Friday, May 27, 2005

Sexy Advertising: Asian Ads Swap Gender Roles

The new face of cosmetics ads in Asia is soft, delicate -- and male. From the Wall Street Journal via the Pittsburg Post-Gazette:
Lounging in a pink apartment in a television commercial for Able C&C Inc.'s South Korean makeup brand Missha, actor Won Bin leans in as if to kiss a woman sitting next to him -- but he does her bidding instead, taking her dusky-colored lipstick and carefully applying it to her lips.

In an ad for skin-care chain The Face Shop, ruby-lipped film star Kwon Sang Woo nuzzles a berry tree, then dons a crown of leaves. Mr. Kwon, famous for six-pack abs and a slight lisp, "has a kind of neutral gender," says Scott Han, the company's public-relations director. "Our customers think he is healthy and adorable."

Marketers aren't out to poke fun at the lipstick lads of Asia. Instead, they are pushing shampoos and makeup by tapping into a powerful shift in gender images taking place in a number of developed East Asian countries. The conservative, macho male stereotypes that have long dominated society in countries like Japan and South Korea are falling out of fashion. Women are gaining power and independence and expressing a preference for different kinds of men.

"A pretty face with big eyes and fair skin, and a moderately masculine body, are what Korean women want in men these days," says Rhie Hye Young, a spokeswoman for Missha.
Obviously there are a lot of ways to do sexy advertising. If you're brave, you could put this unusual ad theme to use for your store. It would certainly get attention, but it would probably also tag your store as a "gay" place ... which might be too small a niche market.


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