Personal Blog & Portfolio of John Ashley "Ash" Genete

Pinoy Hunkvertising: The Sexualization of Filipino Men in Philippine Advertising

Men are being sexualized too. This article explores hunkvertising to determine how Filipino men are being sexualized in the local advertising scene. It also provides a brief critique on the practice of sexually objectifying men in Philippine advertisements.

Download or read the PDF version here.

Introduction

Everyone has heard the side of women on sexualization in mass media, but only few have voiced out for men. Sexualization does not affect women or children alone. Men are victims too.

Often, sexualization is associated with sexual objectification wherein subjects are not viewed as individuals with complex personalities but as de-personalized objects of desire (Lovenberg, 2013). According to a survey, mass media sexualize men by showing how proud the male subject is over his body (Lovenberg, 2013). Although performed differently from women, sexualization of men in various mass media platforms is evidently increasing. It’s in where you read, watch, and play.

An online article on io9.com by Lauren Davis (2014) revealed how male superheroes are sexualized in comics and movies. It identified abs exposure, wearing tight and scanty costumes, and focusing on the muscles and shapes of the male body as some of the ways of sexualizing male superheroes.  A thesis by Malin Lovenberg (2013), on the other hand, analyzed how video games sexualize male characters. His analysis suggests that some of the sexualized traits of male video game characters include exhibitionistic character, lean built, tight pants, aggressiveness, and distinct V-line or Adonis belt.

Just like comics, films and video games, advertisements are also guilty of sexualizing men. It’s a cliché, but sex sells. Hence, advertising welcomes this notion and practice to its world of persuasion.  In fact, male sexualization in advertising has become a trend today that the term ‘hunkvertising’ was coined.

It’s Raining Sexy Men in Ads

It’s no surprise that hunkvertising is becoming widely practiced today given advertising’s desire to thrive consumerism. Everybody would agree that advertising will carry out any kind of strategy to sell even using sexual content to grab attention. The practice of employing sexual content or imagery associate a product with qualities of desirability, sensuality, youth, vitality and indulgence (“What are the pitfalls,” 2008). And when ads sexualize men to sell, they often use those with obscene muscles or body built as if he’s designed for movement or sex. (Lovenberg, 2013)

It might not have sparked much conversation as loud as when women are sexually objectified in ads, but hunkvertising has become a hot topic in the Internet for explicitly objectifying men to sell a product. Internationally, one of the most popular hunkvertisements is Renutiz’s “Choose Them All” ad campaign wherein the brand personifies its portfolio of aroma using handsome men (Gianatasio, 2013). Another hunkvertisement which recorded up to 2.5 million Youtube views is the one for Kraft Zest Italian salad dressing wherein a hunky male model, Andrew Davis, is adding the promoted product to a hot skillet when the flame shoots higher, burning his shirt and revealing his chiselled torso (Gianatasio, 2013).

It’s interesting that despite the explicit objectification of men in these ads, they are not gaining loud criticisms. Why is that?

Courtney Christman (2014) analyzed why hunkvertising is not as controversial as when women are objectified in ads. He said hunkvertisements mix the element of fantasy with humor. They’re executed with an amusing creativity and good taste. That is why they are harmless. They do not make fun of anyone. The sexualized portrayal of men is nothing to be taken seriously and is done for pure enjoyment.

Another interesting point Christman (2013) also noted is that men do not see objectification as a bad thing. Unlike women, they do not take offense when they are objectified. Men see hunkvertisements as mere advertisements. Nothing more and nothing less.

But what if Filipino men are the ones sexualized in ads? Is the case of hunkvertising similar in the Philippines? How is hunkvertising received by the Filipino audience? These are just some of the questions that the article aims to answer as it progresses. To do such, the author analyzes local television and outdoor advertisements that sexualize or objectify men to promote a product.  In the end, the article provides a brief critique on the practice of hunkvertising in the Philippines.

Analysing Hunkvertising in the Philippines

Advertising is a big industry in the Philippines, and companies allot a huge amount of money for such. In fact, a total of Php 190 billion were spent to print, television, and radio ads in the first nine months of 2011 while outdoor advertising hit Php 2.2 billion in the same period (“Tuning in,” 2012). These numbers are not a surprise given the power of ad campaigns to yield skyrocketing sales figures for organizations. Everything all boils down to the creative concept and execution of ads to grab attention and win consumers.

Just like in other parts of the world, the creativity of local advertising agencies to create a buzz for their brands is boundless; no wonder why hunkvertising has reached the shore of the local advertising scene. The Philippines is not a neophyte in the practice of hunkvertising anymore. One popular example is the controversial billboard ad in EDSA-Guadalupe featuring members of Philippine Volcanoes wearing briefs and flexing their muscles. The brand claimed that the sexy billboard ad was its way of showing support to the team, but it was then taken down after Mayor Benhur Abalos complained about it (Merueñas, 2011).

Apart from Philippine Volcanoes’ billboard ad, one good example of local hunkvertisement is Century Tuna Healthylicious Hotdog TV ad featuring actor Aljur Abrenica. The TV ad tries to communicate that hotdogs are not for just for kids. Adults deserve healthy hotdogs too. It begins with three girls teasing Aljur, hugging him, touching his nose, and playing with his hair. Then one girl takes off his light blue polo, revealing his chiselled torso. That particular shot is, in fact, focused on Aljur’s body alone. Then the topless Aljur starts delivering his line (PC&V Communications, 2011).

While the ad seems to focus on Aljur’s body more than Aljur himself, the mood of the entire video is being lightened up with its cheerful musical scoring, Baby Love, which was popularized by The Supremes. Also, Aljur’s delivery of lines is also done in a jolly, non-seductive way.

Another instance wherein a local TV ad uses a hunk to promote a product is Dunkin Donuts TV ad featuring actor/host Derek Ramsay. The TV ad begins with a female customer approaching the counter to order doughnuts. At the counter, she fakes a cough to get the attention of the busy Dunkin Doughnut crew who is facing the other direction. To her surprise, the busy crew happens to be Derek Ramsay. Derek asks for her order, but the female customer is so stunned to answer the question. She asks Derek of his favorite doughnut. Derek shares all his favourites with a sexy voice while getting closer to the female customer (Dunkin’ Donuts Philippines, 2014).

The two sample ads show that while sexualized men are used for promotion, a light and humorous approach is being adopted to make the ad more entertaining than demeaning or offending to the male Filipino audience. But what happens when the same ads are translated into outdoor advertising or billboards? Does the humor stay without the music, dialogues, and actions? The next ads to be analyzed are the outdoor advertising versions of the TV ads above.

tumblr_lo66j0747M1qbiagt

Image 1 is an outdoor advertisement for Century Tuna Healthylicious Hotdog (Century Tuna hotdog billboard, n.d.).

 

Image 1 features the same product, which is the Century Tuna Healthylicious Hotdog, with the same model, Aljur Abrenica, but in still picture.  What we can see is a shirtless Aljur holding a fork with hotdog while the product in packaging is displayed on the other side of the image. Apparently in this outdoor advertising version, the humor dies together with the song and delivery of lines. Apart from the brand logo and taglines which are marginal, what Image 1 has are three elements – the hotdog in fork, the product in packaging, and Aljur, which torso has the same size as the product in packaging. The hotdog in fork is not even the focal point of the image. From here, the big question arises: what is the connection of Aljur’s body to the promoted product?

Jayeel Cornelio (2014) in his article Billboard Advertising and Sexualization in Metro Manila said that one of the concepts ads employ to justify the use of sexualized image and content is health. Image 1 positions the product as a healthy hotdog. Hence, we see a shirtless Aljur Abrenica exposing his six-packed abs in all its glory.

Image 2 is Dunkin Donuts billboard ad (not actual photo) featuring actor/host Derek Ramsay (Derek Ramsay – Dunkin Donuts, n.d.).

Image 2 is Dunkin Donuts billboard ad (not actual photo) featuring actor/host Derek Ramsay (Derek Ramsay – Dunkin Donuts, n.d.).

Image 2, on the other hand, uses less elements and less skin. It shows actor/host Derek Ramsay in white polo holding a doughnut with both hands and a tagline above his head saying “There is only one Dunkin’ for me.” Similar to Image 1, this outdoor advertising version was stripped of its humor with the absence of other elements such as dialogues, motion, and musical scoring. What’s left is Derek with his seductive smile inviting the viewer to have a taste of the doughnut he has on hand. It is apparent that the ad is targeted to female consumers and uses Derek to create a fantasy of sharing the same doughnut favorite with him.

Both TV ads for Century Tuna Healthylicious Hotdog and Dunkin Doughnut employ humor as suggested by Christman in his analysis on hunkvertisements. Both of them also lose this humor once translated into their print or outdoor advertising versions based on the analysis of the author. This is where the use of male models to sell becomes more evident.

The use of health to justify the practice of sexualization was also emphasized. But apart from health, Cornelio (2014) also identified two other concepts employed by sexy ads to justify its practice of portraying men and women in a sexualized manner. These two concepts are what the author employed in analyzing the following outdoor hunkvertisements.

Image 3 is a billboard ad for Sante Barley featuring Piolo Pascual (“Untitled photograph of Sante Barley,” 2014).

Image 3 is a billboard ad for Sante Barley featuring Piolo Pascual (“Untitled photograph of Sante Barley,” 2014).

Fitness and athleticism have become a trend now – a reason why consumer goods and products for active lifestyle are sprouting lately. One of which is Sante Barley’s Barley Max. As a food supplement for active individuals, Sante Barley commissioned Piolo Pascual to be its endorser, and Image 3 above happens to be their billboard ad. To depict an active lifestyle complemented by a food supplement that boosts strength, stamina, and energy, the billboard ad features a shirtless Piolo Pascual standing straight in black and white photo that further emphasizes his muscle cuts and six-packed abs. Thus, what we see in the ad is not Piolo Pascual as an award-winning actor and an advocate of an active lifestyle. What we see is a gym-carved body promoting a food supplement. At first glance, a viewer of this ad could barely recognize what’s being promoted and what kind of product it is.

IMG_0793

Image 4 (left) is a billboard ad for Belo Medical Clinic featuring actor Albert Martinez, which was disapproved by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) (“Albert Martinez on banned,” 2011; “[Untitled photograph of Albert Martinez],” 2011 ).

IMG_0794

Image 5 (right) is the approved billboard ad (“Albert Martinez on banned,” 2011; “[Untitled photograph of Albert Martinez],” 2011 ).

Apart from health and fitness, one industry popular for using men (and also women) to promote services and products is the beauty business. Image 4 and 5 set the example. Image 4 is the first billboard ad version for Belo Medical Clinic’s Sculptor Plus Treatment service featuring actor Albert Martinez. This however was banned by MMDA due to obscenity. Thus, the Belo Medical Group changed its billboard ad to Image 5 wherein Albert is wearing a grey unbuttoned polo with folded sleeves and white pants (Lo, 2011). Is there a difference? Perhaps Image 5 shows less skin but we can see the same concept – a sexualized man flaunting his body to promote a beauty service. This where aesthetics and beauty become excuses to objectify men.

Apart from health and fitness, one industry popular for using men (and also women) to promote services and products is the beauty business. Image 4 and 5 set the example. Image 4 is the first billboard ad version for Belo Medical Clinic’s Sculptor Plus Treatment service featuring actor Albert Martinez. This however was banned by MMDA due to obscenity. Thus, the Belo Medical Group changed its billboard ad to Image 5 wherein Albert is wearing a grey unbuttoned polo with folded sleeves and white pants (Lo, 2011). Is there a difference? Perhaps Image 5 shows less skin but we can see the same concept – a sexualized man flaunting his body to promote a beauty service. This where aesthetics and beauty become excuses to objectify men.

A Brief Critique on Pinoy Hunkvertising

Perhaps men are not sexualized as much as women are but the point is that hunkvertising is already a widespread practice in the Philippines. Industries guilty of employing this strategy are often from food, health and fitness as well as fashion and beauty.

Unlike in women, the practice of sexually objectifying men in ads is often creatively executed with a sense of humor, making the act amusing, unoffending, and something that is not to be taken seriously. This element of fun often applies only to TV ads and dies down together with the plot and music in print and outdoor advertising versions, giving more emphasis on the sexualized portrayal of men. Also, hunkvertising use health, athleticism, and aesthetics as excuses to justify the act of sexualizing its male models as derived from Cornelio’s analysis on sexy ads. But even with these excuses, there seems to be a disconnect in sexually objectifying and exposing male bodies to gain viewership and promote a product. There are many creative techniques of persuasion to associate brands and products with these ideas without resorting to male sexualization and objectification.

Perhaps men do not care much if they are objectified in ads as they see hunkvertisements as mere advertisements, which resulted to less to zero criticisms from the male Filipino audience. But this does not mean that hunkvertising is not a social issue that needs to be assessed. Hunkvertising is not just an issue of men. Any forms of sexualization or sexual objectification in advertising or mass media in general, whether involving men, women or children, is a societal concern that requires a discourse. Particularly in outdoor advertising where ads are exposed to everyone including children, discretion and proper regulation have to be observed. Billboards and other forms of outdoors ads are unlike films and television shows where a parental advisory flashes before they begin. Here, sexy male images are out in the open and young minds are prone to being exposed to them. Since hunkvertisements often consists of male nudity and obscenity, advertisers and regulators need to clearly define what’s private and public in public space. What are the things that the Filipino society consider morally acceptable in public and not? What kind of images and portrayals are allowed to both the young and adult audiences.

Hunkvertising is a subject less explored despite its prevalence in the country, and this presents the challenge to fill the gap because male sexualization is not an issue of men alone.

References:

Albert Martinez on banned Belo Clinic billboard and the ‘sanitized’ version [Photograph]. (2011). Philstar.com. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/720324/albert-dressed-please-mmda

Century Tuna hotdog billboard. (n.d.). Advertising. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from, http://grazeemonteros.tumblr.com/post/7491364758/century-tuna-hotdog-billboard

Christman, C. (2014). Sex sells and so do sexy men: The objectification of men in advertising. Adweek. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.business2community.com/trends-news/sex-sells-sexy-men-objectification-men-advertising-0743305

Cornelio, J. (2014). Billlboard advertising and sexualization in Metro Manila [PDF document]. European Journal of East Asian Studies, 13, 68-92. doi: 10.1163/15700615-01301006

Davis, L. (20140). 10 Times When Comics and Movies Sexualized Male Superheroes. io9.com. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://io9.com/10-examples-of-how-it-looks-when-artists-sexualize-male-1628021803

Derek Ramsay – Dunkin Donuts. (n.d.). Pinoy Manila. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://pinoymanila.com/2013/02/09/derek-ramsay-loves-dunkin-donuts/

Dunkin’ Donuts Philippines. (2014). Favorites TVC [Video file]. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An1k0upHDUE

Gianatasio, D. (2013). Hunkvertising: The objectification of men in advertising. Business 2 Community. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/hunkvertising-objectification-men-advertising-152925

Lo, R. (2011). All dressed up to please MMDA. PhilStar.com. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/720324/albert-dressed-please-mmda

Lovenberg, M.  (2013). Male sexualization in video games. Widget. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://widgetau.org/male-sexualization-in-video-games/

Merueñas, M. (2011). PHL volcanoes react to dismantled undies billboards. GMA New Online. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/225776/news/nation/phl-volcanoes-react-to-dismantled-undies-billboards

PC&V Communications. (2011). Century Tuna healthylicious hotdog Aljur Abrenica [Video file]. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oh9HH7v6fI

Tuning in: Radio and television remain strong as print declines [Google Books version]. (2012). The Report: The Philippines 2012. Oxford Business Group.  Retrieved November 21, 2014 from http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Yt3IZ3JATlsC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

[Untitled photograph of Albert Martinez for Belo Medical Clinic]. (2011). Philstar.com. Retrieved December 7, 2014, from http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/720324/albert-dressed-please-mmda

[Untitled photograph of Sante Barley billboard ad featuting Piolo Pascual]. (2014). Kulitrunner. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://kulitrunner.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/piolo-pascual-is-sante-barleys-newest-product-endorser

What are the pitfalls of using sexual imagery in advertising? [PDF document]. (2008). Millward Brown. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.millwardbrown.com/docs/default-source/insight-documents/knowledge-points/MillwardBrown_KnowledgePoint_SexualImageryInAdvertising.pdf

 

 

 

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