Media Perfume Advert Analysis Essay


Topic 1




Future Research and Limitations



Through content analysis, this study explores perfume advertisements printed in Cosmopolitan and Rebook magazines from the 1970s era. Both of these magazines are crammed with sexual advertisements, most of them perfume ads. Sexual content in perfume advertising is usually shown in the following ways: models showing chests and breasts, open shirts, tight fitting clothing, touching, kissing, and embracing. These scenes of sexual content are often woven into the promises to make the wearer of the perfume more sexually attractive, more likely to engage in some type of sexual behavior, or simply "feel" sexier. Chapter One provides a brief history of both Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines from the 1970s and their targeted audience, discussed sexual appeals used in advertising, the problems of “ideal beauty”, and the specific ways perfume is advertised,and a preview of subsequent chapters. This study uses content analysis and the perspective of the cultivation theory to examine how women are represented in perfume advertisements published in Redbook and Cosmopolitan from 1970 – 1974 and how the advertisements in both magazines differ from one another.


Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines are being studied based on their demographic reach across the United States. By 1976, Cosmopolitan circulated 2.515 million copies monthly; while Rebook’s readership reached 5 million per year in the 1970s. The target audiences for both magazines were women ages 20 to 30 years old. It is important to study the advertisements of this time period within the historical context in which they occurred. Examining these two magazines gives insight as to what it was like to be a young woman during this era.

This thesis argues that perfume advertisements influence opinions and behaviors of the women who read them and society as a whole. Although magazines are only one type of advertising vehicle that can be examined from that time period, they are important to examine, because so much of their content comes from advertising. “Advertising occupies almost 60% of newspaper space, 52% of magazine pages, 18% of radio time, and 17% of television prime time” (Collins &Skover, 1993, pp. 698). According to McCracken (2003), women’s magazines are a perfect way to advertise because, “Advertising occupies up to 95% of the space in some women’s magazines, earning these publications the more appropriate title, ‘women’s advertising magazines’”(pp. 4). Vaughan (2003) suggests that people are more emotionally invested in the content of their magazines, which gives one more reason why magazines are an important medium to study. Redbook and Cosmopolitan issues from the 1970s were chosen because the perfume advertisements in this era constructed images of what being female meant.

The 1970s were alive with feminism, which was reborn in the 1960s as women sought to liberate themselves from society’s traditional roles of being a wife and mother. Women's liberation was a powerful movement, but the second wave of feminism crashed with the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. “Social historian Ruth Rosen notes that it was the year 1979, when media pundits declared – with a collective sigh of relief – that the women’s movement was dead, and it was 1976 when the first blatantly dissonant magazine advertisement found its way into an issue of Cosmopolitan” (Crymble, 2009, pp. 74). By studying perfume advertisements in these two magazines we are able to see the “blatantly dissonant” advertisement mentioned above that was alive in the 1970s.


Cosmopolitan, or Cosmo, is a monthly magazine for young women, with 50 international editions that feature short fiction and advice articles on relationships, sex, fashion, entertainment, and careers. Schlicht& Field Company founded Cosmopolitan magazine in 1886 as a “family journal of fashion, household décor, cooking, and other domestic interests” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011). Two years later the Schlicht& Field’s company filed for bankruptcy and sold the magazine to Joseph Newton Hallock who added book reviews to the magazine. In 1889 John Brisben Walker took over the magazine and expanded circulation from 20,000 to 400,000 making it “a popular literary magazine featuring poetry, travel essays and short stories” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011). William Randolph Hearst bought out the magazine in 1905 and shortly after, it adopted a format containing short fiction, celebrities and public affairs articles. By 1940, Cosmopolitan’s circulation reached 2 million readers.

In 1965 Helen Gurley Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl, became Cosmopolitan’s first female editor and gave the magazine a drastic makeover for the changing times. At a time when Reader's Digest and The Ladies Home Journal still insisted that a "nice" girl had only two choices, "she can marry him or she can say no," Brown openly proclaimed that sex was an important part of a single woman's life. According to Brown, "The single girl is the new glamour girl."The magazine’s new motto became, “fun, fearless, female,” and covered topics from birth control, independence, premarital sex, and corporate careers. Brown (2000) admitted, "I like skin, I like pretty. I don't want to photograph the girl next door” (pp. 16).

The 1969 demographics showed the following characteristics of Cosmopolitan readers: two of every six women readers were younger than twenty-four and three of every six were ages twenty-five to forty-four; six of nine were married and two of nine had never married; one of eight was a manager or professional person and three of eight were “pink-collar” employees, while another three of eight did not work outside the home; one of eight earned a median income of $5,050 and five of eight earned above the median; three of eight attended or graduated college; and two of three lived in cities or suburbs. During the 1960’s, the number of women employed outside the house increased by 45% or 11 million workers. Most women were first-generation office workers and first generation collegians. Many possibly were insecure about themselves because they were unfamiliar with workplace etiquette and behavior. Cosmopolitan perhaps assisted many young women in navigating a world their mothers had not known.

At the start of the 1970s women made up 2% of engineers, 4% of architects, 5% of lawyers, 13% of scientists, and 26% of accountants (Landers, 2010).Full time employment for women ages 20 to 34 in the early 1970s was 15.1 million. The median income for women in 1969 was $5,100 and $8,900 for men. The magazine, like its editor, was filled with advice on how to move ahead in a career, meet men, lose weight, and be a good sexual partner.

In the April 1972 issue, Cosmopolitan ran a near-nude centerfold of actor Burt Reynolds that created great controversy, propelling Cosmopolitan to the forefront of American popular culture at the time. Advertising expanded the magazine in the early 1970s to between 328 to 352 pages per issue. At one point so many advertisers wanted to buy advertisements in Cosmopolitan that Hearst executives had to set a strict limit of 200 advertising pages per issue to be able to print the magazine. Cosmopolitan became 55% advertising pages. “The preponderance of ads did not bother readers, who continued to buy an extremely high percentage of copies placed on store shelves and checkout counters” (Landers, 2010, pp. 282). To put this in perspective, Cosmopolitan carried twice the number of ad pages published in Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s or Redbook. Cosmopolitan circulated 2.515 million copies monthly by 1976, an average annual gain of 209,000 copies after the Burt Reynolds centerfold had brought the magazine notoriety. Data from a readership survey conducted for the Hearst Corporation in 1969 and 1983 indicated that Cosmopolitan attracted all sorts of women readers, although proportional representations were sometimes surprising. Helen Gurley Brown’s vision is still being carried through the current issues of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Cosmopolitan is the world's number-one magazine for young women, 61 editions are published in over 100 countries, reaching 78 million readers worldwide - nobody talks to more women globally. Cosmopolitan evokes glamour and aspiration. The editorial philosophy is built on the cornerstones of fashion, beauty, body, sex and relationships making Cosmopolitan a complete lifestyle experience. (The Loop)

Cosmopolitan acknowledges itself, “We don’t just sell magazines, we sell desire and aspiration…speaking one voice – a voice that is worldly, adventurous and of course sexy.” Cosmopolitan also comments on the importance of advertising the magazine, “Our readers don’t flick through Cosmopolitan they devour it, advertisements and all” (ACP Media, 2011). Cosmopolitan readers see the advertisements as a vital part of the whole magazine and they consume every printed part. “We speak in a really authentic voice to women,” Kate White editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan in 2005 said on The Early Show, “We don’t try to be their sister or the authority. We’re like that smart, fun, girlfriend who is going to tell you like it is. I think women really crave empowerment, someone that says to them: ‘Yeah, go for it, baby!’”


Red Book Magazine began in May of 1903 as The Red Book Illustrated by a group of Chicago retail firms of Stumer, Rosenthal, and Eckstein. Red Book was considered the “baby sister of the ‘Seven Sisters’ women’s service magazines,” but exemplified how consumer magazines constantly redefined themselves to maintain their place on the newsstand (Endres, 1995). The first editor, Trumbull White, left Red Book in 1906, and Karl Edwin Harriman took over until 1912. He incorporated several ideas from Red Book’s sister publications the Blue Book and the Green Book, such as increasing the short stories per issue, adding non-fiction pieces, and printing a full novel in monthly sections and Red Book became known as “The Great Ten Penny Short Story Magazine” (Endres,1995, pp. 298). The magazine’s name symbolizes the theme conveyed from the pages; best stated by the first editor Trumbull White, “Red is the color of cheerfulness, of brightness, of gayety” (Endres,1995, pp. 298). The magazine’s name was later changed to the Redbook, and it soon became famous for publishing short fiction and monthly novels by influential writers such as Jack London and Sinclair Lewis, at this time, various advertisements for cosmetics and skin care attracted a vast audience of women.

With the rise of travel and radio in the 1920s, Redbook tried to appeal to every member of the family, for if the whole family read the magazine the publishers felt it could survive on the newsstand.This tactic of appealing to a wide age range to both genders made Redbook a success. Within the first two years of this method,the magazine established a circulation of approximately 300,000 issues (Endres,pp. 298).

Although Redbook was perceived as a family magazine, many of the authors were women. Throughout the 1920s, front covers of the magazine always depicted an elegant young woman in front of a red background. During Harriman’s period as editor, the magazine claimed to be the “Largest Illustrated Fiction Magazine in the World” and described the advertising section as the “Great Shopping Window of America,” which captured the eyes of many consumers who considered Redbook to be a wholesome and family oriented magazine (Endres, 1995, pp. 298).

The magazine’s format changed from editor to editor in order to maintain its prominent position in both the consumer’s household and within print culture. After being bought by the McCall Corporation in the summer of 1929, the flapper and her male counterpart the flipper were considered the new audience of Redbook and the fiction and entertainment pieces became the main attraction to the consumer (Endres, 1995, pp. 300). During this time Redbook featured non-fiction pieces by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Booth Tarkington, Gertrude Temple, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. allowing the new editor, Edwin Balmer, to entice a younger generation of readers and still portray Redbook as a general interest magazine (Endres, 1995, pp. 300). Part of Redbook’s success is due to the fact that it was never a leader of women’s magazines, but always a steady competitor. The fiction and non-fiction pieces continued to be printed along with the monthly book chapters, yet with the rise of television, Redbook quickly began to lose circulation and advertisements.

In 1949, Wade Hampton Nichols replaced Balmer as the editor and altered Redbook so that it would survive the changing times. He decided that the post-World War II key demographic was the youth, so he added the subtitle “The Magazine for Young Adults” to the front cover (Endres, 1995, pp. 301). Redbook now addressed more political issues while maintaining the entertainment and celebrity portions of the magazine. The young adult demographic was viewed to be more open-minded and educated and Nichols thought this new demographic would enjoy reading stories about pollution and political movements in other countries. In the 1960s Robert Stein became the editor of the magazineand he continued striving to attract a younger female audience. In 1965, Sey Chassler took over the publication and dramatically increased the readership from two million to over five million during his stay. During this time Rebook’s target audience were women ranging from 20 to 30 years old. Chassler’s New York Times obituary said, “A strong advocate for women’s rights, Mr. Chassler started an unusual effort in 1976 that led to the simultaneous publication of articles about the proposed equal rights amendments in thirty-six women’s magazines.” From this point on, Redbook would quickly evolve into strictly a women’s magazine both through its marketing and its advertisements.

Redbook was now a forum for women to discuss topics on women’s rights, sexual harassment, and the rise of the workingwoman. According to Zuckerman (1995), “In 1970 the magazine shifted from targeting young married women to zeroing in on the female half of the couple, in her role as mother . . . during these years Redbook was considered the most intellectual of the Seven Sisters” (pp.178). The articles found throughout the pages of Redbook during the 1970s include mothering methods, sex life after marriage, how to discipline children, and how to maintain a social life. The magazine was no longer the once literary-focused Redbook, which was a definite sign of the consumer’s wants. After Chassler’s retirement, the first female editor Anne Mollegen Smith was appointed to Redbook in 1984. She introduced the version of Redbook that is most similar to the present day publication. Smith implemented short novellas, celebrity interviews, and stories on topics like dating and sex (Endres, 1995, pp. 305).

Redbook is one of the few surviving publications of the 1920s and is still a prominent women’s magazine in today’s culture. Non-fiction articles explore social issues, parenting, sex, marriage, money, health, and psychology relating to women. For nearly 100 years, Redbook has been providing young women with timely and relevant advice for its readership of active working mothers ages 25 to 44.

Statement of the Research Problem

In the year 1976, Cosmopolitan circulated 2.515 million copies monthly; while Redbook circulated over 5 million copies each year in the 1970s. Most of the readers for these magazines were women aged between 20 to 30 years old. In the year 2011, Cosmopolitan’s circulation increased by 10 percent as compared to the circulation of the 1970s, while that of Redbook increased by 8 percent. This means the readership of these magazines has been increasing over the years and the content there in reaching a wider population as compared to the 1970s. This is good news to marketers and manufacturers who advertise their products in the magazines since information concerning the products they manufacture can reach a wider market as compared to the 1970s. This research study aims at analyzing the perfume advertisements in the two magazines between the years 1970 and 1974. As mentioned above, perfume advertisements are usually sexualized and explicit. With the increased circulation of these magazines, such adverts are likely to reach a wider population and thus negatively affect the target audience. The discussion below further explains the relevance of carry out this study and its significance and effects on Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazine readers.

Sexual Appeals in Advertising

The use of sexual appeals in advertisements has been used as far back as the 1800s. This has been a tool used by advertisers to entice, shock, and sell their products to consumers (Reichert, 2003). This tactic seems to be effective, because the perfume advertisements that were found in women’s magazines used for this study were flooded with sexual imagery. Magazines are an important medium to study, because they are read by a variety of women and they have the ability to capture their audience for an extended period of interrupted time. “Women’s magazines are a sphere of activity that readers view as an area of freedom, free choice, and free time,” (McCracken, 1993, pp. 72). It is important to analyze advertisements through a feminist perspective because women are the intended recipients of these messages.

Kang (1997) conducted a study that focused on gender behavior in advertisements and determined which behaviors were shown the most in magazine advertisements in 1979 and then again in 1991. He found that “Advertisements have consistently confined women to traditional mother-home, or beauty/sex-oriented roles that are not representative of women’s diversity” (Kang, 1997, pp. 11). Kang’s research found that: (a) women were rarely shown in working roles especially in high-level positions, (b) were shown as dependent on men’s protection, (c) were rarely far from home by themselves or with other women and, (d) men regarded women as sex objects. In Kang’s research women were most often shown in ads for drugs, home appliances, cleaning products, beauty products, clothing, food products, and fragrances.

Kang’s research holds true according to Busby and Leichty (1993) who found women are being portrayed as sex objects in advertisements. “From the 1950s through the 1980s researchers have found a lessening of advertising images showing women in the home or in family settings… but an increase over time in the number of women shown in purely decorative or alluring roles in the ads,” (pp. 250). Of these advertisement images, perfume is responsible for some of the most alluring or sexual roles. “The fragrance product category was found to be the most sexual overall. Fragrance advertisements relied heavily on the use of ‘promise’ – a tool commonly used by advertisers to promote an idealized lifestyle” (Pawlowski, 2007, pp. 104).Women are told over and over again that certain products will increase their chances of having their idealized lifestyle. “The notions of sex and sexiness are used to push and promote much valued cultural ideals and norms. Love, romance, intimacy, relationships, togetherness, and success are just some of the values that are expressed time and again though the use of sex in advertising” (Pawlowski, 2007, pp. 182). A study done by Reichert and Alaro (2001) found that participants who watched a fragrance commercial, which featured a high level of sex appeal throughout, were more engaged than in a non-sexual one they had seen prior. Reicher and Alaro found that participants who viewed the sexual ad also had positive thoughts about the ad and had a greater recall of what the ad was about immediately after viewing it and 2 months later, than the viewers of the non-sexual ad. This experience fuels the notion that sex sells. The promise of sex, love, and intimacy is reflected within the pages of magazine advertisements as well as the promise of ideal beauty.

Ideal Beauty

Women are under an extreme amount of pressure to embody “ideal beauty” because they learn very quickly that social opportunities are affected by how beautiful they are. Because of this, their sense of beauty becomes very important to young women’s identities. Research shows that exposure to images of thin, young, airbrushed female bodies is linked to low self-esteem, depression, and the development of unhealthy eating habits in women (Media Awareness). In 2007, the American Psychological Association released a report concluding that girls exposed to sexualized images from a young age are more prone to depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. Consumers spend large amounts of money on the latest clothing, makeup, plastic surgery, and accessories that can help them reach the level of “ideal beauty” they see in media messages on a daily basis. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), more than eleven million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed in 2007 and just under $13.2 billion were spent on these procedures.

Advertisements repeatedly tell women that what is most important is how they look. They surround us with the image of “ideal beauty”, but this flawlessness cannot be achieved. This look has been created through airbrushing, cosmetics, and computer retouching (Killing Us Softly, Jean Kilbourne). According to Wood (1999), “to be feminine in the United States is to be attractive, deferential, unaggressive, emotional, nurturing, and concerned with people and relationships” (Frith, K., Shaw, P., & Hong Cheng. 2005). Advertisers know this and use this information to manipulate women to invest large amounts of money on superficial objects to feel attractive.

Sexualized advertisements are most likely to be shown in women and men’s magazines compared to general interest magazines. Advertisements in men’s magazines portray women in a more sexualized fashion, although women’s magazines show both men and women in a highly sexualized manner. Women are highly sexualized in men’s magazines with a shocking number of women appearing partially clad or nude. However, a study involving leading U.S. magazines, Cosmopolitan and Glamour, found that images of undressed men increased from 3% in the 1950s to 35% in the 1990s, which suggests that men are also becoming victims of being overly sexualized in magazine advertisements (Tiggemann, M. & McGill, B., 2004).

There are a mixed variety of the types of advertisements that appear in women’s magazines. “Many magazine advertisements portray a body part only, for instance, a pair of women’s legs to advertise shoes, or a flat stomach to advertise breakfast cereal” (Hall & Crum, 1994, p. 329). Hall and Crum (1994) refer to images solely of a part of the body as “body-isms” (pp.329). The widespread use of female body-isms in the media offers a representation of women as fragmented parts and devoid of personality (Tiggemann& McGill, 2004). Perfume advertisements often feature isolated images of the female body, which only contributes to the misrepresentation of women (Gales, J. &Rajagopal, I., 3333).

Perfume Advertisements

One thing is certain: fragrance marketers play to people's fantasies. Sexual content in perfume advertising is shown in the usual ways: as models showing skin and breasts, open shirts, tight-fitting clothing and as flirtations involving touching, kissing, and embracing. This sexual content is often woven into the explicit and implicit sexual promises. (Reichert, 2003). A study in 1970 conducted by marketing analyst Suzanne Grayson revealed that sex was the central positioning strategy for 49 percent of the fragrances on the market. The second highest positioning strategy was outdoor/sports at 14 percent. According to Richard Roth, an account executive for Prince Matchabelli, "Fragrance will always be sold with a desirability motif” (Reichert, 2003). In Grayson's analysis, sexual themes ranged from raw sex, to romance with the fragrance positioned as an aphrodisiac -an “aromatic potion” that conjured intimate feelings or activated behavioral expression of those feelings.

Even when advertisements do not directly present manifest social life, they reflect viewers’ anxieties, daydreams, desires, sense of whimsy or nostalgia, and especially longings to be a certain kind of person. Image advertising for instance, fabricates user images, that is, images of the kind of person who uses a product…Thus advertisements are peopled by Marlboro’s macho loner, Chanel No 5’s sensualists, or basketball stars who can ‘sky.’ Still other advertisements parade women who allow Vanderbilt perfume to “release the splendor” of themselves, or announce that they are, variously, Charlie, Scamp, or “Shalimar, all over,” or have a place among Revlon’s “most unforgettable women in the world (Hirota, J &Jackall, R., pp. 103).

Perfume advertisements create a sensual mood, which are essential in fragrance advertising. "A fragrance doesn't do anything. It doesn't stop wetness. It doesn't unclog your drain. To create a fantasy for the consumer is what fragrance is all about. And sex and romance are a big part of where people's fantasies tend to run," confessed Robert Green, vice president of advertising for Calvin Klein Cosmetics, to the New York Times (Reichert, 2003).

Chanel No. 5 has been one of the most top-selling perfumes since its release on May 5, 1921. The package by French designer Coco Chanel's has remained unchanged since she first tested the fragrance in the vial labeled "Chanel No. 5." The company’s subtle advertising approach was a wise strategy considering that the target audience was older women: "Our advertising is sexy, but never sleazy. If anything, we tend to pull back, rather than go too far, which is opposite of the rest of the business," remarked Lyle Saunders, a Chanel executive, to Adweek.

Jovan, Inc. was a prominent player in advertising within the fragrance industry in the 1970’s. Their advertisements used blatant sex appeals for their line of musk-oil-based colognes and perfumes. Headlines on the advertising copy read, "Sex Appeal. Now you don't have to be born with it," and "Drop for drop, Jovan Musk Oil has brought more men and women together than any other fragrance in history." The company’s musk scent was marketed as a synthetic version of animal pheromones. They claimed the scent would increase sexual attraction and increase their odds for sexual encounters. Many of the Jovan advertisements would allude to the fact that people were having sex often and if the reader wasn't satisfied in their sex life, the perfume could help. In 1975, The Fragrance Foundation voted Jovan's Musk Oil advertising campaign the "most exciting and creative national advertisement campaign" (Reichert, 2003). Until Jovan's brazen advertising campaign, perfume ads had been subtle about the seductive powers of their perfumes. According to an Advertising Age writer, "Perhaps it is because the company's blatant claims about enhancing the sensual characteristics of a woman's basic animal instincts exploit what the more decorous fragrance marketers have only been hinting at for years.”

In order to study the dynamics of perfume advertisements from the 1970s, the researcher used the method of qualitative content analysis. First, the researcher examined all the perfume advertisements that appeared in Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines from 1970 to 1974. Some advertisements were shown in numerous issues of each magazine, but were only analyzed based on content not the amount of times each ad was in a particular magazine. By comparing variables, the researcher was able to analyze the trends of these perfume advertisements during the 1970s era. The results from this study suggest that advertisements were similar in both magazines although not all the same advertisements where shown in both magazines; there is quantitative and qualitative evidence that shows advertisers did not market differently to each magazines’ demographic, but rather had the same type of advertisements present in both Cosmopolitan and Redbook issues.

Assumptions of the Study

In order for the researcher to attain the main aim of this study effectively, a hypothesis had to be established in order to guide the researcher. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation or assumption made based on limited facts as a preliminary point for further examination. The author had the following assumptions based on the title of this study.

v Most perfume advertisements placed in magazines are overly sexualized.

v Women are the most targeted in sexual content advertising.

v Women are mainly represented as sex tools in advertisements playing minor roles.

v There is no major difference between advertisements portrayed in Cosmopolitan and Redbook

There was a necessity of developing hypotheses for this research because they provide direction of the research study by bridging the gap between the research problem and the evidence needed for its solution. The four hypotheses developed by the researcher will ensure collection of the evidence necessary to answer the two research questions under study. The hypotheses form a framework for the conclusions as solutions. The researcher will base her conclusion on the results of the tests of the developed hypotheses. The hypotheses developed by the researcher will also enable the assessment of the information collected by the coders to be relevant and organized for better analysis. The hypotheses enable the researcher to understand the research problem with greater clarity and use the data collected to find solutions to the problems.

Research Questions

Prior to gathering and analyzing the advertisements, the researcher formulated the following research questions.

-RQ1: How are women represented in perfume advertisements published in Redbook and Cosmopolitan from 1970 – 1974?
-RQ2: How do the advertisements for perfume in Cosmopolitan and Redbook differ?

These research questions acted as guidelines in obtaining relevant information concerning the title of the research study.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to discover new knowledge in the advertising industry and its current trends. The researcher aimed at discoursing new facts in the advertisement industry, particularly advertisements posted in the Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines. The other purpose of this study was to enable explanation and understanding of phenomena in the advertisement industry. By so doing, the researcher will be in a position to predict future occurrences and development of theories in advertisement such as the Cultivation Theory.

Significance of the Study

The study under the title “Ads in 1970s fashion magazines quantitative analysis” will be of significance to various interested groups and individuals. The significance of this study has been analyzed below.

Significance to the Author

Through this study, the author will be able to answer the research questions that triggered carrying out of this study based on this title. The researcher will be in a position to establish how women are represented in perfume advertisements published in Redbook and Cosmopolitan from 1970 – 1974. The researcher will also be able to know how the advertisements for perfume in Cosmopolitan and Redbook differ.

Significance to Cosmopolitan and Redbook Readers

The Cosmopolitan and Redbook who are mainly women will be able to obtain information concerning the advertisements that are placed in this magazines and be in a position to make sound judgments.


Data was collected by a method of content analysis using the images and copy as the unit of analysis. Advertisements from both Redbook and Cosmopolitan magazines were retrieved from the Cornette Library. Exactly one hundred eighty-seven advertisements targeted towards women from 1970 through 1974 that appeared in Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines were examined. When the advertisements were collected, each ad was examined sentence-by-sentence, image-by-image and a specific set of data was coded. Questions that were used in the coding process included: How is the relationship between men and women portrayed, what are the power relationships between men and women, how are the male and female roles defined and how do the characters in perfume advertisements embody these traits?

Structure of the Study

The research study consists of five chapters, which are presented in the sequence shown in the figure below.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Chapter one introduces the title of the study by giving the background of perfume advertisements in women magazines. This chapter also outlines the main significance of this study and reasons for carrying out this research. The objectives of the study, research questions that guided the researcher and the assumptions that the researcher had when carrying out this study are also outlined in this section.

Chapter Two includes the review of the literature, which summarized relevant research. It explains and reviews the history of sexual advertising and how it pertains to perfume advertisements, how advertising works and the culture of the 1970s.

Chapter Three discusses the methodology used and explains the detailed coding charts that were developed and used. This chapter also explains the qualitative content analysis methodology used to interpret this study.

Chapter Four investigates and explains the results of the qualitative content analysis and themes that emerged when three different individuals coding is analyzed.

Chapter Five discusses the limitations, results and implications of this study in regards to how women were represented in perfume advertisements in the 1970s.


The first chapter mainly entails introduction to the title of this research study. This research study aimed at analyzing perfume advertisements in the 1970 to 1974 releases of the Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines. This chapter provides a brief history of both Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines from the 1970s. Chapter one of this study also demonstrate the targeted audience of this magazines, discusses sexual appeal used in advertising, the problems of “ideal beauty”, and the specific ways perfume is advertised . The Cosmopolitan and Redbook magazines targets women aged between 20 to 30 years. The Cosmopolitan circulated 2.515 million copies monthly by the year1976. On the other hand, Rebook’s readership reached 5 million per year in the 1970s. Advertising in magazines that have such readership is important for marketers. According to Collins & Skover (1993), Advertising occupies almost 52 percent of magazine pages. Chapter one analyses the reasons why marketers use sexual appeal to promote their products, in this case, perfumes.


The advertisement of Kylie Minogue’s fragrance for men, Inverse (Study Guide), is a good example of the fluidity of gender roles in today’s society. Atypically the ad portrays the man as a sexual object, while the woman (Minogue) is portrayed as the dominant figure without being overly sexualised. This dominance is portrayed through her confident body language and the way she embraces the nude male figure while herself being fully dressed. It is also enhanced by her recognisability as a brand. The figures in the ad project wealth, success and power – desirable qualities for the consumer, which is one of the most common tools in advertising. However, the ad also challenges the traditional values and stereotypes associated with gender and the relationship between men and women. It plays on how masculinity and femininity are seen today and portrays gender as multifaceted.

In the advertisement there are three figures set against a black background: an undressed man (wearing nothing but underpants), the famous female pop singer Kylie Minogue and a man dressed in a formal suit. Because of the difference in the way that the men have been photographed, the audience may not immediately realise that this is, in fact, one model; Andrés Velencoso Segura, Minogue’s boyfriend. The name of the scent “Inverse” is superimposed over the three figures, unifying the picture. Two perfume bottles are shown in the right bottom corner. Again, this is actually one bottle shown from the front and from the back. There is a caption just above it.

The undressed man in the ad is depicted in a very sensual way, flaunting his physique, which conotes sexuality. His eyes are closed, lips slightly apart. This shows he is relaxed, but also references sexual ecstasy. Because he is not making eye contact with the audience, he becomes objectified. More commonly we would see women depicted in this way, being presented as sexual objects.   The model has a muscular body, but because his muscles are relaxed, this portrayal of him is definitely signifying eroticism, rather than physical power, which would have been a more common representation of masculinity in the media (O’Shaughnessy, p. 374). The male model is leaning back against Kylie, his head reclined on hers. This pose is submissive, but also shows a tenderness – a side of masculinity that is traditionally not explored much.

In contrast, the dressed man is looking straight at the camera, his expression serious, determined, in control. The formal suit he is wearing is an indication of work/business, therefore success and power. This is a more typical representation of men in media. However, it can be derived that the man is metrosexual — well-groomed, his image and physical appearance are very important to him. The tie is done up quite loosely and the hairstyle appears youthful and a little messy/careless, although it is clear that it has taken a lot of effort to achieve this look. His head is also reclined onto Kylie’s, creating symmetry in the photograph. It also signifies their relationship, but not as intimately as with his semi-nude double.

The ad uses this technique to show two contrasting sides of one man and two sides of his lifestyle: formal and intimate. The men are metaphorically linked to the perfume bottle in the right bottom corner. The label on the bottle is white from the front and dark from the back, mirroring the light body of the undressed man and the black suite of the dressed one. The caption, “Two facets, one scent”, anchors this concept of duality of one. The connotations that the advertisers want to achieve is that the scent is appropriate for day and night, for work and for the bedroom, for men that are diverse.

Kylie Minogue is at the centre of the advertisement, between the two men. In this case, she becomes the brand (like Diesel or Hugo Boss), her face is the logo, the recognisable sign. Minogue is often referred to as “Pop Princess” and associated with success, wealth, feminine beauty, glamour. It is quite unusual for female celebrities to produce men’s fragrances (Born P, 2009). However, it is important to note that Kylie Minogue is considered to be a “Gay Icon”. This means she has a large fan-base of homosexual men who appreciate her music, her style and look up to her as a role model. Also some women prefer men’s fragrances, which suggests a blending of gender roles and also the fact that Minogue’s target market is quite wide and diverse.

The way Kylie is portrayed in this ad is interesting. Her body is concealed and all we can see is her arms in the long mesh sleeves and her face, therefore the image of her is not physically sexual. Her arms are wrapped around the undressed man in a gesture of affection, but also possession. It is like she has control and ownership of him at this moment. She is looking at the camera in a flirtatious and confident way. Her expression shows that she is enjoying the intimacy she has with this man and is confident about her sexuality. It almost looks like she is teasing the audience: “I have this gorgeous man to do with as I please, but buy my perfume and you will too.” This enforces the idea that the ad may be aimed at gay men. Kylie is positioned a little behind the men, as if to suggest that they, not her, are the main subject of the advertisement. Her position can also denote that she is literally the creator “behind” the product.

The text is rather polysemous. From his relationship with Kylie, it can be concluded that Andrés is heterosexual. Therefore, one connotation can be that the ad is trying to sell the product by selling the concept of a heterosexual relationship with a beautiful, successful woman like Kylie. However, this is arguable, because it is not her that is presented as a sexual object, but Andrés, which is doubtfully attractive to heterosexual men. A gay man, or a female, however, could see him as a “prize” that comes with buying the fragrance.

Also the male-female interaction in this ad differs from the way heterosexual relationships are traditionally presented in the media. It is unusual that there are three characters in the photo, rather than two, which would be standard (O’Shaughnessy, p. 375). The dressed man reasserts some of the more traditional characteristics of masculinity (he’s formal, serious and confident), but creates questions about the nature of this relationship. Although the two men are actually the same person there is potentially a subtle element of homoeroticism in the ad. The nude man’s left arm is extended back, away from his body, with Minogue’s arm overlapping it. However, we can see that they are not holding hands. His hand is presumably where the dressed man’s hand would be, had it been visible to the audience.

A dictionary meaning of the word inverse is “Reversed in order, nature, or effect.” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The). This, as the name of the fragrance, also reinforces the idea that gender roles in this ad are reversed from traditional norms. It is also important to consider the context, as the advertisement was retrieved from a women’s lifestyle website, where it would most likely be seen by women (and perhaps gay men). Part of the appeal of the ad to the female viewer is the power and success Minogue is associated with.

Overall the Inverse advertisement challenges a few patriarchal stereotypes about gender roles and representations, showing that media in the western world (at least in individual cases) has come a long way from traditional patriarchy and misogyny and reflects the more fluid attitudes towards gender and sexuality (O’Shaughnessy, p. 393). The ad challenges homophobia in that the straight, metrosexual male model is being portrayed in a way that could be attractive for gay men. Although homosexuality is a subtle theme in this ad, the fact that gay men are identified as a distinct market in its own right is a relatively recent phenomenon. The ad also challenges male dominance; by making Kylie the most dominant character in the ad through the way she has been presented in the photo (not as a sex symbol), and also through the denotation of her being more famous, wealthy and successful than Andrés. This type of representation would not have been acceptable without the success of feminism and gay rights movements.

However, this ad may inadvertently reflect the “crisis of masculinity” ideology (O’Shaughnessy, p. 372), portraying a man as a sexual object and in terms of his physical attractiveness rather than the stereotypical masculinity traits like strength and dominance. Unfortunately there are negative connotations associated with men assuming more feminine traits. For example, Andrés is dismissively labelled as “[Kylie’s] latest squeeze,” in the press release ( as it is not fully accepted in society for a man to be less successful than his woman.

While this advertisement, like many others, is selling the image of success it also plays on the shifting perceptions of gender in society. The ad explores two different aspects of what it means to be a modern man by juxtaposing to images of the same male model. While one representation, the man in the suit is familiarly masculine, the other is portrayed as a sexual object – which is usually associated with portrayals of females. The woman, on the other hand is not sexualised, yet in control. She appears to be taking pleasure in the intimate closeness with the nude male figure – suggesting her confidence about her sexuality. The advertisement could therefore appeal to women, who would feel empowered, and men (gay and straight) who could relate to either or both of the male representations. The portrayal of sexes in this ad is aimed at an audience in “processes of exploration and development” of gender roles and identities (O’Shaughnessy, p. 393), who are prepared to challenge traditional conventions.


American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The, Fourth Edition. (Updated in 2009). Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from

Born P. and Naughton J. (2009, July 17) Kylie Minogue to Launch Inverse for Men Fragrance [Press Release]. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from

O’Shaughnessy, M. and Stadler J. (2012) Media and Society, 5th Edition. Oxford   University Press Australia Higher Education., Him Editor (2009, August 10) Kylie launches men’s fragrance [Press Release]. Retrieved March 29, 2013 from

Study Guide. (2013). Study Guide for Introduction to Media Studies. Massey University, College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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