The great debate of profit versus morality is (and most likely always will be) one that is imperative and necessary throughout nations and societies. It is one that, no matter the circumstance, one should always consider before putting one principle before the other. It is one that can define an entire culture. In modern America, many have lost sight of the ethical consequences that can occur when profit is seen as more important than maintaining morals.
There is an advertisement that was made by Levi's Jeans that features golden fields of wheat, rolling hills of the countryside, and a man in the background walking through the fields wearing his Levi's jeans. This advertisement has the phrase, “This country was not built by men in suits” as the main focus of the page. For many reasons, such as the image, diction and use of pathos in this advertisement by Levi's, it is a powerful endorsement; however, when held to the standards of being ethically responsible, it is not up to par.
The image, as the visual appeal of the advertising, contains several factors that help this ad to be an effective marketing tool. The audience that Levi's Jeans is trying to target is presumably middle-aged and middle-class men. The scene in the image of a countryside with empty, large, rolling hills of golden wheat is an attractive scene to the “good old country boy” type that this advertisement is targeting. The caucasian American man trudging through the field is wearing Levi's Jeans, boots,and a flannel work shirt. From this clothing and his setting, one might assume that he is a hard working person, fitting in with the “this country was not built by men in suits” statement. The font of the writing of this statement is also very obviously masculine, more resembling a chicken scratch type of writing than any curly calligraphy style. One could even say that with the literal golden hills portrayed in this image, the advertising company is trying to portray the “American Dream” by appealing to the nationalism and patriotism of the target audience.
This assumption that the image is conveying an “American Dream”-like scene is using a sort of pathos. The setting of the advertisement could make the audience feel many emotions of being connected to nature and to the roots of our nation. The golden hills could be representative of riches and fortune that many hope to obtain in their lifetime. These small details that can subconsciously affect the way the audience views the advertisement are crucial. The way that the man in the scene is trekking forward through the wheat is also resembling that of someone capable of being independent, of accomplishing great things and overcome hardship, of building nations.
The diction used in this marketing tool is another important way that this is an effective ad. Even the motto of Levi's Jeans, “Go Forth” is implying that if someone who buys this product might be able to accomplish bigger and better things and could “be the you that you always wanted to be”. The main focus of the ad is the statement, “This country was not built by men in suits” in large white print. This is a very interesting way to advertise jeans. While this is a jeans advertisement, it is almost hard to recognize because there is so much more going on. While this phrase, as mentioned previously, is appealing to patriotism, it could also be very effective in getting the attention of the aforementioned target audience. There are some Americans who believe things like, “the upper class is ruining all that is great about America” and similar ideas about how the rich and powerful are taking away from the original American values that we built upon. From this advertisement, these middle class and middle aged men that are most likely being targeted, might agree that similar individuals to themselves (‘hard working and denim-wearing men) had a larger part in the building of our great and powerful nation than any big company or man wearing suits that haven't been exposed to the hard work of it all. Levi's Jeans might have deduced (whether correct or incorrect) that this audience would agree with this advertisement.
While it may be an effective way to sell jeans, it is also fairly sexist. By saying that “men in suits did not build this country”, it implying that while not men in suits, this country was built by men with no mention or picture of women anywhere. It is furthering the idea that the creation of this country was by men and that females (about 50% of the population) made no meaningful contributions. It is playing off of gender stereotypes to show that these jeans are for the tough and masculine men who get things done, like building nations, without any help from someone in a suit, much less a woman.
The main purpose of this advertisement is to increase sales of the Levi's product; however, because there are so many underlying hints in the image and wording of this piece, it is hard to tell at first glance what the ad's purpose actually is. There are many ways to advertise jeans without being sexist, racist, dehumanizing, demoralizing, or offensive. While this may have been an effective way to sell more Levi's jeans, it is not ethically permissible. This advertisement is morally irresponsible if only because it is hindering the social movement happening around the world to increase gender equality. Several organizations and individuals have been working hard to achieve this goal of equality globally. If companies continue to make advertisements such as this one only to increase profit, these aforementioned efforts have been wasted.
In a speech that Emma Watson recently gave at the UN, she states that “I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.” By releasing this Levi's advertisement, it is making it acceptable to ignore this movement and it's purpose; it is making it okay for big companies and organizations to be above the bar of human decency and equality, therefore allowing individuals to also not uphold these principles.
As stated, the endorsement by Levi's is efficient in many ways. Some of which include the scene portrayed in the advertisement, the use of diction in the wording, “This country was not built by men in suits”, and the use of pathos as appealing to the target audience. There are several examples of effective advertising or propaganda throughout history, although these are not always uplifting pieces and have often been used to dehumanize a group of people. This is an act that societies must stay away from in order to maintain a balance between morality and profit. Unfortunately, this advertisement released by Levi's is not an advertisement that is helping to accomplish this as it is inherently sexist, and therefore completely ethically irresponsible.
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