Friday, February 01, 2008

A Smart Advertisement

An advertisement for Equinox Fitness Club on Boston magazine made headlines due to its so-called provocative presentation of Catholic virtues; the ad shows attractive and partially exposed nuns, curiously sketching a nude male figure standing David like. The nuns are shamelessly checking out his body rather than studying this statuesque man, and it is easy to see why this ad was offensive to some. It is written Happily Ever on the left corner of the ad.

To me the most appealing part of this smart ad is the nun that looks through the window, holding her hands to the Art Nouveau bars, watching the nude as if he is an angel sent by God. She is clearly having a spiritual moment. Of course it was by watching the local news that I got to know this ad. But now I have a personal interest in it. I ask myself what does really tickle people to take offence from such presentations of body? Besides the obvious of course… Surely most people admire Michelangelo’s David rather than taking offense in it. So what is it this time? I came to think that what really disturbs people in such occasions is that the women are being an active witnesses of the male nudity in the picture. There is a great tradition that feeds this dislike of women’s presence in male environment. The example that comes to my mind right now is that for many years women were not allowed to study anatomy and work with models in art schools. Here is a painting by Mary Bashkirtseff called The Julien Studio dated 1881*. The Julien Studio is an interesting comparison for the Equinox ad: both its apparent compositional similarities to the ad in question and also its subject matter: women students drawing a young boy posing in the corner, looking at the viewer innocently.

Happily Ever, Equinox Fitness Club Ad, 2008

Julien Studio, Mary Bashkirtseff, 1881

* An alternative way of writing Mary Bashkirtseff is Marie Bashkirtseff. She was Russian and her name is written Мария Константиновна Башкирцева in Russian. Also for Julien Studio one can use Julian. My source for the spelling of the name of the artist and her painting was Great Women Masters of Art, a book by Jordi Vigue. The painting also was referred to as Studio.


Soudabe said...

So interesting was this offensive! ad!
It reminds strict taboos that you’ve pointed well.

Also your blog is so fantastic & a good opportunity for me to deal with English.


Anonymous said...

well , it is offensive because of the apparent sexual innuendo ; and somehow , IMHO, religion and sex are antagonistic ...
But then honestly, anybody who has lived through 80s would most likely see this ad a cliche' more so than something provocative..

Tameshk said...

Dear Soudabe
Thanks for your comment. Well, most people don't see the ad as an offensive one; nonetheless there were some objections. The smart part was that this ad made its way into the headlines. I believe the main goal to any advertisement is to become the center of attention.

Dear Anonymous
Thanks for your comment. As you said the main idea for this ad was not an original one. That makes the matter more interesting.

Originality has a shock value in it that a Cliché doesn't. Yet this ad (intentionally or unintentionally) used the shock value in its advantage. One can take a look at the ad in the magazine page and say, "oh cool!" I think this kind of shock was intentional. But when the matter gets presented in the news channel with a greater shock I call that Smart. Not original but smart of that Fitness Company to use a Cliché and still get the maximum shock.