A tech writer writes about a sexist piece of advertising.

‘Play with my V spot’

What does that advertise? A voice-control company. So it’s not what you think! That picture is all about her voice! That finger in her mouth is just a finger! And it’s pointing at her voice. And she does have eyes and a top to her head, but that would be completely irrelevant to the message of the ad, which is about voice-control.

Sex sells, right? And disembodied female body parts coupled with Beavis and  Butt-head-level puns are super-sexy, right?

Guys, this is why we don’t have more women in tech: It’s a cesspool. As long  as we’re passing offensive schlock like this off as marketing for a major  technology conference, we don’t deserve more women in tech.

Voco calls these ads “playful.” Maybe “playful” is in the eye of the  beholder. Maybe the beholder doesn’t think of women’s body parts as playthings.  Maybe that kind of play isn’t in any way related to voice-control technology or  consumer electronics — you know, the kind that aren’t sold at Babeland.

Or maybe they just pitched a journalist who isn’t in the mood to play those  pubescent, sniggering games anymore.

Oh come onnnnnnnnnnnn. Don’t be such a sex-negative bitch.

I think there should be stores that sell nothing but lips. Lips&Labia, they could call it.


  1. Riptide says

    I think metonymy might work even better for that advert, reducing the whole of a woman to either pair of lips.

  2. Martha says

    I always wonder if this even works. If so, why do they not use disembodied male parts to sell stereotypically female items? Yeah, that’s problematic, too, as I’m all for men buying laundry detergent and bathroom cleaning supplies or attending elementary school teacher conferences. But seriously, does anyone think scantily clad guys would help to sell that stuff?

    Oh, right, of course it wouldn’t. Because bad evo-psych studies /snark/

  3. keresthanatos says

    Aurghhhhhhhh!!!!! “pound,pound,pound,pound” oh damn….. broke another desk, fourth one this week, my head hurts. I am ashamed to be homo sapien. No wonder our nearest genetic cousins refuse to speak to us.

  4. lesliegriffiths says

    Thanks for the characterisation of tech as a cesspool. We really appreciate the stereotype.

    Although I somehow doubt that it’s the techies making the decision to use dumb, irrelevant images to sell the products.

  5. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I always wonder if this even works

    It doesn’t, according to the research I’ve seen on the topic. Sex sells itself, not the product. That is, people are very likely to remember what titliated them about the ad, not what the ad was selling.

    So, the every time a dude defends sexist advertisizing with “sex sells!”, I hear “Hur hur boobies! . … what were we talking about?”

  6. says

    What about lesbians?

    What about them? Are you going to defend this sort of shit on the basis it might actually be directed at lesbians and bisexuals? Because of course, lesbians and bisexual women don’t care at all about the douchey sexism this is based on, amirite?


  7. says

    Thanks OB for this post. It’s indeed a real lesson in how the media uses sex provocatively, suggestively and manipulatively to sell its wares. And all from a woman’s perspective. I was recently watching a video concerning subliminal sex used in adverts, and it was a real eye-opener. This is very good practice for Leaving Certificate media studies.

  8. Robert Hansen says

    I didn’t think the picture in itself was so bad, assuming there was some relevant text to go with it… But then I saw the rest of them, and they are about 1 step away from those Evonia adverts. And high-contrast lips at least make sense, in that it’s voice control, but then there’s the legs and the shoes and… Why are they there? And why the hyper-sexy lips? That just draws attention away from the product (look! they are literally EATING the product!)

    This is just horrible, horrible advertising overall, and they should fire whoever they hired to do it.

  9. Yaron says

    I’m sort of amused, and saddened, by how he gets it right, while also getting it really wrong. I mean:

    Guys, this is why we don’t have more women in tech: It’s a cesspool. As long as we’re passing offensive schlock like this off as marketing for a major technology conference, we don’t deserve more women in tech.

    Errr… We actually don’t deserve more women in tech. Having more women in tech is not a special extra bonus for guys in tech.
    It reads almost as if he’s complaining on how sexist the ad is, and then in the same breath saying that as long as us guys in the tech areas keep being so sexist we won’t get the well deserved prize of having more women around.

  10. Yaron says

    Oops, I managed to pay just not enough attention to miss the fact that the writer is a she, not a he. Not quite sure if it doesn’t make it even slightly worse.

    @Illuminata –

    Sex sells itself, not the product. That is, people are very likely to remember what titliated them about the ad, not what the ad was selling.

    The focus of this type of advertising is not to sell the product, it’s to get attention. Pictures of the products themselves, while very relevant, will only attract attention by people with enough interest to invest time and attention at a picture of yet another plastic box, and convert to a sale (or intentional checks about the product) only those who after bothering to read the details will decide they’re interested in a voice activated audio streamer enough. These ads don’t try to improve the rate of the second filter (conversion from the ad to sales or inquiries), but rather to improve the first filter (paying attention and time to this ad over the other gazillion ads for other gadgets).

    The hope/expectation is that even though the relevancy of this first filter is much lower, it will attract more attention at a level that will more than compensate (e.g. [people willing to pay extra attention to sexy women part]*[specific interest in voice activated audio streamers] > [people willing to pay extra attention to gadgets]*[specific interest in voice activated audio streamers] ).

    Which unfortunately might just be true. As long as there aren’t too many ads like this, there are a lot more people (mostly, yes, heterosexual males) who when going over lots of different ads linger with their gaze over those women parts pictures, than people who will give the same time to plastic boxes pictures.

    Though, yes, for this purpose replacing sexy women bits with sexy man bits should be expected to have equivalent effectiveness. But almost nobody does that. It’s not that there isn’t any problem here, there is. But the problem isn’t that they think sex sells while it doesn’t, it’s with the excessive objectification, and the usual and common gender skew when using sex to sale.

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