A Handy Glossary for Adweek's 'Breastvertising' Opus

Adweek has a pretty breastactular article on the science and history of the mammary in advertising today. 

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Adweek has a pretty breastactular article on the science and history of the mammary in advertising today. The peg for this piece is Time's recent cover on attachment parenting, a cover which surely you saw, featuring a twentysomething mother breastfeeding her nearly 4-year-old boy (see key portion thereof above). David Wallis, author of the Adweek piece, writes that this cover is part of an overall trend:

Though Time executives trumpet the serious news value of their cover photo, the newsweekly was also hopping on a well-worn but reliable bandwagon. Far beyond selling bras, marketers flash young women’s breasts to hawk everything from chicken wings and cars to fishing line and, of course, magazine issues.

While I question whether the Time cover offers up the same brand of "sexiness" as the other ads that Wallis mentions (it's "breastfeeding" controversial rather than simply "breast" sexy, in my opinion, not to mention the parenting/outrage aspect bound to grab readers of Time magazine), it is the timeliest peg, we suppose, for any boob story, so there it is. Also, that issue happened to be the best-selling issue of the year, according to a spokeswoman for Time. And so, Wallis uses it as a jumping off point to explores further, complicated questions like Does sex sell? Or do boobs in ads and on magazines alienate women?

Given that we ourselves have tackled modern American society's oft-complicated relationship with the breast, we were curious to see what the answers would be. But any answer appears to be less  definitive than the entire lingo of "breastvertising" that has sprung up around the female body part. Here is your mini-dictionary of the "language of the breast," as per Wallis's piece:

  • "A Complete Waste of Time." What Ben Judd, associate business dean at the University of New Haven, calls "naked come-ons in campaigns," because, statistically, “The more nudity you show, the lower recall of the brand,” he says. (See also: Booblash. Actually, we just made that up.)
  • "Breast for Success" Marketing. A term coined by Sallie Mars, chief diversity officer at McCann Worldgroup and former director of creative services at McCann New York. This is the good kind of marketing as opposed to the bad, sexist boob-focused kind that gets people in trouble. (See also: Sexual Harassment Lawsuit.)
  • Breast, the Power of the. What good advertisers must be aware of and respect, according to Mars.
  • "Breast of Advertising, The. From Hooters to the cover of 'Time,' does the strategy sell or repel?" The full title of Wallis's article.
  • Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. A book by Florence Williams about science and breasts, particularly, how breasts and their size can impact male behavior. Apparently, science says they can.
  • Breastaurants. Establishments built "firmly on the breasts of bikini-clad waitresses." These are numerous enough to sustain entire uniform companies, "devoted to selling tiny halter tops and hot pants," and the restaurants themselves make $2 to $2.5 billion a year, profit margins that have only increased since five years ago. Their secret, according to Darren Tristano, EVP of a food industry research firm: “You are going to receive attentive service from attractive servers, and that’s something most men don’t have at home.” (See: Hooters and the lesser yet equally horribly named Twin Peaks Restaurants. Do not see: Any man or woman who takes you there.)
  • Breastvertising. This category of breast-focused advertising is a terrible portmanteau. As for the advertising itself, it must be "disruptive" to work, said McCann, "likening Time’s cover designers to Renaissance painters showing the nursing mother and child."
  • Bust Appeal. Something that people buy into, including, allegedly, women, at least if sales of "intimate apparel, padded bras and silicon breast implants" are evidence. 
  • Evolution. What Benj Steinman, editor of the trade Beer Marketer’s Insights, says is behind the current focus on cultivating women beer drinkers instead of focusing primarily on the male 21-27 demographic. 
  • Go Daddy. Maker of the sexy Super Bowl ad that most people did actually remember, the one with Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels painting URLs on a nude model. (This may be because it made people mad at Go Daddy, a company people are already mad at for other reasons, both breast-and-non-breast-related.)
  • "Handle Breasts Delicately." Advertising head David Ogilvy's advice in his 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising: “Some copywriters... try to inveigle [consumers] into their ads with pictures of babies, beagles and bosoms. This is a mistake. A buyer of flexible pipe for offshore oil rigs is more interested in pipe than anything else in the world. So play it straight,” he explained.
  • A Naked Ploy. Play on words by Wallis to convey advertisers doing something gratuitously breasty. (See also: Time magazine cover?)
  • Pornohol. A label from the group Alcohol Justice to describe a Bud Light Lime ad (Web only!) in which a topless model "cavorted on piles of loose limes as she squeezed the citrus and declared how thirsty she was."
  • Sexual Harassment Lawsuit. What female workers at Stroh Brewery Co. filed after an Old Milwaukee ad "featured buxom blondes parachuting in to surprise buddies fishing or camping."
  • Wardrobe Malfunction. When an item of clothing breaks that is not supposed to. (See also: Janet Jackson.)
We just have one more to add:
  • Breast Views. The page views that ensue when an article about breasts is written contemplating whether people like or dislike advertising featuring breasts. (See also: "with images," that Tom Ford ad.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.