It’s difficult to find a good place to start when critiquing this Mercedes-Benz advert from last year. Upon first viewing the ad, it’s almost impossible to discern what it’s attempting to sell. The majority of the photo is dominated by four disembodied, identical sets of breasts; only upon closer inspection can the viewer see the words “8 airbags.” At the very bottom of the advert, the viewer can finally see the name of the product and the company, followed by the phrase “smooth & safe.” The alleged purpose of the ad is to sell Mercedes-Benz cars by emphasizing their safety (not a reason I’ve ever heard used for purchasing one, incidentally). This is done by explicitly comparing breasts to airbags because hey, they’re large, jiggle, and get shoved in men’s faces. By doing this, the advert reduces women to one body part. The tagline, “smooth & safe,” not only reduces women to pairs of sexualized breasts, but critiques them as well by implying that they should look and feel a certain way for the enjoyment of heterosexual males. The product, incidentally, appears nowhere in the advertisement. As Kilbourne states, mass media exists to “sell audiences to advertisers.” Here, Mercedes-Benz assumes that heterosexual men will be drawn to their product if they provide objects for the heterosexual male gaze in exchange. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz is perpetuating the Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of women as “the other” by portraying female bodies as sexual objects in order to sell other objects through the power of association.
Jean Kilbourne: “Can’t Buy My Love”
Simone de Beauvoir: “The Second Sex: Introduction”