Advertising and Manipulation


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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102 Responses

  1. Avatar dhex says:

    the brewery tour, if you ever find yourself in north brooklyn, is a good time. or rather it was a good time before so many people realized it was a good time, so show up early.

    1) Kinda? You probably see a lot of corporate logos all day long (if you live in a city, counting them is a fun but dizzying diversion), but very few of them stir you.

    2) Yes, no.

    3) No.

    4) I’m not sure virtue and buying stuff are necessarily connected outside of black markets and the like, and even then you have the difference between, say, an underage prostitute and a bag of weed or untaxed smokes. Heck, i’m not even sure that virtue/evil and paying taxes are connected, and i know some very small percentage of that money goes into a bucket called international murder (war on drugs, war on people, etc etc and so forth).

    5) No.

    6) No.Report

  2. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I think I’d have to say no on all accounts (number 4 confused me).

    While if she was a paid advertiser, one might claim that using a pretty woman to market a product the majority of consumers of which are straight males (this could be wrong here, I’m just guessing) is manipulative, it’s certainly a stretch, especially if she’s not a paid advertiser, and she’s only wearing it because she chose to buy it because she likes the product.

    I think this is very near the purest form of clean advertising. that is, they are simply reminding you that their product exists, and then relying on whether you’ve had positive/negative experienes with their product in the past (or perhaps none at all). The fact that this reminder could go either way for the company (e.g. I bought a case and it was skunked or whatever), seems to indicate that it’s not exploitative in the way more caluclated ads are (i.e. ones that try to give you a strongly positive association wiith the product through the ad, rather than based on personal experience).Report

  3. Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?
    Ever so slightly. But only insofar as it moved you toward an outcome to which you were already at least slightly inclined. It would have been far more manipulative had they gotten you to do something you didn’t want to do.
    Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it?
    Into what? Responding to the post? Again, like most people around here, so I’d be inclined to do it anyway. No, I don’t resent it. And I already have enough beer in the house right now, so I probably won’t be buying more for a little while.
    Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?
    Not really. If you like the beer, then all the ad did was remind you of it. It didn’t weaken your character or cause you to behave in an immoral manner. I suppose you could view being resistant to outside influences as a kind of virtue, but I’m skeptical that any of us are truly as free-willed as we like to think we are.
    Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?
    You should be as virtuous as you can be. But since I don’t think responding to an advert is a sign of a lack of virtue, to me the particulars of this question are moot.
    Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?
    No. My opinion of you would change if you said you bought the beer because you thought she was hot.
    And if you knew that she was not?
    No. My opinion of her might change, in that I find it odd when people choose to make themselves walking advertisements for products or brands they like. But it wouldn’t affect my opinion of you.Report

  4. 1.  Yes, but not in a bad way.  So maybe the answer is no.

    2.  No and if yes, then no to the second part of the question.

    3.  Only if certain other conditions apply.  If you have trouble drinking moderately, then succumbing to temptation might be a sign of a lack of virtue.

    4.  Like DHex, I’m not sure I understand.  I’m not all that virtuous when I don’t respond to ads for the local casinos in the Chicago area (most of which, I believe, are located in Northwest Indiana, fwiw) because I don’t not only not have a problem with obsessive gambling, I don’t enjoy gambling and am not tempted by it.  It’s maybe a little bit virtuous if I choose not to buy the “limited edition” sour cream and onion Doritos that occasionally (alas!  too rarely) pop up on random shelves in Walgreens and other stores in Chicago.  They’re not only not good for me, but I lack the portion control and go overboard.  Therefore, opting to buy–i.e., respond favorably to the store display (if there is one) that advertises those Doritos–represents a lack of virtue because buying almost necessarily leads to yummy intemperance, gluttony, and, eventually, eternal damnation.

    5.  No, I’m responsible for my own actions.

    6.  No (see my answer to no. 5).Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:


    Manoman is this an issue near and dear to my heart. The information v persuasion distinction with a little propaganda sauce thrown in. First off, I think which way a person falls on lots of these question will depend on whether they think propaganda is or could be a form of coercion (not physical coercion, of course). Another is whether the they think the purpose of specific piece of advertising is to appeal to a persons conscious decision-making process (by presenting information, say) or to their unconscious decision-making process (jingoism, sex sells!, etc.), or something variation in the middle (cleverness quotient, humor, etc).

    1. Yes, but in a pretty benign way since you’re consciously aware that you’re buying the beer because of advertising.
    2. I don’t think you were trying to manipulate me by asking me to answer your questions (if that’s what you mean) since on the surface, the motivation is pretty transparent – you want feedback from people about an issue that’s interesting to you. So no, I don’t resent it. If it was for some other reason, then I might.
    3. Maybe. Resisting the affects of advertising could be a sign of more awareness about why you make the choices you do. But sometimes advertising causes a person to make choices they otherwise wouldn’t which they greatly benefit from. In my own case, it depends on the type of advertising.
    4. I think that one’s tricky. One aspect of good advertising works on people at a level where they are unaware of why the are making their decisions to begin with. It works at an unconscious level where your choices are determined by advertising but you aren’t aware of it.
    5. Maybe. All other things equal, I’d be less inclined to respond to advertising that was trying to nefariously present itself as a voluntary endorsement of a product by an unaffiliated consumer but which actually isn’t.
    6. Same as 5.


  6. Avatar James Hanley says:

    1. Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?

    Sure, but so what? The nature of human interaction is to try to manipulate people.

    2a. Was I trying to manipulate you just now,

    See 1.

    2b. and did you resent it?

    Hell, yeah!  Knock it off, you bastard!

    3. Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?

    Of course. Virtuous people don’t drink alcoholic beverages.*

    4. Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?

    Last I checked, you’re still a drinker and a libertarian, so apparently you’re still lacking in virtue.

    5. Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?

    Well, now, if you consciously said “Oh, a paid advertiser, I’ll pay more attention to her T-Shirt logo than I would if she was just some random girl walking down the street,” then, yeah, my opinion of you would change considerably, from “Jason’s a rational (if unvirtuous) guy, to “Jason’s both irrational and unvirtuous!”)

    *That’s what my great grandpa, the great temperance crusader, thought.Report

  7. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?

    Certainly not. Classic marketing theory acronym: AKLPCP. Awareness, Knowledge, Liking, Preference, Conviction, Purchase. Can’t get to Purchase without all of them, in order.

    Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it?

    Are you kidding? Most of us love beer.

    Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?

    If by virtuous, you mean hair-shirt self-mortification, depriving yourself of good beer, then yes. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Ben Franklin.

    Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?

    Well, with those ads, you never got to the final P of AKLPCP.

    Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?

    Probably not. The best advertiser displays a product worth advertising.

    And if you knew that she was not?

    Classic marketing ace. Everyone’s looking for Tweets and positive references to their product.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I will try something the first time because of advertising, I won’t try something the second time because of advertising (unless, of course, the advertising is of the form “we screwed up, we fixed it” (see Domino’s)).

    As such: I don’t see you as having been manipulated as much as reminded. You were inclined to buy beer anyway. You were just reminded of this one rather than that one. I imagine that, had you not purchased this brand, you would have bought some 1554 or Chimay Cinq Cents or something.

    I don’t know if you were trying to manipulate us… if it was, it was not to buy beer but to comment (or, failing that, to get us to think about this sort of thing as we wander through our day). This makes me wonder about her and her intention when wearing the shirt. I imagine that she was thinking something much closer to “I look good in this color” than “I am the type of person who tells strangers that I enjoy beer to the point where I wear beer clothing.” Which then makes me think about what BB was thinking when they commissioned their logo and commissioned that the logo be put on shirts. “We want this to be tasteful! Something a pretty girl might wear outside of the house! None of that Saint Bernard standing in a hot tub with two chicks in bikinis bullshit!” Was *THAT* manipulation? Would the Saint Bernard in a hot tub with beer chicks be?

    Assuming you don’t buy the beer, I don’t think that that indicates any particular virtue at all. Now, my assumption was that you would be picking up a little something to enjoy with dinner anyway. Is this not the case?

    Given all of the other ads… my assumption is that ads only really work when it comes to differentiation between two things (the overarching category of which was already going to be purchased). So, using your example, if you were going to be getting a little something on the way home, the only thing that might change is whether you get this, or that, or the other (and if not today, tomorrow). My mother, by comparison, is never ever going to buy so much as a sampler of Brooklyn Brewery Beer no matter how many billboards they have, no matter how many commercials they buy, no matter how many folks are wearing their t-shirts.

    If the woman was a paid advertiser? No, not really. The various liquor stores in town have paid advertising, for lack of a better term, “chicks” whose job is solely to wear tastefully (if not classy!) suggestive outfits and tell us to drink a particular kind of rum or vodka or whatever. I don’t consider myself particularly virtuous for smiling and nodding and ignoring the questions of these chicks as I walk past them to get to my Biblically-supported bottle of whatever.

    If not? Well, I admit, my first assumption was that the young lady in question put on a shirt that had a color she thought that she looked good in. I doubt she gave much more thought to it than that.

    To be perfectly honest, if I had a negative judgment on your decision, it’d be “beer? On a school night?”Report

  9. Avatar Anne says:
    1. Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated? yes but as stated above rather benign manipulation
    2. Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it? Yes and YES can’t find Brooklyn easily and you made me miss living in NYC
    3. Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense? No
    4. Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be? See #3
    5. Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser? NO My opinion of her may change somewhat and I am not really sure why. I think it is that I have no way of knowing that she is paid kinda makes it sneaky. If I see girls in a bar wearing logo shirts then I have some idea that they may be trying to sway my purchasing decisions. Some one on the street wearing a shirt (presumably) tells me they personally like the product not that the manufacturer wants me to buy their product. So I guess I resent the sneakiness.
    6. And if you knew that she was not? NO


  10. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?
    Being reminded of something you already knew is at most a very mild form of manipulation.
    Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it?
    If so, you were overly subtle about it.
    Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?
    No, since the ad you’d be resisting was barely that.
    Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?
    Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?
    And if you knew that she was not?
    No and no. My opinion of her would change if I knew that she had paid for the privilege of being a walking billboard. That’s just idiotic. But I don’t much care if she was paid to wear the T-shirt or had been given it for free.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Interesting post, and eery how it dovetails with one I’m working on on why people buy.

    WIthout going line by line, I would say that you were manipulated, but in the classic sense rather than today’s negative sense.  In fact, I would say that what the ad did was give yourself permission to be manipulated into doing something that you wanted to do.  Not buying the beer that you might have bought because you saw a logo and feel the need to… I dunno, “stick it to the man?” -does not seem virtuous so much as weird.

    The only way my opinion changes about anything if I find out the woman is a paid advertiser is that I think less of the brewery.  Not because I think they are “evil,” so much as bush league.Paying people to do things like that is a terrible marketing strategy, and at best does exactly what giving away some free t-shirts gets you, and at worst backfires and loses customers.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:
    1. Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?
    2. Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it?
    3. Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?
    4. Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?
    5. Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?
    6. And if you knew that she was not?

    1) That’s pretty much the definition of manipulation, and it doesn’t really depend on whether you ultimately buy the beer or not. Advertising changed your thinking, even if only for a moment. If it weren’t the case that we were constantly bombarded with advertisements, I wouldn’t think this is a bad thing. Because we are bombarded with advertisements constantly, it sucks ass.

    2) Trying? I dunno, I can’t read your mind. You were serving as an advertisement, though. Looks like the initial advertisement worked even better than I thought.

    3) I don’t know what virtue has to do with it. Advertising works because of basic human psychology. If you don’t buy the beer, it’s probably a result of a bunch of factors. If advertising doesn’t work on you at all, period, you’re probably from another planet.

    4.) You need to be Jesus, damnit! No seriously, virtue has shit all to do with it.

    5.) No. First, in this day and age, it’s hard to tell. Second, again, part of many companies’ advertising strategies these days is to enlist people they don’t have to pay: through t-shirts, hats, coozies, or hell, the ubiquitous white headphones. I don’t think it matters whether someone was paid or not. The advertisement is the advertisement.

    6.) See #5. I’ll add this: it’s 2012. At this point, half the clothing in stores has advertisements on it, if not for a product unassociated with the store, than for the store itself. This is why I cannot shop at Hollister or Abercrombie. This doesn’t mean I’m more virtuous, by the way. It just means I’m a cantankerous contrarian.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Because we are bombarded with advertisements constantly, it sucks ass.

      I dunno, I think we went through and came out the other side.  I don’t see advertisements any more.  I couldn’t tell you one advert that was on one web page anywhere I’ve surfed in the last year.  If we had fewer advertisements, they’d stick out more and probably bother me more.

      I don’t buy clothes with brand-exposure on them, except sneakers where it’s unavoidable.  I don’t mind buying t-shirts with adverts for small business on them, though… if I like the business, anyway.

      Jesus drank often.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        You may think you don’t notice the advertisements, but you do. That’s one way they’ve gotten more clever.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          False advertising consciousness.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Man, then I must be… like… the least commercial/material minded dude, ever.

          Because I hardly ever want to buy anything, except tools.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen an advertisement for the tools I want to buy.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Eh, just because it doesn’t work doesn’t mean you don’t see it. Like I said in my initial response, there are lots of reasons why advertising doesn’t work. Getting you to notice it is the primary goal, particularly in a world saturated with advertisements. Hell, 99.99999% of the advertising I consciously notice doesn’t induce me to buy anything.

            The first thing everyone should know about thought: 99% of it takes place below the level of awareness. Just because aren’t aware of noticing something doesn’t mean you don’t notice it. And hell, at this point, part of the idea is to make you notice it without it being intrusive, that is, without you really being aware that you noticed it.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Well, there’s certainly evidence to support your theory, Chris, in the general sense.  But I don’t think it is quite as robust as I’m inferring you’re implying that it is, here.

              It’s definitely true that sneaky advertisements do produce results in the general population.  But it’s not quite like embedded subliminal messaging “KILL THE PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA!”  And it doesn’t work on everybody.

              Just a large enough portion of the masses of humanity to make it effective.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Oh no, I don’t mean subliminal advertising in the sense of flashing Cokes for a frame or two, too short of a flash to register consciously. I just mean they stick things at the periphery of your visual field, or repeat things all over, etc., so that you will notice. It’s not so much sub-liminal as sub-conscious: it’s outside of your attentional field, but it still gets in. There’s a whole bunch of evidence for this sort of thing.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              I would emphasize that a lot of it is simply brand awareness. I need an X. What kind of X should I get? I’ve heard of Brand Y. So I’ll give them a look. I may or may not get Brand Y, but Brand Y benefits from the fact that I associated their name with their product. Or that I simply heard their name and it was familiar to me when I was looking at the shelf. I may not have, up to that point, even been aware that the name was familiar to me.Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            Okay, don’t leave that hanging.  I have to believe that every tool ever made has been advertised somewhere.  Give an example or two.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I don’t see advertisements for band saws or jackhammers or drill presses in the mass media, or on Facebook (although it’ll be interesting if one shows up at the League now that I’ve mentioned it and Erik put in the little ad widget).

              I bet I’d see them if I subscribed to a G.C. trade magazine or something, but I don’t.Report

      • Avatar Plinko says:

        I notice all the ads everywhere I go – I think it’s valuable to know what shows/sites the audience is supposedly interested in.

        Here I get basically ones for hookup sites or insurance companies on the main page, video game ads on MD and advertisements from my employer on Kyle’s page – which is totally freaking me out.Report

  13. Avatar Annelid Gustator says:

    So this is about campaign ads, yes?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      No.  It’s about a real thing that happened to me this morning, and the thoughts I had immediately following it.

      Those thoughts concerned some conversations that have often taken place between me and my husband, on the moral status and persuasive power of commercial, not political, advertising.  He can back me up on this, too.

      I could see extending the discussion to campaign ads, but I didn’t intend it.Report

      • Avatar Boegiboe says:

        Yes, I’ll verify that I’ve brought up my problems with the value of advertising many times before. This piece actually makes some progress in our disagreements, as it helps me draw a distinction between individual endorsement of a product and celebrity endorsements, which are something that really troubles me.Report

  14. Avatar Damon says:

    I’m going to comment on something else not said here, best I can tell…

    “This morning I saw a pretty young woman wearing a T-shirt from Brooklyn Brewery. Involuntarily, I recalled the last time I’d had some of their beer.”  Most likely the reason you were aware of the T-shirt label was that 1) you were looking at the pretty girl and 2) you were looking at her bewbs.

    Riddle me this.  Would your reaction and pending future action (buying the beer) been different if the pretty girl was replaced with a 400 pound fat guy?Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This was a hilarious comment.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      This would be a better question for, say, me than Jason.Report

    • Avatar Matty says:

      Stick around and you may find out just why people are laughing at thatReport

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Is it wrong that my first thoguht was, “400 pound fat guys have ‘bewbs’ too?”Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Damon, will you be kind enough not to tell my husband that I was looking at bewbs?

      And if you find any beer ads on codpieces, I hope you’ll inform me right away.


      • I’m sure you’ll see one if you hang around Fire Island long enough.Report

      • Avatar boegiboe says:

        Yeah, you were going to get a serious ribbing when you got home, Mr. Kinsey-7.

        Enh, I’m gonna rib you over this anyway, there’s no way around it now. AKLPCP.* I’m Aware of the opportunity, Know what the joke means, Like to tease you, Prefer to tease you in sidelong ways, and now have a Conviction that this will amuse me. All that’s left is for me to Purchase you some dark sunglasses.

        So you can look at bewbs without being noticed.


        * Thanks for your comment earlier in the thread, BlaiseP!Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong here, my homosexual online friends, but it seems to me that a gay man might very well notice a woman’s bewbs, at least as an attribute of her overall appearance. True, he might not have the same salacious interest in said bewbs as felt by breedermales. But you don’t have to be sexually interested in the bewbs to notice, say, if the shirt they’re in is too big or small for them, or if they’re not in a bra and really should have been, et cetera et cetera.

        I have it on good authority that women notice these sorts of things about each other and comment on bewbs amongst themselves from time to time, and that this doesn’t make them lesbians.

        …And we now all owe Damon a debt of gratitude for giving us a new meme for the blog.Report

        • Avatar Anne says:

          In my experience (small sample size) my gay BFF and others are always commenting on my bewbs. they are average and don’t deserve comments and yet….Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Technically the joke was already made, if buried.

          “I looked at a chick’s bewbs and thought ‘huh, beer’.”

          Presumably the thoughts available to lower numbers on the Kinsley scale would have included “HARBL BLRARLBL BLRARLBL”.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Yeah, but this gets at the whole problem with women and tee shirts in the first place; quite often I really do want to know what the damn tee-shirt says, what band it’s for, what’s the joke, or whatever, and I try to check it out and get the awkward stop-checking-out-my-bewbs-and-look-at-my-eyes throat clearing and then feel like a jerk and want to yell like Larry David: “No! I’m trying to read your shirt, I swear!” So now, I just don’t look and have no idea what’s on women’s shirts when I go out, or conversely I look at the shirt and like a perv. It seems to go against the whole idea of wearing a tee shirt in the first place. Hopefully, some politician will wage a war on women’s tee shirts.Report

            • Avatar Boegiboe says:

              This is yet another perk of being a gay man. I have no trouble reading women’s T-shirts, especially if I know them. Occasionally one will look at me with some discomfort, and I will say something about what their shirt says, or jsut look back and smile. No foul.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Yeah, with all due respect, B- if you’re gay man it aint that much of a perk.Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:

                The ability to freely engage with women as easily as with men without sex having to be an issue is actually something I feel very lucky to have. The fact that it extends to one of the most basic taboos that straight men sometimes suffer (having to lock one’s neck above a certain angle when talking to certain women) accentuates the benefit. That’s all I was getting at.


            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              This is where I get misogynistic, I guess. If you don’t want me to look there, don’t put something there that I might want to see. (To be fair to myself, I’m unlikely to look if she’s wearing a plain T-shirt. So I’m not talking about shaming women into breast reductions.)Report

              • Avatar Boegiboe says:


                If a woman wears a T-shirt that emblazons something interesting across her breasts, she wants people to look at her breasts. If the reason she wants people to look at her breasts is that she wants to catch them at it and deride them for it, she may have been done badly by the world of men, and enough contrition from men may help her get over it. But those are the minority, I think.

                Most girls with interesting things written on their breasts want attractive men (or women) to look at their goods and figure out how to cleverly dodge around the applicable social taboos to find out what she’s thinking, whether that be beer, marriage, or a one-night stand.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                This conversation is developing a women-bashing feel.Report

              • Avatar boegiboe says:

                I am gay man who considers himself a pro-sex feminist. I hope you can re-read my comment in that light and feel better at least about the direction I was trying to take things. If not, I’d love some specific feedback on where I’m going off-course.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                I’ve read the comments and lurked around enough to want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I just wanted to point out that the conversation (not just your comment, Boegiboe) is going way of blaming women because men stare at their body parts. For example, Will T.’s comment directly above you and Scott’s directly below. You are ultimately responsible for your own behavior. I expect to get a certain amount of attention when I wear tight jeans and/or a low cut shirt, but down blame me because you can’t stop looking.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There’s a difference between a leer and an admiring look.  Every woman knows the difference.   Yes, men look.   A lot.  And we think about sex.   A lot.

                The worst and most repulsive sort of look women ever get comes from women.   Sometimes that look comes from themselves.

                If women don’t like to be objectified, we men would like women to cordially return the favour and quit treating us like slobbering sex-crazed sub-humans.   I notice how women look at me in a good suit and shined shoes.   Women objectify men, too.   But when women do it, oh, that’s just sizing up suitable partners, nothing particularly demeaning about that, eh?

                Perhaps it’s not so bad to be objectified.   Women judge each other far more harshly than men and there’s nothing meaner on God’s grey earth than a sixth-grade girl.  I raised two of them, I know.   Perhaps if we respected each other and recognised each other’s faults and foibles, and yes, if men notice your body, I observe women notice me for aspects of myself which have nothing to do with me as a person.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                I am more inclined to agree (or tolerate) with an argument articulated as Blaise does above than “Just like when chicks wear sweatpants or something with a logo on the butt and then get upset when you stare.” or even “the reason she wants people to look at her breasts is that she wants to catch them at it and deride them”.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                What the hell do you want from men, anyway?   To pretend you’re not desirable?   When I was a younger man, fine upstanding individual with six languages under my belt and poor as a churchmouse, the women I desired, the smart, articulate girls who just looooooved my Fronch Acksont wouldn’t give me the time of day.   They lusted after the jocks and the rich men’s sons.

                Now that I’m old and ragged and now wear bespoke suits when I go to clients, things are different oh yes they are.   I don’t wear a wedding ring any more and I get some interesting looks.   And guess what, Mary, I despise these women, really deep down just loathe them as their eyes pass over me.   Just as much as you despise the guy who eyes your booty.

                Food for thought.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                Yes, we all admire your ability to ask us to fly off to magical fairyland, where reality ain’t.

                There’s a touch of a difference between men and women being objectified. You see, a woman gets judged based on beauty and how young she is. After around 25, a woman’s basically off the “hot market”, and after 40, well, you may as well forget being beautiful.

                Men can pull it off well into their sixties (somehow Chavez keeps on winning “sexiest man in Venezuela”… don’t ask me).

                Life isn’t exactly fair, and this objectification hits women a LOT harder than men. Women gotta be sticks, and have big hurt-your-back boobs — and be the center of all attention.

                It is not the same, don’t treat it like that.


                I’d love to treat men like they weren’t sex-crazed loons, and I try to at work — where you’d better not be looking at me like I’m on the menu, no matter how nice you do it. But it ain’t reality, just a polite fiction. Luckily, most men outgrow the phase of being complete putzes.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                give you a bit of insight, since you appear to lack women of that sort as friends. Nobody dates jocks for the sex — they date them because they weren’t popular as girls, and now they wanna be told that they’re hot stuff on wheels for being a bit slutty.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Earth to Kimmi.   You just don’t like where this argument is leading, to the simple and obvious truth that in this sick, sad world, women really do objectify men, as surely as those drab little females size up those male birds of paradise, hopping and screeching and hanging upside down, spreading their wings in their leks in New Fucking Guinea.

                I’m sick of all the ads and TV shows featuring stupid men and clever women.   I’m sick of the Men are Pigs argument, which appears with tiresome frequency and has now turned up here, to which men are just sposta hang their heads and grin and meekly observe, “uh, yeah, guess we are pigs…”   I’m sick of the lack of respect for men which seems to be about par for the course in this society.   I’m sick of women routinely getting custody of children from the courts.

                I’m sick of the pro-life debate completely ignoring fathers’ rights — all this sideshow flimflam about parental notification — nowhere have I seen anyone on the pro-choice side bring up the fact that the father of the Fetus in Question just might have anything to say about the fate of his child.   Do you have any idea what it’s like to live with the Molecule of Rage, testosterone?    We’re constantly being told how women suffer, and yes, women do suffer.   Men suffer too, and we die earlier and we get killed in disproportionate numbers because we do have to live with the Molecule of Rage and Lust and all those other unfortunate aspects of being men.

                If men are to respect women, all we ask is for the favour to be returned.   The rest is just so much tendentious bullshit.


              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                “After around 25, a woman’s basically off the ‘hot market’, and after 40, well, you may as well forget being beautiful.” Kimmi, please don’t tell me that. I just turned 25 and this is the most depressing thing I could hear right now. I going to pretend/hope this isn’t true (I don’t care if it denial).

                Don’t be bitter, Blaise. Everyone knows the people worth getting to know are people who want to get to know you. It is okay to secretly despise women, “really deep down just loathe them as their eyes pass over me”, but don’t let that prevent you from getting to know them. You may be incorrectly prejudging them. A woman would be an idiot to pass you up, if you really are a catch.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                (dark laughter)  Interesting choice of words.   A catch.   What am I, a tuna?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Gets my jokes == Happening.

                Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t such things as happening bewbs. Of course there are happening bewbs. Sadly, there are also !happening bewbs. The trait of happening, however, is not limited to bewbs. There is also the upstairs. If you’re not happening upstairs (or worse, if nothing is happening upstairs) it doesn’t matter how happening the bewbs are because it just ain’t happening.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                It is okay to secretly despise women,

                Did anyone else really think this is what Blaise was saying?  It seemed very clear to me he had a particular type of woman in mind, and one defined only by their behavior.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                I agree, women objectify men. I am the first to admit that I do it all the time. It just try not to be rude or obvious about it. And I try not to focus solely on a person’s physical appearance. That is just shallow.

                Blaise’s rant about fathers’ rights can’t really be denied.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Miss Mary,

                When I was 29, I got carded for being “under 12”. Totally not kidding on this one (it was at costco, I was grabbing samples…). It’s not like my breasts aren’t size D, either (though I always wear a sports bra)

                There are far worse things to pretend than that one, I’m certain.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                “It seemed very clear to me he had a particular type of woman in mind, and one defined only by their behavior.”

                Perhaps I wasn’t clear Jason. I was referencing the same women that Blaise was referring to, not all women.Report

              • Avatar Miss Mary says:

                “What am I, a tuna?” Of course not!

                It is clear we are of slightly different generations. Perhaps we interpret the phrase dissimilarly. It was not meant to be offensive. Just that you would be a halfway decent person.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Earth to Blaise — you’re doing that ranty thing where you go off on a tirade that’s utterly beside the point. Tell ya what — I’ma steal your shtick. -after- I get done agreein’ with ya.

                1) Yeah, it’s an embarrassment that men can’t/aren’t given children in greater numbers.Crazy is not a single sex phenom, and the parent who ain’t crazy ought to get the kids.

                2) Yeah, there ought to be some talk of father’s rights — along with what the appropriate cash-dollar-amount for being a surrogate mama to your own baby (taking, as a given, that the woman doesn’t want, and the guy does. If so, he ought to pay for it, no?).

                3) some men are pigs. others are horses, or various other things on the zodiac. I’m going to refuse to deal with the American version of the idiom, as it’s far less nuanced AND less accurate to boot.

                *time I get out my soapbox*

                Men ain’t gonna respect women, and women ain’t gonna respect men. Yer both just hairless beasts, when it gets down to the dusty road. Women ARE going to try and get the “best man” and men are going to try and both “get the best woman” and “screw as many as possible.” We as a species ain’t that good at following our instincts (which tend strongly towards rape), but it’s gonna happen.

                THAT said, it’s a polite fiction that we respect each other — and one that we ought to keep up better than we do. Making fun of men on the tellie all the time is just unsporting. Respect is something earned, and you gotta show that you’re more than just a pig before you get it. Likewise, women ought to show that they’re more than just shallow golddiggers (not to say you can’t be that and be interesting, but I’ve never seen it.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh I do have women friends, plenty of them.   Probably my best friend these days is a woman I worked for, a brilliant programmer with code on the Mars rovers — and her mother, an elderly French woman with a roguish grin, a healthy sexual appetite, a crude vocabulary and a taste for calvados — they’re the only people I feel comfortable speaking French to any more.   Another is a prominent Hollywood stylist with whom I had a fairly tempestuous relationship which simmered down to a fine friendship.  We share the same bitter opinions of superficialities, as does anyone who’s lived around Los Angeles long enough.   Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve come to rely on women more than men in consulting:  it’s usually been the women who prove the best subject matter experts.

                I like women and they like me well enough, can’t say I’ve got anything to regret in that department.    I’ve got a wonderful girlfriend, every bit my equal as a human being.   I’m turning her into a programmer.   This ain’t Fairyland up here in rural Wisconsin.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                There is a break in intent.  Some women may be putting on a t-shirt with a beer logo because they like the beer, or the color of the shirt.  Some women may be putting on a t-shirt with a beer logo because they think the logo offsets their bewbs just the right way and they’re looking to see if “he” notices today.  Others may be putting on a t-shirt with a beer logo because they think the logo offsets their bewbs just the right way and they’re looking to see if “she” notices today.  Who knows what the intent is, except the person putting on the shirt.

                However, one cannot forget that one lives in a society, and that there are social norms that exist, and aside from *that*, there are limited powers to compensate for people who push at or exceed social norms.

                If you wear a shirt that makes your bewbs look just the right way and you go out in public, you’re going to have to expect to meet people who are going to look at your bewbs, and getting offended at that seems more than a little incoherent if the whole point of wearing the shirt in the first place was because you thought it made you attractive.  You can’t expect that you have the right to pick and choose who is or is not going to look at your bewbs. I mean, go ahead and get offended if you wish (far be it from me to dictate how anybody should feel about anything), but it seems an odd expectation.

                You’re also going to meet people who are going to skeeve at your bewbs, and it’s perfectly legit to get offended at that, but unless you’re willing to use your limited power to compensate for people who push at that social norm (ie: you’re willing to engage with that person in a way that will encourage them not to skeeve on your bewbs), well, you’re also being wildly naive.  By all means, be assertive and tear the skeevy guy a verbal asshole, I’m all down with that.  If, however, you misinterpret an admiring glance as a skeevy glance, you’re verbally assaulting someone outside of bounds, and that’s – to some degree – also on you.  Bawling out a 13-year-old boy in a bookstore is probably a reaction that isn’t warranted, although his momma probably ought to teach him better.

                And like us neutral observers can’t know what you were thinking when you picked out the shirt, us neutral observers don’t know what really constitutes an admiring glance vs. a skeevy glance for a good number of guys who make glances.  You’re on your best judgment, like everybody else.  Probably – if everyone was more consciously on their best judgment – we’d have fewer of those sorts of things happening in the first place, and everybody would just get along.  About the only thing I have to say to all parties involved is be charitable to each other, but there’s no real way to enforce that.

                All that aside, I agree with all of this comment:

                Gets my jokes == Happening.

                Now, I’m not going to say that there aren’t such things as happening bewbs. Of course there are happening bewbs. Sadly, there are also !happening bewbs. The trait of happening, however, is not limited to bewbs. There is also the upstairs. If you’re not happening upstairs (or worse, if nothing is happening upstairs) it doesn’t matter how happening the bewbs are because it just ain’t happening.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:


                pardon, I didn’t mean to suggest that you didn’t have women friends. merely that you didn’t have ones who felt like explaining (or quite possibly didn’t know, there is that case too) about why girls of a certain age sometimes act like complete dickheads.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Am I off-point here?   Oddly, the title tag here reads Advertising and Manipulation,  featuring a curious anecdote about — get this — a man who sees a young woman wearing a t shirt featuring the logotype of a brewery.

                Hilarious repartee ensues forthwith, questioning the value of the same advertisement on the front of a 400 pound obeast.  Jason expanded upon that Most Excellent Joak with one of his own, featuring a codpiece and begging Damon not to tell his husband that he was lookin’ at wimmen’s bewbs, all in the spirit of Good Fun — why it’s like watching Lendl and McEnroe slamming the ball back ‘n forth back in the day.

                And Jaybird chimes in with HRBLBHRL, which nearly caused me to urinate upon my office chair I was laffin’ so hard.

                To which Boe, another gay man, pops in with his wry opinions about why women wear interesting t shirts.

                Women bashing?   Really?   Here we are, chortling like a bunch of sillies.   Methinks Boegiboe may have hit paydirt when he wondered if the reason some women want people to look at their breasts is that they want to catch men at it and deride them for it.   Well, gay men have always seemed to understand women better than breeders.   Had a straight man made the same observation, there would be no end of it until a public crucifixion had been staged front and center.

                Frikking buzzkill end to a truly funny thread.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                After around 25, a woman’s basically off the ‘hot market’, and after 40, well, you may as well forget being beautiful.

                Oh, I couldn’t disagree more.

                Exhibit A:

                Lauren Graham. Born 1967.

                Exhibit B:

                Ashley Judd. Born 1968.

                Exhibit C:

                Kristy Swanson. Born 1969.

                Exhibit D:

                Jennifer Connelley. Born 1970.

                The list could go on and on. Obviously, these are celebrities, who have succeeded in Hollywood by virtue in part of being physically attractive. But the point should still be clear: women over 40 can be and frequently are beautiful enough to attract more men than they know what to do with. Best of all, they only get more interesting with the passage of time, which at the end of the day counts for a lot more than physical attractiveness.

                So no need to get depressed about turning 25, Miss Mary. Have fun with it.Report

              • Avatar Plinko says:

                Diane Lane was born in 1965!Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Oh, I couldn’t disagree more.

                Yeah, I was going to say that I don’t live in that world where women stop being hot after 25, nor do I know anyone who does live in that world. And the crowd at my favorite bar is definitely not in that world. Lots of beautiful 40+ women who know it too. I think it’s the shitty sports bars where that’s the norm.

                Oh, and further to that point, Charlotte Rampling.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Just like when chicks wear sweatpants or something with a logo on the butt and then get upset when you stare.Report

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              No. Reference the shirt before looking — “Is that from Woot?” Continue to reference after reading — “I like that” “What an absolutely awful shirt, you have no taste”

              40/20 hindsight.Report

        • I notice bewbs all the time, in exactly the ways you’re describing.

          “She needs an underwire.”  “She needs to go up a size.”  “I bet she gets horrible lower back pain.”  “I wonder if she wants to world to notice her nipples, because Lord knows the whole world can.”

          That kind of thing.

          It has never gotten anywhere close to “HARBL BLRARLBL BLRARLBL.”Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            It has never gotten anywhere close to “HARBL BLRARLBL BLRARLBL.”

            You just can’t remember that far back.  Babies are all about Harbl Blararlbl Blrarlbl’n when they’re hungry.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Would your reaction and pending future action (buying the beer) been different if the pretty girl was replaced with a 400 pound fat guy?”

      Well, like they say, never trust a skinny brewer…Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Humor aside, the question of whether the “pretty young woman” vs. “400 pound fat guy” does introduce an interesting dynamic.

      I mean, if *I* were running a business similarly to Brooklyn Beer’s, I’d probably want to have a few thousand t-shirts printed up of the nicest, best, thickest, highest-thread-count cotton t-shirts I could possibly get my hands on. I mean, shirts that you touch and you are immediately captivated and distracted and you remember that one shirt that you loved when you were a kid and next thing you know it’s two minutes later. Shirts of *THAT* quality. And I’d have them in colors from all four “seasons”. And I’d make sure that my logo was classy.

      And I’d have 20-some of these shirts sent to every single sorority in the tri-state area, every year.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Jaybird, you spend 2 minutes thinking about childhood t-shirts? Iiiiiiinteresting…

        Seriously though, I’d probably follow your method as well, with the addition of sending similar t-shirts to fraternities, not because I want to capture the gay market so much as because at fraternities, people drink a lot of beer, so I want my beer name on their minds, and because people who want to be like the “cool” guys will also want to drink the same beer they do.

        Beer and liquor companies don’t have “Bud Lite Girls,” “Dos Equis Girls,” “Absolut Girls,” etc. hanging out at bars and clubs on the weekend or for special events, handing out koozies, key chains, beer or shot glasses, t-shirts, and occasionally even free beer, because attractive women in their early 20s are cheap labor. They have them there because attractive women in their early 20s wearing tight-fitting t-shirts advertising the product and giving people stuff sell alcohol.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          That they’re cheap labor just means the benefit/cost analysis is that much better.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I had a football jersey from John Glenn High School that I was thinking of when I wrote that very sentence. It was cotton, it was thick, and I wore it until it fell apart.

          Since then, I have been looking for similar quality shirts (I’d be tempted to buy them by the pile) but, since then, I’ve only found *ONE* shirt that evokes the same tactile flashback.

          Maribou doesn’t let me wear it much.Report

          • Avatar Miss Mary says:

            “Maribou doesn’t let me wear it much.”

            Does much mean everyday, JB? Because I imagine you trying to wear it *all the time*.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I threaten to wear it all the time. I only actually wear it once a month or so. Unless I say “This will be my pajamas shirt this week” and I wear it when I change out of my clothes after work.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        You, my friend, are missing out on your true calling.Report

      • Avatar Plinko says:

        T-shirts are knitted, so there’s no thread count. High thread counts on a woven fabric like your bedsheets means they use more of a finer yarn to make the sheets feel smoother when there are more of them per sqare inch. Fine yarns generally make knit fabrics much lighter (unless you double or treble twist them which most are loathe to do when most customers can’t tell the difference between 40s/2 and 20s/1).

        Unfortunately the trend in t-shirts for a long time has gone down the same bifurcated path as a lot of mass market goods – there’s a low road where cheapest wins where they use short staple coarse yarns that are nice and thick but feel rough & wash up nastily and on the high road they’ve gone to super fine ringspun yarns that feel very nice but are paper thin compared to the t-shirts of our remembered glory days.


  15. Avatar b-psycho says:

    1) No. If you had it before and know you liked it, you’re not being manipulated if you happen to buy more. They’re not having to convince you to try it for the first time, or to try it again after you had some that sucked, that you penciled it in with your other activities was up to you, w/ no sales pitch.

    2) No. I like their beer too, though I haven’t seen it around here in awhile tbh.

    3) No. It’s entirely up to you, makes no difference to us.

    4) If advertizing brainwashed people to the extent that is commonly assumed, then there’d never be products that fail with tons of advertizing. Even as cynical as I am about humanity, I don’t think we’re that dumb where it’s some sort of feat of mental strength to see an ad and not buy what’s being sold.  Besides, when I see a logo stretched out over some big boobs, I’m thinking “boobs”, not “I think I should go buy that”.  Does seeing this

    …make you want OE?

    5) If she just happened to walk by, no.  If she did something to go out of her way to get on your good side so she could suggest you buy it, then I’d say that’s rather frickin pathetic on their part, and I’d say you were embarrassingly gullible in that case if you didn’t tell her to fish off once she sprung the sales part on you.

    6) Nope. I’d just say she’s got good taste in beer.  It’s rare to meet a woman that’s into craft brews, at least in my experience — it’s been either Bud Light, Corona, or “I don’t like beer”.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      “Does seeing this make you want OE?”

      No, it makes me wonder how depressed some father out there is, at the moment.  Which makes me feel old.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        Don’t get down on yourself.  I just realized I read & responded to this without realizing it was Jason bringing it up.  Which makes me feel stupid for all the sexual assumptions I just ran with that don’t apply.Report

    • Avatar Scott says:

      Nope, seeing this makes me want milk.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        …after the discussion upthread about p0rn, this is probably making me think of things you didn’t mean. Or maybe you DID mean them.

        Bad Mind! Stay out of PictureBin.


  16. Avatar Plinko says:

    Gonna answer without reading what everyone else has already said:

    1. Sure, you cannot consent to the message and your reactions to them. They want you to have a particular reaction and so you did. I would say it ends there, you’re not manipulated into buying any of their product, only into thinking about their product.
    2. Sure you are, no I don’t.
    3. Nope.
    4. One doesn’t follow from the other.
    5. No.
    6. No.


  17. Avatar Steve S. says:

    “Assuming I buy the beer, did I get manipulated?
    Was I trying to manipulate you just now, and did you resent it?
    Assuming I don’t buy the beer, does that make me more virtuous in some sense?
    Given all the other ads that I never respond to, how virtuous do I need to be?
    Would your opinion of my choices change if you knew that the young woman was a paid advertiser?
    And if you knew that she was not?”

    I’m sorry, would you repeat the question? I was staring at your breasts.Report

  18. Avatar Will H. says:

    I was reading through the thread and took a break to take out the trash. I saw my neighbor outside.
    He was wearing a t-shirt that said “Blackburn,” and I’m wearing one that says, “Acme Anvil Corporation.”
    I don’t believe either of us inclined the other to make a purchase.Report

  19. Avatar Boegiboe says:

    Cleverly getting people to wear your brand–either by paying them, bribing them, giving it to them for free, or whatever–does not bother me much, as Jason has helped me figure out. Celebrity advertising makes me angry for some reason, and I have over the years attempted to rationalize my anger to Jason. (I’ll admit that’s what’s happening. But, truths are occasionally reached by such a process.)

    It bugs me that the younger a person is, the more value they ascribe to the celebrity endorsement. Clearly, younger people have less experience with the value of things, not more. So this isn’t appealing to their memory of good quality, which is a good reason for T-shirt branding (bewb-branding?) to work. It’s something else, and, for me, it challenges the entire notion that value is entirely explained by what someone is willing to pay for something.

    That is, there is potentially some part of a price of a product that may not be value for the buyer, and I think this illusory value is created by legerdemain advertising like celebrity endorsements. “Look how wonderful this person is. See, they wear/eat/drive our product. Clearly, our product has a value you couldn’t hope to comprehend, so you’d better buy it and find out!” Then there’s the prestige dimension: How much real value is there in upping the prestige of a high-schooler or middle-schooler? When children competing for prestige raises the price of a product, is marginal overall value increased? This thinking brings me way closer to utilitarian thought than I feel comfortable with. Which tells me there’s a real conundrum here.

    Anyway, the OP does a good job of drawing some bright lines, so: Good job, hubby!Report