Affirmative Advertising: The Campaign for Perfect Men

Our newest post from Sydney Avitia-Jacques.

So far, this blog has been critical of media, giving examples of movies, magazines, and advertisements that portray masculinity and health in shallow, narrow-minded ways. The unfortunate truth is that this unhealthy ideology accounts for the majority of the media that we consume –  but it’s time to talk about a good example, because they do exist and they will make a difference if we rally behind them.

Dressman is a Norwegian underwear company that is promoting a positive, healthy ideology. They say it well on their website: “The majority of people think that our unhealthy obsession with the body is a result of what’s presented in advertising. That’s why we will do what we can to change this. We want to take responsibility…As a first step we’re launching our new campaign for ManUnderwear showing that every man is perfect just the way he is.” Their campaign showcases men that are truly diverse— in age, race, height, weight, muscle composition, and even body hair. Past blog posts have explained how most male models employed in ads are young, Caucasian, tall, thin, visibly muscled, and have hairless torsos; but this collection of models shows careful conscientiousness from Dressman. Their slogan, “Underwear for perfect men,” is a healthy spin on the usual message, which uses the ideal of “the perfect man” to seduce viewers into an ideology of inferiority that is resolved only by purchasing the glorified product. In this ideology, using the same product as “the ideal man” represents a small but necessary step in the consumer’s pursuit of perfection, and will make him slightly less inferior.

The campaign does follow the industry standard of using sexualized bodies and the values associated with them, rather than the functionality of the product itself, to sell the product. The models’ bodies in black and white are showcased in the video, and there is possible editing for a more striking aesthetic in the photos. However, what makes this presentation different is that no body fat, hair, or blemishes are covered up by the editing. This is sexualization without discrimination, telling all men that they can appreciate their bodies without changing them.

Some might question whether attractive values like athleticism and adventurousness, suggested in ads for products anywhere from fast food to jeans, can be portrayed as easily by models without professional athlete bodies and traditional movie star looks. Dressman’s video commercial (view it at https://dressmann.com/no/justthewayyouare/) proves that the same sleek, exciting energy is produced by using editing and presentation style with any type of man. Athleticism, heroism, and confidence are not exclusive to one body type, so they don’t have to be portrayed by one.

Why isn’t every ad campaign like this? Hiring models with diverse builds and backgrounds is not more expensive. Promoting inclusive self-confidence rather than elitist self-judgment is not more expensive. Promoting positive values that make people feel more comfortable in their own skin does not hurt consumer popularity. The only thing a company might lose from representing a diverse consumer base is a reputation for exclusivity and elitism. We want to see more companies making the switch. Just as Dressman says on their website, “We can’t change the world in a day. But we have to start somewhere.”

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