Using women’s bums & a leery, anthropomorphic ‘towel guy’ to advertise a World Cup themed snack

Some sexist adverts are just absurd as well as offensive.

Roz Hardie, Chief Executive Officer at Object

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‘Paul the towel guy’; the brand tying itself to the persona of a lecherous man who sits on the beach, staring at women’s bums.

During the 2014 World Cup there was considerable public concern about sex tourism in Brazil.  ‘Its a penalty’  was one campaign run with the support of the England men’s football team, looking at the specific issue of the sexual abuse of Brazilian children in prostitution.

However, Brazil’s concern’s about sexualisation and exploitation of its citizens did not stop some brands trying to use puns about ‘scoring’ as in goals with references to ‘scoring’ as in sexual conquest.

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T-shirts withdrawn by Adidas after formal complaints by Brazilian Government

Adidas stopped the sale of ‘Looking to score’ T-shirts after a personal intervention by Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff  who asked for sexual stereotypes of Brazilians to be stopped.   The country’s tourism minister said: “any links between national icons and images with sex appeal” were against the country’s official marketing policies. “Such an attitude indirectly contributes to committing crimes such as sexual child and adolescent exploitation.”

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One of the worst UK market offenders was the Unilever Brand Pot Noodle, featuring ‘Paul  the Towel Guy’, an anthropomorphic ‘towel’ sex tourist who leered at partially clad women on Brazilian beaches with slogans like “I like to fork on the beach”  and “life’s a beach and I intend to sit on it.” With a tie in to Zoo magazine helping to promote the brand, the lads mags market were encouraged to engage with the product through meme generators, enabling more explicit messages to be promoted.

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Pot Noodle’s Brazilian BBQ world cup rebrand targeted readers of Lads Mag, Zoo.

In the past the UK Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints about Pot Noodle for sexist advertising  However on this occasion, it was disappointing that Object’s complaint about this world cup campaign was not upheld.

We are using it as one case study for our #NoToSexistAds petition which is taking off on Change, alongside other examples from elsewhere in Europe of women’s body-parts being used to sell products which have nothing to do with women’s bodies.

Fashion or porn?

by Marie-Noëlle Bas, Chiennes de Garde

This is the result of the fashion industry moving towards an aesthetic that relies on the objectification of women. Fashion photography reminds us that the art of covering nudity, without letting it be forgotten, constitutes the height of eroticism; clothing that uncovers, suggests and reveals as much as it hides becomes a seduction tool. It is significant that the most expensive clothes are often those that cover the least, as if the privilege of revealing one’s body in public, while remaining chic, should come at a high price.

The ambiguity between the world of advertising and the world of pornography is increasingly raising questions. In December 2013, the Italian online magazine NSS Mag launched ‘Fashion or porn?’, a disturbing virtual game showing internet users explicit images. One sees close-up images of young women’s faces with expressions that appear to show them close to orgasm, or other naked body parts. The viewer has to guess whether the images are taken from fashion photography or pornography. Easy? The lines between the two worlds are often non-existent; the clichéd images simply have to be taken out of their contexts. The proof lies in this game, which offers no response to the controversy, but still makes viewers think about the omnipresent sexualisation in our society: if we can no longer tell the difference between the two, are fashion and pornography really so different?

We are now used to suggestive and revealing imagery posted at every bus stop, in magazines or on TV ads. Unconsciously, we do not see them as pornographic. The debate on increasing sexualisation is not new; the British fashion expert Caryn Franklyn, for example, talks about the ‘pornification’ of the fashion world. But the ‘porno chic’ trend is raising more and more questions, as we are subjected increasingly to images that barely differ from pornography, and pornified performances from stars like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Ke$ha.

By leaning on pornography references to attract public attention, the worlds of advertising, entertainment and fashion will be forced to go further and further. This is a route that will lead to ever more extreme exhibitionism to satisfy a public whose voyeurism is already well established and developed.