Trojan Condoms’ advertising campaign featured in magazines published for young men from 2006 to 2010 will be the focus of this paper. These magazines include: Blender, Maxim, XXL, Vibe, and Rolling Stone. Consequently, the answer to ‘How do Trojan Condoms advertisements code gender between 2006 and 2010?’, will be identified. Trojan Condoms is a company which sells contraceptives in the form of condoms. Once owned by Carter Products Division, and in 2001 sold to Church & Dwight Co. (the maker of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda), is the world’s largest condom brand. The company currently has over 29 brands of condoms and accounts for 76 % of all condom sales in the United States. Due to the changing legalities and political stances of condoms over the past century, there have been not only changes in their marketing campaigns, but at times ends to their advertising efforts. Regardless, one theme is recurring throughout a majority of their advertisements; distinctive gender portrayal. Their success as an organization, and with respect to their advertising campaigns, has defined them as a powerful voice. Provided on the company’s website are previous advertisement campaigns which will be used for analyzing purposes. Older advertisements can also be found on advertising archives
  4. 4. within the internet. Previous studies related to gender role portrayal in advertisements provide a base for this examination of advertisements for Trojan Condoms. Although there are few in relation to deconstructing the text of contraceptive advertisements, there is a plethora of studies which code gender in other fields. The lack of studies in this specific context provides more reason to continue with this study and clarify its importance. Background The cultural turn that has recently swept through much of American sociology has meant that sociologists are ever more frequently focusing on the role of symbols, meanings, texts, cultural frames, and cognitive schemas in their theorizations of social processes and institutions. The development of cultural studies as a field of teaching, criticism and research has been among the more influential and certainly among the more visible developments in the humanities in western universities over the last 30 years. In its most widely known, perhaps most influential formation, it directs analysis upon the construction of everyday life – in particular on texts produced by culture (Turner 113). Cultural studies nominate its object of study as ‘culture’. The normative operating definition of ‘culture’ within cultural studies is deliberately inclusive embracing our ‘whole way of life’ (Turner 113). Although this resurgence of interest in cultural phenomena is often associated with the shift towards more humanistic and interpretative methodologies, an increasing number of quantitatively oriented scholars have also begun to turn their attention to the study of cultural meanings. In the process a new body of research has begun to emerge in which social practices,
  5. 5. classificatory distinctions, and cultural artifacts of various sorts are being formally analyzed in order to reveal underlying structures of meaning (Mohr 345). To determine what kinds of messages are being communicated through advertisements, they must be deconstructed; peeling away the layers of meaning. The texts used in them are strategically crafted to validate and maintain some form of power. According to Hansen- Horn and Neff, power and control are two of the molar concepts in the theory, research, and best practices of public relations (117). In short, companies, nonprofits, and government agencies work to gain power, exert power to accomplish their mission, and attempt to use power to control their destiny. To clarify further the relationship between meaning of texts and power, Barnes noted that meaning that guides interpretations and actions is the basis of society and social order. Hence, when analyzing content in advertisements, it is important to critically approach the signs and symbols which are represented, rather than look at them as one-dimensional; therefore practicing critical literacy. Critical literacy is used for the study of texts, particularly in analyzing media texts (Iyer 163), popular culture, multiliteracies, and digital texts. It has been extensively theorized and debated in a range of contexts, including early year’s literacy education, studies on identity, and more recently in the context of the teaching of English by teacher educators. The scope of critical literacy is broad ranging – from a critical examination of texts and the positioning of readers to Gee’s (274) “socially perceptive literacy”, which is a “species of applied linguistics”, of discourse analysis. The critical reading of images demands that the social and political ideologies surrounding them be made transparent, that the experience of those captured be exposed. The critical reading of images connects to social justice because it questions and challenges dominant points of views. When images are critically read, individuals and objects representing power are
  6. 6. exposed and those who are oppressed find their voice (Zambo 62). So the term critical literacy is fluid in meaning. But, for the purposes of this paper, it may be understood as critical perspectives on texts and social practices (Iyer 163). Goffman’s early work set the stage for much research into the nature and meaning of advertising images. Goffman (17) long ago argued that much can be learned about gender in a society by examining the snapshots found in advertising. Some argue that advertising mirrors gender stereotypes, however, others maintain that advertising images actively shape attitudes, thereby creating gendered expectations. These statements clarify how our culture is influenced by more powerful underlying meanings in the text of the media; especially advertisements. In 2004, Mastin conducted a study which focused on advertisements in women’s magazines. The purpose of this study was to serve as a benchmark study regarding gender-based product purchase decision-making behavior during the last decade of the 20th century according to women’s magazine’s advertisements. Mastin found it important that women’s portrayals as product purchase decision makers in advertisements featured in women’s magazines be examined in this manner because of the power advertisements have both in shaping and reinforcing societal roles and their power in developing and solidifying perceptions of groups in society (232). The results of this study support previous research studies (Mastin 238) that concluded print media advertisements more often portray women in traditional roles. A majority of advertisements fail to place genders in the roles they actually participate in, in a more modern society today. Another study examined gender role and sexual content in television advertising messages. The study was carried out having adolescents view and comment on television advertisements of beer and non-beer products. Rouner concluded that traditional televised male
  7. 7. portrayals tend to match male characteristics currently valued in American and other Western cultures. In addition, young females are socialized to think of themselves as sexual, focusing on sexualized gender role images (451). These constructed scripts establish norms and expectations about sex. However, it is arguable that the central content of lifestyle ads is the social role behavior of the models, including gender roles (Rouner 449). Lastly, the portrayal of male and female advertising characters was examined to determine whether or not sex was used to sell a product (Monk-Turner et al. 201). Past researchers have generally found that male characters were over-represented in advertising images and that female characters tended to be portrayed in passive roles as sex objects (Monk- Turner et al. 209). First, (1068) also found that women advertising characters continue to be displayed as subordinate to men, in passive roles, and as sex objects (Monk-Turner et al. 207). Coltrane and Adams (342) concluded that regardless of the primary viewing audience of the commercial, women advertising characters tended to be shown as sex objects. Generally, this work found that images directed at specific target audience varied in predictable ways. When women were the primary targeted audience, fewer advertising characters were portrayed as sex objects compared to targeted male audiences. Still female sexual objectification was a common theme through advertisements as a whole (Monk-Turner et al. 202). The interest of gender role portrayals is complex and guided by power struggles. The issues of gender, culture, and power are not hidden in our history’s past, yet continue to fester in our society. Agger’s theoretical method (555) is one of turning what he considers to be the most salient interests of postmodernism, feminism, and critical theory against each other in an effort to extract what is valuable from what is not (Agger 556). Agger says, “The integration of feminism, post-modernism, and critical theory allows me to theorize the possibilities of the liberation of women and household labor, the imagination, and the
  8. 8. popular, the respective aims of these three social theories… which have been equivalently devalued by male supremacy, a modernist philosophy of history, and cultural mandarism, respectively. Feminism politicizes the household and sexuality; postmodernism interrogates the modernist philosophy of history; and the culture industry politically (556).” Agger’s literacy expresses the issues which resonate within our culture still to date; issues of gender, power and culture. The context of our society calls for a need of continued textual analysis of advertisements. Seldom are we aware of how gender portrayals and stereotypes develop and are maintained. Messages about appropriate gender roles and behaviors permeate our language, school curriculum, working life, religion, and media (Jones 231). Gender is also assumed to play a major role in the distinct ways females and males store and process information about the self, social groups, and experiences. Gender schema theory argues that people learn, through socialization to the culture and in social discourse, to activate stored information which leads to differential processing of the same messages (Rouner 437). For example, as identity achievement is a central development task of adolescence and young adulthood, gender role serves as a strong factor for the formation of identity, its development, and change (Rouner 437). Furthermore, adolescents likely seek out appropriate gender role and sexual media representations, which match a model’s gender to the advertised product’s uses (Rouner 437). It is important in so many ways we are able to recognize and be aware of the media’s representation of gender roles, in which we are fed every day. Research to date focuses on gender representation in advertising; how gender roles are depicted; and the objectification of women in advertising. This study will continue to address and identify these very important areas of research.
  9. 9. Analysis of depicting gender roles in contraceptive advertisements is incredibly scarce, yet there is much research in this subject within other contexts. Scholars who have examined gender role depiction tend to do so using content analysis, rather than qualitative textual analysis using critical theory and visual literacy. It has been repeated throughout this paper that advertisers use social images and constructs to sell particular products. In that the media operate as a powerful socialization force and that the majority of women are in the workforce, it is imperative that women and men alike witness media images that present a more balance view of women and men sharing responsibilities (Mastin 241). The presented study for Trojan Condom’s marketing campaign will use these abandoned theories to examine the ways in which they code gender, and will use the previous literature to base the premises of the analysis. Method This study aims to examine how Trojan Condoms code gender within their advertising efforts using critical theory and textual analysis. Textual analysis remains relatively new to the social sciences, yet has proven especially useful in the deconstruction of texts and what their underlying messages are. One reason for the neglect of deconstruction is that advertising research has not yet caught up with postmodern criticism (Stern 61). Yet, in the same manner a mortician must dissect its patient to fully understand the cause of death; we must deconstruct the text to fully understand the meanings embedded in the messages. Before considering textual analysis, it is important to clarify the definition of “advertising text”. According to Stern, advertising text is any media artifact designed to persuade consumers, and generated, composed, recorded, and analyzed by sponsorial agents and/ or researchers (62). The definition posits media artifacts as persuasions to consumers that can be analyzed in a
  10. 10. systematic way (McQuarrie 185). A three-step method that includes deconstruction, adapted from literary criticism, is proposed. It provides rich analysis of advertisements in terms of language attributes, rhetorical influences, and cultural assumptions (Stern 62). In conducting this study, these steps will be borrowed from Stern, and used in accordance to deconstruct the text of the Trojan campaign. The first step of textual analysis is the identification of attributes; language, character, and plot. According to Stern (62), deconstruction begins with construction. Hence, before we can break down the text we must be able to identify the components of which it is built. In this step it is not necessary to try and understand cultural or underlying meanings. The basic building blocks of what we are deconstructing, such as the visuals and text, are our only area of concern during this step. The next step in the process of deconstructing is identifying the construction of meaning. After identifying the attributes of the advertisement, we can then give meaning to them. There are two parts to be recognized in step two: genre categorization, and rhetorical tactic. The imagery, text, and theme in a given advertisement can all be placed into some type of category, and according to its meaning, we can define a purpose. Therefore, rather than making a simple statement about what we can visibly see or hear we are halfway to completing our deconstruction of the text. In regards to cultural studies and critical theory, this last step is the most vital. Step three addresses the contradictory meanings inherent language by disassembling the cultural assumptions that a text simultaneously reveals and conceals. The justification for this step is that fuller understanding of language and culture flows from viewing the words as makers that empower one term in a binary by suppressing its opposite. The power struggles occur in
  11. 11. advertising as in all language, and their exposure uncovers the premises on which commercial culture rests. To date deconstruction has been found useful in management theory “for penetrating the surface of symbols – for silencing symbols to reveal their detached and hidden implications (Gephart 28).” According to Stern, just as identification of attributes is a first step in accounting for stimulus elements that influence construction of meaning, deconstruction leads to better understanding of the openness of meaning influenced by a shifting network of language, power, and culture (62). It requires a closer look at familiar metaphorical descriptions of advertisements as “social tableaux” or “mirrors” (Pollay 32), for those terms simply imply static singular meaning encoded by social construction and decoded by consumers (Stern 63). This study analyzes three print advertisements which were accessed online through an advertising database, and the Trojan Condom logo itself is also a topic of examination. Lastly, it is capable to access video advertisements on the Trojan Condoms website (www.trojancondoms.com). Two of these videos will be used for analysis. These texts were generally chosen by chance and at random. The theme throughout the Trojan Condom campaign as typically remained the same. Discussion Case #1: (refer to figure 1) A Trojan condom print ad featured in a contemporary men’s magazine, Blender, in November of 2006 has large text at the foot of the ad that read: “When the situation rises, be sure you’re a Trojan Man.” The word ‘rises’ in the text stands in a lighter shade of maroon than the
  12. 12. rest. To the right of this text there is an image of a box of Trojan condoms, with the text written underneath: “Pleasure you want, protection you trust.” Above the footer is an image of a pond with exotic lily flowers floating at the surface. There is also other exotic plant life growing in or around this pond, and to the left of the ad we can see a little piece of land. Within this pond there are seven nude red-haired young women, whom all resemble one another. They are all beautifully fair skinned, and have long hair stranded with delicate white flowers nested between their locks. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, a few of these women are holding either a box of condoms or a single condom packet in their hands. On the piece of land we can see to the left, there is a young man kneeling beside the pond as these women gaze at him with longing eyes. The man is in good physical shape, has a full head of dark brown hair, and is wearing a navy blue one-shouldered robe tied at the waist with a bright red cord. The woman who was lucky enough to be in the pond nearest to him seems to be seductively pulling his arm closer to him, while the other women look desperate for his attention. This specific print ad’s imagery is strong and says a lot in its lonesome. It’s a strong depiction of a man in his glory with beautiful women at his immediate attention. The language chosen in this print implies that when this man is ready and has ‘risen’, he has the choice to be a ‘Trojan Man’; strong, masculine, and powerful. It further emphasizes that Trojan’s can give him the pleasure he wants, and the protection he needs. The text used in this print ad, the imagery and selection of words, could be critically deconstructed in great depths. Why are only the women responsible for supplying the condoms? Why are they all naked; waiting vulnerable and desperate for a man to come their way? And how
  13. 13. is it that this man was lucky enough to pass by a pond of naked women, perhaps virgins, and has the power to choose one at his liking? Women are capable of enjoying sex and having an orgasm just as a man. Why can’t women have the pleasure and protection of using a Trojan condom too? Case #2: (refer to figure 2) A print ad featured in Blender magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, and Maxim Magazine from September 2006 to March 2007 reads in big letters along the top: “Impart variety to thy scepter” (scepter being translation for a male’s genitalia). The ad is promoting Trojan’s new Pleasure Pack. At the footer of the ad there is an image of a box of condoms which are more vibrant in color than the rest of the advertisement. It reads along the bottom: “Trojan. One pack yields a variety of pleasures. Choose wisely.” The imagery in the ad has an older Roman vibe; depicting a cartoon-like man dressed for battle. He appears strong and masculine and is standing straight and tall, looking to his right. Beneath him are two women on either side of him. The women look identical; both long-haired brunettes with sheer and extremely short, one-shouldered robes on. Kneeling before the pedestal which stands in front of his genitals, they are reaching for a box that stands on the pedestal, open and filled with a variety of condoms. The focal point of the ad is the women on their knees reaching for a condom while rays of light strike out from behind the warrior man. This bears the question why is the man given such strength and almost God-like features? Why are their two women to one man? And is the placement of the pedestal on the forefront of his genitals putting his manhood in power?
  14. 14. The text of the ad raises other critical questions. Is the act of sex perceived as a battle for a man rather than a symbol of love? The language of the ad gives the man not only a variety of women, but a variety of pleasures to his genitals. Do women not have the power to choose a man? Do they not experience pleasure and urge for variety during sexual intercourse? The ad places the power in the man and deems women to be vulnerable and delicate sex objects, and placing no other purpose to them other than for a man’s pleasure. Case # 3: (refer to figure 3) The new Trojan Magnum print ads are planned to run in the May and June 2010 issues of Vibe, XXL, and The Source magazines; all targeted for young black males. Trojan Magnums are a product of Trojan condoms and are simply larger in size. The print ad has a black background with a gold border and reads in gold bold uppercase letters across the top: “The bigger the soldier, the bigger his shield.” Towards the bottom of the ad is the Trojan Magnum logo in which the word ‘magnum’ is set in a larger font. To the right of this text is an image of a condom wrapped in a gold case. Lastly, the bottom footer reads: “the gold standard in comfort and protection.” The use of color in this ad gives it a strong and powerful message. Gold is a rich color and represents power and status, and black is the darkest of colors giving the print a sense of seriousness. The language used in the ad is simple and clear. A male’s penis is referred to as a soldier; a symbol of strength, aggressiveness, and power. The condom therefore symbolizes the shield, the protection against things harmful to the soldier. Does a man’s power come with the size of his penis? And if it does, does a man with a larger penis put at risk because he now holds a higher power?
  15. 15. Critically, this raises the question of why the man is need of such protection. Don’t both men and women share the same risks associated with having sexual intercourse? By comparing the condom to his shield, is that not referring to women as a potential threat to a man’s livelihood; his penis? Trojan’s Evolve Campaign Trojan launched an advertising and public information campaign in an effort to reframe people’s perceptions about using condoms. The campaign, titled “Evolve” made its debut June 18, 2007 on the television, the Web, in print, and in special events around the country. The ads use animated images of pigs to humorously represent self-centered, immature, and thoughtless behavior. The pig transforms to a man when he demonstrates responsibility by choosing to use condoms. Case #1: (refer to figure 1a) A print ad from Trojan’s “Evolve” campaign reads: “Evolve. Choose the one who uses a condom every time.” These words are written at the footer of the text. The rest of the print ad depicts a scene at a night at a bar. Yet, what would typically be men at the bar are depicted as animated pigs. The bar is dimly lit with the exception of a couple in the upper left corner of the bar. The tables are seated with beautiful women who seem to be unwillingly chatted up these drinking pigs. The women are not entertained and annoyed, while the pigs appear to be drunk, laughing, and extremely flirtatious having a ball.
  16. 16. The highlight of this ad is the couple in the corner underneath a shining light. There is a man and woman who is both human and seem to be enjoying each other’s company. He looks to be as cool as a cucumber and her as happy as pig in… well you know. The language used in the ad gives women the advice to choose a man wisely. It depicts men as pigs; dirty, gluttonous, and not that smart. In this ad, it is the man who evolves from a pig when he makes the right decision to use a condom. Yet, the language is targeted towards woman. “Evolve. Choose the one who chooses a condom every time.” So, if it is not the women who need not to evolve, then why was the word placed before the advice for women? Is this indirectly telling women to evolve and choose the right man? Women have the ability to choose whether or not they want to use protection while having sex. So why is it that the women are given the power to choose a man, but are not given the power over men to have the same capabilities to deciding if her and her partner uses a condom during sex? Case #2: (refer to figure 2a) This print ad has an almost identical format to the previous one with some variations to the setting and language. The ad reads at the footer: “Evolve. Be a man. Use a condom every time”, with the Trojan logo to the right. The setting is strongly lit and shines with strands of diamonds which replace a backdrop for the wall. Once again, there are tables of pigs drinking and beautiful woman looking disinterested and disgusted with the pigs’ behavior. The only man in the ad is with a woman in the back right corner. He stands confident and looks suave in nature. Whatever the man has done must be working; the young woman looks utterly flattered, and extremely attracted to him. They are the highlight of the ad.
  17. 17. Why are the women outnumbered and overwhelmed by the pigs? Is there a reason not one of the women are sipping a drink at this bar? And why have a room of pigs been placed in such a nice bar? All of these symbols of text provide us with the grounds to identify, construct, and then deconstruct the ad. From a critical view, we must raise questions about the text. Is it only a male that wears a condom during intercourse every time be labeled as a ‘man’ rather than a pig? Women are just as capable as men to provide the protection previous to intercourse. So why is it that the man is given the power to decide if a condom will be worn during intercourse? If the man chooses not to wear a condom, does the woman still have a choice if she wants to be intimate with him? Conclusion Trojan condoms code gender in a dramatic way in regards to power and sex. As a society, we have different social norms for each gender we must follow to be accepted. How are these norms developed and static through such a fast paced and changing culture? Through textual analysis we discover that it is through the media in which stereotypes of gender are reinforced and embedded in our culture every day. Trojan has proved within its advertisements that there is a stereotypical coding of gender within their proposed texts, and that in fact, women are portrayed as passive and beneath men in the decision to intercourse, and using protection during it. There were limitations set for this research due to a lack of previous studies done on birth control methods. It is surprising that as such a sexually unhealthy country with rising epidemics of unwanted pregnancy and STD’s that this area of research would be found important. Yet, I feel that my research can be the groundwork for future research in regards to the coding of
  18. 18. gender in birth control methods. The benefits of this type of research could truly be limitless, guiding our culture into a more sexually healthy society.
  19. 19. Figure 1: Trojan Ultra Ribbed Figure 2: Trojan Pleasure Pack
  20. 20. Figure 3: Trojan Magnum Figure 1a: Trojan Evolve
  21. 21. Figure 2a: Trojan Evolve
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