Is Race a Factor In Ads?


Brooks states that, “Much of what audiences know and care about is based on images, symbols, and narratives in radio, television, film, music, and other media.” In relation to Brooks, this blog will show how important texts are to people and how these texts convey different messages. African Americans have been living in a world where discrimination has been the way of life since the days of slavery. As far as the 1950’s, African Americans have faced with inequalities, and discrimination in the work force as well as in advertising. The question I propose is: why? Why has it been so hard for Blacks to be equal in advertising? Is it because Blacks pose a threat, is it because no matter how hard African Americans have fought and continue to fight, they will never be an equal of race? How exactly are African Americans discriminated against, or one of the conflicting races in advertisements period? Throughout this blog you will be taken through many advertisements such as beauty ads, public ads, and government ads. Breaking down these images will help to show exactly what is meant by discrimination, or racism in advertisements. Not only will these texts be viewed racially, but they will also be viewed through gender, and by social class as well. Also, what does discrimination mean within text anyway? Creating an image where a specific race is being demoralized, disrespected, targeted or victimized is where racism comes into play. Ads that are made in today’s society strive to portray the American dream, by showing upper, white classed, educated people while sometimes making others the laughingstock.  Further, in the case of advertisements why would they stray from that norm? Is there not more then white social class Americans that happen to be black or colored, that actually fall into the middle class? This blog will be examining what happens when colored Americans are placed in advertisements, and drawing different conclusions about what works for these images and what could have been done better for these images. Breaking down these images will help develop new readings both dominant and oppositional readings. With the help of great credible authors of books, newspapers, and journals I hope to create a cultural narrative that links together texts and helps to clearly explain the meanings of these different texts with a strong analysis.

What is the typical advertisement for a beauty ad in today’s society? If you look at the image above in great detail the first few things that come to mind is White, Rich, Young, and Skinny Americans. Why is this so? For so many years society has held on to the American Dream, which as defined in the introduction middle classes, white Americans. What has just been done is known as a dominant reading, which is the idea of looking directly at any image and noting what can be concluded about it from a viewer’s point of view. We can ask ourselves, what are some things about this text are positive? Many conclusions can be drawn for example, Tom Ford does a great job of grabbing ones attention with the attractive models that are being used, and also this company obviously knows that they are attracting rich white Americans, so for that factor they have seemingly reached that crowd. But, what are some changes that could have been made to help diversify this ad? Well, for starters there could have been some colored models, and maybe a difference in the age range to show that not only young attractive white people shop at Tom Ford. A question that we should draw from advertisements like these is, is this ad discriminating against a race? In this case no, but there are obvious different racial groups that are not being advertised for with companies like Tom Ford. Not only are they hindering their sales, but also they are sending out the message of only White, Rich Americans are worthy of being advertised for.

Moving forward to a more disturbing racial image it is almost impossible to ignore this advertisement. Breaking this image apart you are seeing many black men kneeling at the white mans feet, and this ad has been set in place to sell Intel. Intel products have nothing to do with African American track runners, but more importantly what message are the authors of this image sending out? It is showing that the white man does not consider blacks as an equal and it seems that blacks are always being shown in that manor. Now, you might be asking what does this have to do with discrimination in advertisements?  Taking a look at advertising and consumption, the credible author Jhally claims that, “The marketplace and its major ideological tool, advertising is the major structuring institution on contemporary consumer science.” This means that the public discourse (which can be defined as the modes through which meanings are made) is now being dominated by text and objects. This image is reinforcing the gender and racial conflicts that we continue to hold on to as a society. The image above is objectifying (defined as treating them as an object or thing, to deny them autonomy, to use them as a tool for your own purposes, to make them into a kind of replaceable commodity) African Americans not sexually but by their race. There color has been taken into account in a negative way and the fact that they are bowing down can seemingly show that blacks are submissive, almost like a slave.  This text that has been provided is proving that there still is an issue of racial conflict in various types of advertisements, and there most certainly is room for improvement. As a society we should be moving closer to create a more equaled opportunity place where multiple races, and cultural backgrounds can come to and feel welcomed. Instead we have taken advantage of certain racial groups and exploited them for the sake of a picture, images, and even commercials.

Prada as we all may know is not only known for its outstanding and highly priced clothing, shoes, and purses. It is also an expensive brand that has made a name for it representing wealthy Americans that are typically used to advertise to. After searching for images that promote a race outside of white when dealing with expensive name brand companies this image surfaced. First looking at the image it seems like a beautiful mixed, young, and attractive female; but after intently looking it seems that she is actually black. This comes as a shock because when you pick up a Vogue magazine and flip aimlessly through the pages it is almost impossible to find an advertisement that shows a race outside of white. You may be asking yourself what is wrong with that, and what does it have to do with racial conflict in various types of advertisements? A credible author by the name of Dyer focused on cultural representations of social groupings, and came up with how social groups are treated in cultural representations and the similarity to how these groups get treated in life. The image above does exactly that. After seeing that there is finally a woman of color representing Prada you can closely see that there is gender objectification going on, and this female is performing her gender role. Judith said that, “When we say gender is performed we usually mean that we’ve taken on a role or we’re acting in some way and that our acting or our role playing is crucial to the gender that we are and the gender that we present to the world.” The black female in this case is being viewed as a sexy model, being used to lure in anyone that sees this advertisement. “By objectifying this female in this text it has lured in Male shoppers along with black shoppers. After slavery, though black women were no longer needed to supply offspring for sale, persistent racial and economic segregation required the jezebel image. Perpetuating the myth of black women as hypersexual served to set white women on a pedestal. (Springer).” With that being said it seems that the black shoppers have been able to relate to this model in the picture, by the color of her skin, and the jezebel like pose she is giving. Why is it that when the color of the model changes everything else remains the same in the normative? She is still skinny, of higher class, and young and attractive. This sets the tone for the viewers, as well as the shoppers of Prada, seemingly showing that the only people worthy of buying, or affording Prada is Rich, young, and attractive shoppers. Like many other images that are used in advertising it follows the ideology that only a certain type of group should be buying from this market, by reinforcing the social normative values in the pictures.

The ad that is shown above is the perfect text to critique as a viewer when it comes to dealing with race, or racism or lack thereof when advertising for anything. The first thing that is noticed is an African female sitting on a White upper classed man’s lap, meanwhile her face is painted in a tribal design and it seems like an oversized piercing is hanging out of her lower lip. Not only is this image disrespecting the African culture, but also it is placing an assumption of what society thinks of the lifestyle of Africans. The text that is being analyzed is directly placing idealistic views of the way Africans look, which more than likely is not true for all Africans. This ad is breaking so many racial boundaries in a corrupt way and getting away with it. The stereotype that can be pulled from this text is that African females need the help of white upper classed white men. One thing this image does well is grabs people’s attention, which as disrespectful as it is; it may be what the producers of this image want. Bringing racism to the forefront is showing how it is very much relevant in society today. This ad shows how white privilege in the media marketplace is more powerful than any other race, due to the fact that whites have been privileged over any other race forever. Race and social class is working together in an intersectional way by showing the black African female sitting on an upper class white male, while the male is holding her waste. It seems obvious that the African is of low social class, and the white male looks like the typical middle or upper classed man. The conclusion can be drawn is that maybe this man is helping to donate money toward African foundation, or it could be one big joke that many people don’t get. No matter what the point was of creating this textual image it is not appealing to the Africans that live in Africa, or else where. It is trashing their existence and making their culture out to be a laughing matter, and all for what? At what price is the Marketplace willing to go to in order to make a sell? Now I know your probably wondering what does this image have to do with racial conflict, and discrimination in advertisements? This was the perfect image to incorporate into showing the blatant racial slur that is being created in this text.

What happens when the marketplace tries to incorporate multiple races into an advertisement? It seems almost impossible to combine two or more people of different races to create a successful image used for advertising. Referring to the picture below it is obvious to see that what society has deemed the better women as is white, skinny, young and attractive.  There are several stereotypes that come from this ad, one being that the average white female is skinny, as compared to the average black female being thicker. More stereotypes that can be drawn from this text is that the average white females hair is fine textured and long, while the black females hair is curly and untamed. This image is almost trying to force the opinion on you that African Americans are untamed, and un worthy, and basically White females make for a better woman, and all colored women should aspire to be more White. As you look at the photo from right to left like our eyes naturally do, you see the transformation of a black lady, going to a mixed state, and then ending as a beautiful white lady that is young, skinny, and attractive. There are many things working together in this picture outside of race, like age, weight, and social status. The fact that this ad doesn’t directly show racism, it can be seen as an inferential racism ad because you have to look intently at the add in order to see that by placing one race superior to another that can create inferences of racism. This image definitely shows what the ideological beauty has been set at by society. Along with that this advertisement is urging African Americans to believe in the makeover paradigm which is defined as making people believe that their life is lacking or flawed and that they can be transformed. You can conclude that Hook’s oppositional gaze can be gathered from this picture, meaning that how you look at white women is different than how you view black women. Hook’s gaze is not a bad thing, but when it begins to be used in a negative way poking fun at a certain race like this image it seems to be very hurtful.

The Playlist:

Everything thing I can past was about some sort of ideology of whites being privileged and blacks being needy. Social class was one of the intersections with race in a few of the ads, because basically what was seen was that the whites were upper classed, and the blacks were lowered class by the way the artist presented the images. There was only one image that I found that worked for my playlist that showed an African American on the face of a prestige brand named Prada. That was even hard to find, it is not a typical thing that we see in everyday ads. With this particular ad it broke the mythical norm and showed how you do not have to be white to be portrayed in a positive way. The first artifact that was shown on the blog has more of a Berger view to it, because the women is appealing to men, with the sexiness of her face, lips, eyes, and pose. If she was trying to sell Tom Ford to a female without the possessive gaze of men, then it would be more conservative and informational.  Within these images there is a lot of symbolic annihilation, meaning you can’t be what you don’t see. Breaking that down even further, for example, it is hard to find an ad with black bigger women portrayed in a positive way, so there are seemingly women that fall in that category that feel like they could never be in an ad because it has not been seen yet. After finding these artifacts I have found that there can never be too much reading put into them because media text always has more than one message, and what one person may see someone else may not have and vice versa.  All of the ads that are on my blog are semiotics because they focus more on nonverbal codes rather than verbal codes. The ideologies that have been presented have changed over time but for the most part they are the same, there is still the race factor along with gender and social class that work in an intersectional way to show how white privilege is the main stream thing that is accepted. Connecting all of these images you should have concluded that it does not matter what the point of these advertisements are, it is very easily indicated that race is an issue that we need to deal with in our society.


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Brooks, Dwight E., and Lisa P. Hebert. “Gender, Race, and Media Representation.” The SAGE Handbook of Gender and

       Communication. Ed. Bonnie J. Dow and Julia T. Wood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006. 297-317. Print.

Butler, Judith. “Gender Is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion.” Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of

       “sex” New York: Routledge, 1993. 81-98. Print.

Source: Purdue Online Writing LabWGSS 2230 Citation Guide 4 hooks, bell. “Is Paris Burning?” Black Looks: Race and

       Representation. Boston, MA: South End, 1992. 145-

York: Picador, 2010. 107-24. Print. Springer, Kimberly. “Queering Black Female

Dyer, Richard. “Introduction.” The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation. New York: Routledge, 1993. 1-5. Print.


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Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

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Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

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Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

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