A friend recently sent around an email filled with “can you believe it” ads from days of yore, including this one:


Cuz you know, nothing says “I love you” like a face full of cheap cigarillo smoke.

You look at this ad, shake your head, chuckle, and say “god can you believe that?”

Yesterday, walking on 23rd street, I saw an ad on the side of a bus stop:


We’ve come a long way baby, haven’t we?  You’ll want to pay special attention to the little white box in the lower left corner, which tells you how to download the app:


I’m not sure what the app is for: is it for the gambling game? for the hotel? or for a woman with the body of an adolescent boy and the boobs of a nursing mother to sprawl belly-up on the screen of your phone?

Of particular notice here is that the woman is so artfully arranged: is that the ankle strap of her shoe, or strap holding her down? After all, we can’t see her other leg or either wrist. She’s just…sprawled there. Are we (and I think the “we” here is the we of the male persuasion, don’t you?) supposed to be throwing dice on her tummy?

Even if I hadn’t just watched a preview from Jean Kilbourne’s latest documentary about images of women in advertising, this ad would make me wince.  This image isn’t in the pages of a magazine like GQ or Esquire or Playboy, where it would still be problematic but at least reserved for the we-of-the-male-persuasion. This ad is plastered all over the city (taxis, busses, phone booths), which means kids see it and once they see it, they can’t un-see it. I don’t want my sons to think that a woman’s body is the equivalent of a downloadable “app” to be played with and then forgotten about; I don’t want them to think that a woman is a toy or that sex is as meaningless as a crapshoot. And I don’t want my niece or the daughters of my friends to grow up thinking these things either–or thinking that this woman’s body represents any sort of attainable or attractive ideal.

Yes, yes, I know, looking at this ad with my kids could be a “teaching moment,” blah blah blah. But it’s the 21st century, folks. Isn’t this sort of advertising straight out of Don Draper’s portfolio?  Why do so many ads still do the equivalent of blowing smoke in our faces and demanding that we follow them?

The only thing this ad got right, really, is the type of table underneath the woman: a craps table for a crap ad.