Advertising beefcake selling like hot cakes

February 19, 1992|By Roy H. Campbell | Roy H. Campbell,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

In one fashion ad, which appeared in Gentlemen's Quarterly, a lithe young model stands provocatively, his eyes closed, his arms raised so that his sweater rises just enough to show a hairy stomach; his jogging pants hang off his hips.

If that sounds a bit racy, consider Tanline's thong bikini print ad, which ran in men's exercise magazines. The ad includes three men posed so that their muscles ripple; each wears a thong shown from a different, but equally sensual, angle.

Or open the current issue of Details magazine and take a look at the pensive male model in the ad for the Cross Colours hip-hop collection. The man wears blue jeans and body oil, and nothing else.

And then there was the Philadelphia magazine advertisement for the Wayne Edwards boutique in Center City: In one photo, a model with a chiseled face and a chiseled body was nude, with only a sweater about his midsection coming between him and indecency.

Hey, what ever happened to the Marlboro Man?

Apparently he has outlived his usefulness.

Once the male image in advertising was the rugged macho man. Now, particularly in fashion and fragrance ads, men are likely to be portrayed in a more sexually suggestive manner.

"Years ago it was the man in the macho pose, but now we are using men's body language as a way to sell. Ours is a fashion-forward line, so we do more sensual poses," said Gary Parry, art director and co-owner of the Los Angeles-based Tanline California swimwear company.

Advertisers are turning to the male physique as a way to sell a variety of products for men and women, from pantyhose to blue jeans, jewelry and even pocketbooks. These ads are often blatantly provocative. Some home in on sensual areas of the male anatomy, while others position men like male sex kittens.

In short, men are being used in advertising the way women have been used for years. And whether you open Vogue or Vanity Fair or even Accessories magazine, you are likely to find such an ad.

"Quite truthfully, the nature of advertising right now is to stop someone in their tracks as they are looking through a magazine," said Charles DeCaro of LaSpada-DeCaro, the high-powered New York agency.

Many in the ad industry trace the emergence of male sexuality in advertising to the Calvin Klein underwear advertising campaign of 1981. That classic ad featured a dark-haired male model wearing only a pair of form-fitting white briefs.

Since then, Klein has continued to push his clothing and fragrance ads to the sexual limit. He caused a scandal late last year with his blue jeans ad series, the most erotic of which featured the torso and lower body of a naked hunk in a shower, with only a few inches of jeans fabric covering the crucial parts of his anatomy. The new campaign for Klein's athletic underwear presents men in a variety of erotic poses.

The Calvin Klein company does not discuss its marketing or advertising campaign. But Terry Johnson, the Los Angeles photographer who shot the Tanline thong bikini campaign, said such ads for underwear, swimwear and athletic wear were designed to turn on the viewer or unleash a fantasy that results in a sell.

"It is not only the garment you are selling, you are selling the picture and you are selling the image," he said.

"Some people say my work or some of the Calvin Klein stuff is homoerotic, but I don't like to think of my work as homoerotic. I just like to see men as very powerful, very sensuous and very sexy," he said. "We all should enjoy a male's body, not just women. I like them [the photos] to appeal to men and women."

Advertising has come a long way since 1980, when Jim Palmer caused a minor sensation by posing for ads wearing nothing but a smile and Jockey bikini underwear.

Pretty tame compared with the current climate, where, to sell its athletic wear, Reebok sits a male model on a basketball with his legs spread, his arm raised and his eyes closed. Or where Sasson advertises its winterwear with a hard-body hunk, on the ski slopes, sporting jeans, gloves and a bare chest.

Kathy Baab, director of the New York-based Maxx Men modeling agency, said that more of her clients were requesting models by body parts. They have been asking for a defined chest, or a chiseled abdomen, or firm buttocks.

"Everybody is so body-conscious that the companies are not afraid to put that forth in their advertising."

Ms. Baab said that advertisers also were requesting younger male models. "It's getting more along the lines of the way women are used to sell products," she said.

And what do the male models themselves think?

"I can't say that I really feel exploited because this is part of the business now," said Chris Dorm, a Philadelphia model who works for the Reinhard Agency locally and Maxx in New York. "I see a negative in it, but the positive is that it does bring more work for guys."

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