We’ve seen an escalating number of “pornahol” alcohol ads in the last few years – companies using sexual innuendo and objectification to sell alcoholic beverages.The campaign for Diageo's latest Smirnoff flavored vodkas may have set the bar at a new low: Fluffed Marshmallow and Whipped Cream ("Fluffed" and "Whipped" for short.) Obvious much?
Smirnoff’s new commercials are a smorgasbord of sexual images and allusions, with a little product thrown in for good measure. They feature the scantily clad model/DJ Amber Rose purring “I might choose fluffed. Then again, I might choose whipped. Either way, vodka never felt this good” over images of gyrating bodies and multiple close-ups of sticky wet lips. The ads will run on youth- and minority-friendly channels including BET, TBS, and VH1.
Big Alcohol’s Big Alcohol's "It Boy" photographer, David LaChapelle, shot the campaign's print ads. The print versions also feature a heavily made-up Amber Rose, alternatively “choosing” Smirnoff Fluffed or Smirnoff Whipped in seductive, themed outfits. The ads will run in magazines popular with youth, such as OK, Star, People Style Watch, and Rolling Stone. The campaign will also be featured on bus wraps and outdoor ads in metropolitan areas. The budget for the campaign is estimated by the New York Times to be between $8 and $11 million.
The shameless employment of sexual objectification – and the not-so-subtle implications that drinking will lead to the fulfillment of sexual fantasies and desires – is nothing new in alcohol advertising. The industry is aware of it, such that the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) suggests that ads should not contain sexually lewd language or rely upon sexual success as a selling point. However, as the NYT pointed out, “[t]he vodkas that go the eyebrow-raising route are usually brands with lower sales volumes and smaller ad budgets, which hope the double entendres will generate buzz among drinkers.” Smirnoff, on the other hand, is a well-known, bestselling alcohol brand, and already a favorite among youth.
Given Smirnoff's current popularity among youth, along with the role that alcohol frequently plays in sexual assault and other types of physical and mental harm, this campaign is no joke. It is, however, just one more example of what happens when the alcohol industry is allowed to prop up its own codes, with no external monitor or penalties for code violations, as the gold standard for regulating alcohol advertising.
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