Advertisements are as much about the feelings they create within their intended audience as about the words or images used. Calvin Klein uses sex, affiliation and domination appeals to sell their brand of fragrances. The success Calvin Klein regularly enjoys versus competitors can be seen as a direct result of their print advertisements.
As Jib Fowle’s essay aptly points out, sex appeal tends to be among the first factors considered in advertisement. Sex is one of the most basic instincts, and companies wisely prey on that instinct in producing advertising campaigns. Calvin Klein ads are notorious for using sex appeal to sell product, and the example being evaluated in this exercise is not an exception. Sex appeal is most dominant in this ad due to the prominence of the male and female models in the ad as a whole.
The models fill the entirety of the page, with images of the actual product for sale shown very minimally and at the bottom. This first example of sex appeal is apparent through the attractiveness of the models use. Both models have extremely clear complexions and luxurious hair and have features traditional viewed as good-looking. The intent of using two attractive models to sell fragrance is to show how desirable a consumer would become to the opposite sex if the product is used. When a product adds to desirability, that can then in turn lead to sex. This ad appeals both to male and female audiences by using models of each sex. The ad is meant to convince both genders of how much the product will enhance their sex appeal.
A secondary instance of sex appeal is also evident in this ad. Beyond the attractive models used, the clothing on the female model is also meant to suggest sex appeal. The use of white fabric on both models can be taken to mean purity, but the female model’s shirt is rather low-cut. This style and the fact that the female model’s arm blocks a view of whether the shirt is in fact open at the chest, screams sex appeal. One of the most common symbols of sex appeal is female breasts, and the hint of that imagery in this Calvin Klein ad adds tremendously to its ability to affect both male and female audiences.
The affect of this sexual imagery on male audiences is obvious: many males would be very interested in seeing the view hidden by the female model’s arm and traditionally shown off by low-cut shirts. The affect of this sexual imagery is less obvious on female audiences. A member of the target female audience would not necessarily be interested in the view offered by a low-cut shirt, but in imagining themselves in that position, appearing that attractive to their male counterpart. Both the sex appeal suggested by the model’s attractiveness and the female model’s low-cut shirt undoubtedly add to the success of this ad in generating interest in Calvin Klein fragrances.
The second most obvious appeal in the Calvin Klein ad is affiliation. The first example of affiliation in the ad is the pairing of the male and female models. Jib Fowles acknowledges that appeals of affiliation are probably used more than any other appeal in advertising. Affiliation appeal is so effective because of the basic human craving for companionship. Companionship is used in this ad in a romantic nature. The pairing of models indicates that if the product is used, companionship will follow.
The fact that the models used are so attractive would indicate that product usage would not only lead to companionship, but desirable companionship. The models are shown entwined in each other’s arms, which indicates not only companionship in the way of having another individual nearby, but companionship in the way of having a partner.
Another instance of appeal through affiliation in the Calvin Klein ad is the pairing of fragrance bottles near the bottom of the ad. The ad would have been effective with only one bottle portrayed to give an example of the product being sold, but it is enhanced by the feeling of affiliation. Like the imagery of the male and female models, the pairing of fragrance bottles indicates to the target audiences that companionship will follow usage.
The wording under the fragrance bottles, “timeless fragrance for men and women” (emphasis added) is a further example of appeal through affiliation. The wording very clearly indicates that the product is meant for both genders, which is, of course, a pairing, or affiliation. It is also interesting to note the opposition of the bottles versus the opposition of the models. The models are showing with the higher head to the left; the bottles are shown with the taller one to the right. This mirroring again would indicate an affiliation.
The third most obvious appeal is through domination. Jib Fowles points out that domination can be seen as a male trait. In that way, domination could be seen as a sexist form of appeal, but it remains a popular way to sell certain products, including Calvin Klein fragrance. Dominance is depicted in this ad in the way that the male model is portrayed higher in the ad than the female model, which would seem to indicate that he is over her.
This ad would clearly appeal to the targeted male audience in that the thought conveyed would be if the product is used, the male would be able to seek out and dominate the female of their choosing. This is a very simplistic and, again, sexist idea, but is still a commonly used appeal in certain types of advertising. The argument could also be made that some women are looking for a man to be in control, and if this fragrance is used, that scenario can come about.
Domination is mirrored in the depiction of the fragrance bottles in the Calvin Klein ad. Interestingly, the way in which the bottles are displayed could be viewed as equalization for male domination in the way the models are shown. This view could be taken because the idea can be advanced that female perfume bottles are often larger than male cologne bottles. In this ad, the large bottle is shown higher than the smaller, so perhaps female domination is indicated. If that is the case, the overall appeal of domination within the ad could possibly be that domination equals out between genders.
Calvin Klein has created a series of fragrance ads that is very recognizable and memorable. The ad evaluated in this exercise continues the company’s legacy of effective advertising through the use of sex, affiliation and domination appeals. Through these appeals, Calvin Klein reaches out effectively to enhance feelings within their intended male and female audiences that advance their ability to increase sales of fragrance through print advertisements.