Advertisements have become part and parcel of modern life. Theindustry, which is worth over $250 billion, ensures that on average,every adult in America is exposed to over 3000 adverts daily(Kilbourne, killing us softly 4). Such high-level interaction withadverts both consciously and subconsciously shapes and continues toshape culture. Individual behaviour and other traits exhibited in dayto day activities are not random concepts but rather products of acomplex and extended process that involves many actors and players atdifferent levels. The media, inclusive of adverts, seeks to activelyinfluence behaviour for their own selfish benefits. The themes mainlyaddressed are aligned to a certain product or service upon which astereotype is created to influence consumption of the product orservice. Some of these concepts and behaviours pertain tomasculinity, femininity, sexuality among others. The acceptability ofa preconceived concept of any of these concepts is engineered towardsconvincing and influencing consumers to purchase specific productsand services.
One of the adverts that have openly pushes forward such a concept isthat of Pepsi Max. The Pepsi advert intended for the UK marketdepicts three guys in a club having fun and eager to pick girls. Whentwo of the guys urge their friend to pick a girl who is seeminglyeyeing the guy and anticipating his approach, he surprises them byapproaching a guy rather than the girl they had though he was goingto approach. Apparently it is a sip of Pepsi Max that gives him thecourage to make the move to approach the guy. While the advertseemingly seeks to promote the idea that Pepsi Max can give someonethe courage to go for what he or she believes in, it promotes theidea that same sex relationship is the new form of identity. In fact,being gay is depicted as being unique and having enough courage to goagainst the norm. In such an individualised society such as the west,this is likely to have a great impact on young people who have agreat desire of being unique and standing out from the crowd.
Contradiction and identity are used by marketers to sell theirproducts and services. Crymble (2012) argues that advertisersactively pursue to legitimize myths that create an identity that isassociated with consumption of a particular product or service. Forsome advertisers, the idea is to create controversy either positivelyor in a certain way to gain free media coverage or coverage in socialmedia (Hogan 2009). In the case of Pepsi Max, the idea of being gayas being the new cool, which is practically a myth that is beinglegitimized by the advertiser. When one of the guys chooses toapproach a fellow man instead of a lady, it seeks to legitimize thatbeing gay is cool and so is taking a Pepsi Max. The two girls who areanticipating being approached in the advert plus the other two guysseems to share a common opinion about dating that it should happenbetween opposite sexes only. However, to earn recognition and respectand to be different from such people, it requires one to be gay whichis fired up by consuming a Pepsi Max.
Coca-Cola also features an advert that promotes same sex couples.This is evident in the company’s 2014 super bowl advert. Theadvert features individuals from a wide range of cultural backgroundssinging the American national anthem in different languages. Severalindividuals are featured in the advert either singing the nationalanthem of going about their day to day activities and sharing a Coke.It is clear to see that the different languages used and thedifferent faces from diverse age groups, ethnicity and racialbackground capture the diversity of America as a nation. It is anation that has been built in immigrants from other parts of theworld. Among the families captured in these advert are families ofsame sex couples. In one scene, a same sex couple of two men holdinghands playing with what seems to be their child is very obvious. Inanother scene, two men are seen staring off a window in a melancholicmanner. By acknowledging such families, Coca-Cola is directlyendorsing LGBTs and specifically same sex couples.
The Coke advert seeks to arouse American patriotism and nationalpride by presenting the new face of a beautiful America. Severalstates have enacted legislations that recognise the LGBT communityand seek to award them full freedoms like the rest of Americas.However, this view is not supported by all Americas as some groupsespecially religious and conservative groups have openly protestedagainst same sex relationships terming them ungodly and in some casesunnatural. With a majority of Americans supporting samerelationships, it is clear that Coke has sought to capitalize on thiscommon perception. The brand seeks to capitalize on the patriotism tothe American brand, their beliefs and identity as a diverse nation tomake Coke appear as part of the American identity. The advert seeksto recreate an image of America in which Coke is imbedded in it. Thegender issue presented in it earns the advertiser mileage (Milestone& Meyer 2013).
The two adverts openly acknowledge and promote same sex couples as anew concept globally. Kilbourne (killing us softly 4) says that alarger percentage of interactions with an advert occurssubconsciously such adverts can even affect those that choose toignore this issue on the surface. However, one might view that theadverts are designed to court controversy to gain better publicity.Alternatively, Kimmel’s aspect of gender police can be argued forthe Pepsi advert where the guy chooses to approach a man as an easieroption rather than a girl. This is very clear in the sense that otherwoman and men in the advert react in a not so friendly manner in thePepsi Max advert showing that the choice for a man was not approved.
It is clear that the inclusion of same sex couples in the two advertsby Coke and Pepsi Max are not just random inclusions. They are wellcalculated move that are designed to drive a specific message aboutthe product and create a certain influence in the society thatpromotes the consumption of the product. This is very clear from thepublic response to the adverts. The LGBT communities in the US and UKlauded the adverts in recognition of freedom of sexuality. Analternative scenario where being gay or same sex couples arecriticised or bashed would have elicited a different reaction. TheLGBT communities in both countries would have heavily criticised theadverts and even probably boycotted purchasing the offending productsand services. In extreme cases, such an advert would encouragediscrimination on sexuality basis or even result in homophobia.
Coca-Cola Online. 22.04.14. 2014.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLw7bOl_8Ro
Crymble, S. (2012). Contradiction Sells Feminine Complexity andGender Identity Dissonance in Magazine Advertising. Journal ofCommunication Inquiry 36(1) 62-84
Hogan, Jackie (2009). ‘Selling the nation: gender, race andnational identity in television
advertisements.’ Gender, race and national identity: nations offlesh and blood New York, NY: Routledge.
Kilbourne, Jeanne. Killing us softly 4. 22.04.14. 2010.http://trutube.tv/video/4851/Killing-Us-Softly-4-2010-Jeane-Kilbourne
Kimmell, Michael. Bros before ho’s: The guy code. n.d.Print.
Milestone, K. &Meyer, A. (2013). Gender and Popular Culture. New York: JohnWiley &
Pepsi. Online. 22.04.14. 2014.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIG0kB9lOxo