This blog is titled Participatory Advertising because consumers are taking a more active role in the advertising process as demonstrated by consumer generated advertising (CGA) and myriad opportunities via dedicated web sites and social networking sites to interact directly with brands. Careerbuilder is one company that is “pre-gaming” the Super Bowl with a campaign that asks consumers to view three commercials and vote for the one they like the best, which will appear on the Super Bowl. In this way, the company empowers consumers, allowing them to participate in the construction of meaning and experience. This is a direction that advertising has been following for a short while and one that I have been documenting in my blog. But I also want to point out Careerbuilder commercials that represents a trend that I have been following for several years; that is, commercials that literally depict men in public without their pants.
Careerbuilder is the latest brand to join use this tactic. I wrote an academic paper on this subject in which I deconstructed more than two-dozen commercials that depicted men in public without their pants. I concluded that the tactic was an opportunity to strip men of their masculinity—literally and figuratively—and rebuild them (metaphorically) into the consumers advertisers wish them to be. In my paper I write critically of this approach, which I think serves as an irritant that diminishes masculinity and makes it problematic. When you look at the commercial, I’m certain you’ll think it’s humorous. But if you can get past the humor, consider that commercials like this one are aired several if not many times, and if you consider the number of commercials that utilize this among other emasculating tactics (see the Identity Guard commercial below), perhaps you’ll understand where my criticism comes from.
Oh, and to reinforce the issue check out this American Idol audition. As we begin our course this semester, we will be considering issues regarding the depiction of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality in advertising. The treatment of males is as good a place as any to begin.