Advertising teaze

By 16:31

Rivonia Road is surrounded by the residential suburbs of Rivonia, Morningside, Sunninghill, Paulshof, Woodmead and Bryanston. It’s a very busy road with schools, shopping centres and restaurants on and just off it. I travel down that road quite often. Some of things that stand out for me are The Grand’s beautiful building, their little video advertisement and the Teazers’ billboards.
Teazers’ billboards have been in the limelight for the past couple of years, mostly due to complaints about their billboards being in bad taste by objectifying and demeaning women. The Advertising Standards Authority looked into these complaints a while back and of the six billboards in question, only one of them was deemed too sexual in nature and had to be removed. This ruling in Teazers’ favour tells us that freedom of expression is still alive and well in South Africa.
I happen to like those billboards. Their ads are always cleverly put together, well worded, and have good models and quality graphics. One of my favourites was a rather conservative ad. The woman wasn’t scantily clad and the wording had no implication of sex whatsoever. It was a picture of the street where a Teazers billboard had the “ASA banned” banner covering it. The words were cleverly aligned to read, “Come see our ‘ASA banned’ girls”. Contrary to the complaints that probed the ASA investigation, I thought that billboard was very classy, in good taste and quite funny.
My concern isn’t about self-conscious (or self-righteous) women who are uncomfortable with the billboards; it’s really about the kids. Rivonia Road is en route to many child friendly places. Suburbs are nearby and so are schools and shopping centres. Children will notice the billboard. The famous one that comes to mind is the “No need for Gender Testing!” billboard that had a woman lying naked on her back with only her arms strategically crossed to cover her girly parts. This model was practically nude and displayed out in the open for everyone to see. I wonder what it is that children understand about these ads?
I’m glad I am not a parent because I don’t know how I’d go about explaining that to a curious child. A lot of my friends cringe when they cart around kids where strip club ads are displayed. Anyone concerned about little ones wants to protect them from getting the idea that women are seen as nothing more than objects for the satisfaction of male pleasure. We also want to protect their “innocence” from knowing what the billboard is advertising – what they are trying to sell.
Children are exposed to a lot as it is. Raunchy music videos mimicking sexual acts are displayed on TV which is easily accessible to children. Surely this is far more damaging than a Teazers’ billboard? I once had a nine-year old girl say to me, “Do you know that Rihanna’s lesbian? Haven’t you seen her Te Amo video? She has come out!” I didn’t know to tell this little girl that Rihanna’s not quite lesbian.
Sex is implied in the lyrics of songs that are played on the radio. Some popular songs aren’t given airtime on the radio due to its sexual content. I’ve never heard Lil Jon’s Get Low or Jeremih’s Birthday Sex on the radio yet a beautifully romantic song by Ne-yo, When You’re Mad, is being played during the time that children are being driven to school on a popular radio station. What do children think when part of the hook of the song is: Could it be the little wrinkle over your nose, when you make your angry face that makes me wanna just take off all your clothes and sex you all over the place?
Sex sells and is prominently displayed on billboards and various forms of print and media advertising by other companies too. Calvin Klein’s received some flak for an ad where a sexy girl was being held down by a couple of guys wearing only CK jeans. The complaints were that it alluded to gang rape even without any nudity on it. Children also saw this ad and would be able to conclude that a girl is being held down by a couple of guys against her will.
Even GodFirst Church put up a billboard simply stating, “Jozi loves sex. God loves sex. Let’s talk.” After the initial shock of not expecting to associate that phrase with a church, it eventually dawns that the church is trying to send the message that sex isn’t dirty and sleazy. ‘God created it so come to church to find out how he intended for sex to be enjoyed’ – that is how it was probably intended to be interpreted. This was the church’s way of urging young people to come to church to tell them about immoral and moral sex from the Bible’s standpoint. Young children who couldn’t yet read weren’t affected by the billboard. The message that teens and pre-teens must have mistakenly gotten is that God says that sex is OK. The sex that pre-teens and teens are currently exposed to is pre-marital sex, pressure for young girls to lose their virginity and the risk of being labelled uncool if not sexually active. Therefore, teens and pre-teens may assume that the billboard implies that God believes that it is fine to have this sex that they are exposed – contrary to what their parents may have instilled.
The Love Life campaigns invested heavily in advertising to promote the ABC of sex to prevent teens from contracting HIV. A few years into their campaigns, surveys showed that their target market didn’t actually understand their advertising. The same can be assumed for the GodFirst Church’s billboard.
So what is the solution to protecting children’s innocent eyes from the degradation of women and from assuming that sex is this wonderful thing that needs to happen right now? Banning of sexually offensive advertisements?
Offensive is quite a subjective term. I happen to think that the Lollipop Lounge billboard where a girl is licking on a lollipop and the phrase says, “Come treat your lolli,” is far more offensive than the Teazers’ billboards that I’ve seen, yet others have said that children wouldn’t understand the phrase and the billboard hasn’t displayed any signs of negative sexual depiction of women.
Banning these ads would also impact their freedom of expression. Companies have previously been banned from advertising. The tobacco industry comes to mind. Cigarette companies aren’t even allowed to sponsor events anymore as it is seen as a form of advertising their products. It’s not only about the misleading print ads that cigarettes are fun and not harmful to your health; it was also that the mention of the cigarette companies may lead more people to buy a product that may lead to cancer. Cigarette packs have since added health warnings to their packs and are still not allowed their freedom of expression. The reason for the ban is based on the assumed health benefits of the country as a whole.
So, if British American Tobacco can’t advertise their products, surely it is possible to ban strip club advertisements on similar grounds. The illustration of women as sexual objects is dangerous in a country when one in two of its women will be raped in her lifetime. Are we teaching little boys that women belong in lingerie and high heels and shouldn’t be respected otherwise? Portraying the casualness of sex isn’t wise in a country that contains the highest population of people living with HIV/AIDS.
A Teazers billboard in the residential Midrand suburb

I don’t think the answer lies in preventing strip clubs to advertise a legal business. Regardless of whether Teazers puts up an ad with the view of a naked woman’s side profile, there has been an infiltration of varied sexual messages and it will continue to grow. The president of the country continues to have unsafe casual sex – we see the proof in his growing number of illegitimate kids – and has been accused of rape. The media is filled with messages we don’t want our children to hear or see and it is extremely difficult to hide it from them. We’re not going to be able to stop this anytime soon unless President Zuma decides to run South Africa as a dictatorship, where privileges to all forms of communication to the outside world may need to be revoked in order to censor offensive material.
Perhaps, instead of cringing at the site of a raunchy ad, we explain what it means to children. When they ask what that scantily-clad woman is trying to sell, tell them that Teazers is a place where women dance. Tell them that you don’t go there because these women dance naked and why you disapprove. Tell them that some of these girls do this for a living not because they enjoy it but because they can’t find any other employment to survive or take care of their families. Tell them that the billboards are a way to let people know that people will see these ladies if they go to the club. Tell them that some men want to see this but that doesn’t mean that girls need to dance without their clothes on. And while, you’re telling them all this, take a closer listen to the lyrical content of your kids’ ipods, watch the movies they’re interested in, look at the story-line of their favourite TV shows, ask them what they think about the articles in teen magazines and talk to them.
We can’t protect our children from everything. What we can do is assist them in seeing the bigger picture and guiding them in how they should perceive these messages by using our own values and principles to channel the discussions. Only by talking about it, will we be able to undo whatever harm is done to these little kids’ minds. Ignoring it breeds future destructive behaviour.

You Might Also Like


  1. Your publicist has noted an error in this blog, Birthday Sex is sang by Jeremiah not Drake.

  2. Thanks for pointing it out. I've edited it :-).