Female Flesh Under Consumer Capitalism: Meet the Meat?

(Source: Busan Focus, 16 May 2011, p. 13)

Hey, I get it, I really do: ads that make men want the girl, can make women want to be that girl.

Hence the memorable things Lee Hyori did with a hose for Vidal Sassoon back in 2007 for instance. Or indeed this ad, which, despite the English copy, actually says that “the lunch for amazing women has started”, and then proceeds to do no more to sell to said amazing women than simply plonking Kim Sa-rang (김사랑) with a smouldering gaze on it, flanked by Lee Tae-im (이태임) with textbook hair-preening and hand on hip.

Surely there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that, although being aimed at women, it’s still squarely aimed at a male gaze?

But if that’s what so bugged me about it, then critically analyzing ads would only ever be an exercise in frustration. And I’m not even against gendered marketing per se either: despite the vast majority of it having no biological basis, and also serving to create and/or reinforcing existing gender stereotypes, admittedly it does sometimes have a genuine financial logic.

Rather, it’s the sheer laziness of this ad that gets me: was this really the best T.G.I. Friday’s could have come up with to get women to eat more steak?

Also, it’s amazing how unnatural the ad suddenly appears if you mentally replace the copy with “amazing men” instead (let alone considering how the ensuing male models would pose). When I did so myself, it really hit me just how much gendered marketing is actually aimed only at women, and how many normative advertising categorizations of female consumers (e.g. Alpha Girls, Omega Girls, Gold Misses etc.) completely lack any male equivalents.

Which is an unfortunate association I now have with T.G.I. Friday’s I guess. But then they’re the ones that came up with such a lame ad!

17 thoughts on “Female Flesh Under Consumer Capitalism: Meet the Meat?

  1. What’s nearly as bad is how poorly they’ve photographed and displayed their food in the ad! Not that I’m under any delusions that the food there is delicious and fabulous and WOW ~ but the pictures of the food itself are underwhelming, to say the least. Way too much color repetition of browns and yellows . . . I understand that the food isn’t the focus in the ad, but it really hasn’t even been given any consideration here.

    • Good point. I did think the food featured did look very greasy of course, and so – forgive me for my own generalization – not particularly appealing to most women, but I didn’t think about the colors.

      Which is kind of ironic though, because I point out the importance of color and appearance to the taste of food to my wife all the time. She makes good 된장찌개 for instance, but I won’t eat it because, well, it looks like crap!

  2. I’ve never had any interest in eating at a T.G.I.Friday’s and this ad doesn’t make me want to become a new customer. Despite how lovely the models are, I was more distracted by the use of “ade” in the menu listing since I don’t use “ade” by itself in a sentence in my dialect and I had to actually Google it to know what they were referring to. A simple “soft drink” or “soda” would have sufficed.

    Like the user above, I feel the food looks like any other chain restaurant’s food. Under par and loaded with calories. Another classic example of “glocalization.” Taking a foreign brand and showcasing or modifying it in a way that takes on aspects of the local culture and mindset.

    Glocalization (a mix of globalizing forces and local culture) is one of the things I’m most looking forward to observing and taking notes on when I arrive in Korean in a month’s time.

    • “Ade” is pretty standard use in Korean, applying to fruit-flavored syrups combined with sparkling water. It may be generally under the heading of soft drink, but is its own discrete category in Korea – and since the ad isn’t letting you chose coke, cider, or an equivalent beverage, it’s a perfectly legitimate phrasing in Korean.

      The other important point isn’t that the food looks similar to other chain restaurants – it’s that the food itself has been poorly photographed and the pictures themselves poorly chosen. Of course their food is greasy and awful, just like every other “family” restaurant,” but if you look at equivalent advertising for the chain in the US, or for other ads produced by the same chain, the food styling is a bit of a disaster. The food may be greasy and awful, but these companies pay good money to photographers and stylists to make sure they don’t look anything less than gorgeous. Restaurants and food companies usually treat the food as least as well as models appearing in the ads, and the foods are faked and primped at least as much as any model, usually. To compound the problem, the foods chosen for this ad don’t represent the whole range of choices available for the set, and it’s very poor work to have chosen so many pictures that repeat the same dull colors.

  3. I wouldn’t be so quick to call it laziness. This strikes me as standard corporate advertising 101 – throw together a couple pictures of hot women, a smattering of copy, some food pictures, and you’re done. A graphic designer probably knocked this out in a couple hours with a rushed phone call from the boss to promote the new franchise-directed thing. The deal isn’t exactly ground-breaking, so there’s not a big reason to figure the advertising would be.

      • Well, if Chris’s point was that the person threw together something quick because of a ridiculously short deadline and that it was not a case of someone sitting around for days and days playing Starcraft or Angry Birds until the last minute, then I think he’s not being sarcastic.

  4. The focus on the ad is the lunch set and its price. It’s the central message of the ad and it’s right smack in the middle of it. Everything else, including two attractive women to get both men and women to look at it, is merely window dressing (which would explain the laziness in everything else in the ad).

    The people to whom this is targeted are looking at the price and the fact that there are options. Paying too much attention to the window dressing on the side misses the point, almost as much as if you harped about them being in a ticker-tape parade with a lot of movie theaters in the background. :)

    • Sorry, but I think it’s actually you that is missing the point, on several levels.

      First up, because what you term “window dressing” is anything but. Whether from the advertiser agency’s perspective, who would have paid a great deal to have 2 (albeit minor) celebrities endorse the brand despite them supposedly being incidental to it; from the graphic designer’s perspective, who would have probably spent more time than anything else making sure the human figures were to his or her satisfaction; and finally to the consumers, who – regardless of their sex – almost invariably notice first visual images (especially sexual ones, sexual body parts, and/or faces, let alone of celebrities’ ones), then headlines, then finally text. I realize that you do sort-of acknowledge that by mentioning the role of the attractive women in it, but I think it’s misguided to consider that merely incidental if it’s actually essential for making people take a second look.

      And what are they taking a second look at exactly? The price? I totally disagree that that’s the focus, as if so it would be (or rather should be) in much bigger text, ideally replacing the “Amazing Lunch”. Indeed, once I reluctantly take my eyes off especially Lee Tae-im’s hair-preening and hips, then there’s not much more to grab my attention then that “Amazing Lunch” headline, then the Korean text above that, and finally perhaps – at the most – the “Find Your Taste” sub-heading. And consider that the price was miniscule in the tabloid newspaper format it was originally in too, let alone the palm-sized versions that are running now).

      So no,as explained above, the women to whom this is targeted are not looking at the price, but rather the women…who are apparently “amazing women” that have “amazing lunches”. And even if they were indeed still incidental, it is still not at all unreasonable to ask why they’re posed etc. as if they’re looking at men instead.

      • I had to look twice to even find the price, so it’s definitely not the focus of the ad . . . nor is it a particularly competetive price! Anyone for whom price is an issue probably isn’t doing a whole lot of lunches in TGIF anyway. And, as I said, I had to deliberately look for the price, since I literally hadn’t even noticed it despite spending a great deal of time looking at the images earlier.

      • Were these women brought in exclusively for this, or was this part of some other television or product promotion with “Amazing” in it, perhaps with Olive as a tie-in?

  5. Forgive me for being ignorant, but isn’t this style of advertisement quite popular in Asia in general? I’m no layout design wiz or PR guru, but I do have years of journalistic experience dating back to my high school days and we are taught to pick up the subtleties of how ads “speak” to us.

    Calling this ad “lazy” is one way of putting it, but having been to Asia enough times, I’d say this is common place. Oh a personal note, I’m not a big fan of TGIF, however I surely don’t mind the female models at all!

    • Please forgive me also, because I wouldn’t know about how popular this style of advertisement is outside of Korea sorry. But either way, although it may just be semantics, I think something being commonplace actually reinforces my point that it’s lazy, as surely it would take much more effort to come up with an alternative to the same old tired formula?

  6. I saw this add many times in Sinchon and I have been to TGIF outside of Korea, hmmm potato skins…. anyways, as a woman when I saw the add my first reaction was “these girls don’t eat at TGIF!”

    Honestly I think it is a bad campaign as it completely forgets what TGIF is about: tasty American food in a fun atmosphere and where you share cocktails with your friends. Yes it is memorable, but not for what it sells…

    • Yeah, they certainly don’t eat those particular greasy foods shown in the ad at least…

      But I’m not sure that Koreans themselves – the target audience – view TGIF as a place to eat “tasty American food in a fun atmosphere [and] share cocktails with your friends” – I think it’s considered more as a family place. I don’t mind being proved wrong though, and I admit that I haven’t been there much myself actually, and so may just be projecting from my trips to VIPs and Outback Steakhouse.

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