One of the most fascinating things about the internet age is the transience of a news story.
This can be great for those who have ever wanted to escape their online history. Anyone who has ever had an embarrassing blog (including me) can breathe a sigh of relief that everything they have posted online is erased, or forgotten as more and more stories are stacked on top of one another.
The barrage of information means that news flows so quickly that we move on swiftly – last week Taylor Swift, this week Jennifer Lawrence. The problem is, however, that things do tend to be forgotten. News stories that enrage us are saturated, then left after they’ve seen a lot of online traffic, or had a desirable number of retweets.
The most recent example of this comes courtesy of last month’s story about a PR company paying women in Japan to advertise on their thighs. For those who missed it, Absolute Territory are a Japanese marketing company who pay women to paste temporary tattoos of brand logos on their themselves. To be eligible you must be at least 18-years-old and connected to least 20 people on social networking sites, and the idea is that you must upload pictures of yourself on to then collect your money at the end of the day (the amount of money you’re paid has apparently been reported as much as $12 to $130, so who knows).
Oh, and the name of the PR company, “Absolute Territory,” - who have been used by bands like Green Day to promote their most recent album - is a translation of the Japanese phrase “zettai ryouiki,” which describes the area on a woman’s leg between the end of her skirt or short and the beginning of a knee-high stocking. Nothing creepy about that.
‘Ad creeping’ (the term to describe marketing technique that sees advertisements creeping into your everyday life) is no new thing – whether it's Gordon’s Gin pumping the scent of Juniper berries into UK cinemas in the 90s, Calvin Klein being squirted onto the backs of Ticketmaster tickets, or product placement across TV and film.
Advertising has crept into everyday life so subtly that we now forget to be outraged that our lives are branded, and that brands dictate the way we use our senses. In a sense, Absolute Territory have taken this idea of expanding advertisements from the 2D backdrops of plain old billboards and had a revolutionary idea – why not make us the billboard? And by us, I mean young women, and by women, I mean specifically, their thighs.
In a sense, we have become the billboards for as long as we can remember, as much as wearing designers and drinking branded coffees make us walking adverts. But the normalisation of casting the male gaze directly onto a woman’s thigh, and keeping it there, with the justification of ‘selling space’ is something we should all be worried about. The power of suggestion is what keeps advertisers in the money – whether it's Burger King re-enacting blow jobs or Campari letting you know that “Campari: The first time is never the best” in case you didn’t know, sex sells. And it couldn’t be less tedious.
The focus here is not that hyper-branding culture has found itself onto women’s thighs, perhaps that was always the next step. The issue is that this sexual corporate commodification of the female body is the latest in an ongoing train of thought that sees women as billboards.
In the week that welcomes International Women’s Day (this Friday) it poses an opportunity to look at women’s issues that we may have moved away from, and to take a moment to think about and to retain some anger about things that are no longer deemed newsworthy.
Advertisements are transient. We’ve grown used to looking up at the ever-changing, shinier, punchier taglines, but to make a simple but important point, women’s issues aren’t. We’ve been trained to move on from adverts in a way that we can’t afford to move on from feminist issues. If we see companies attempting to project corporate identity in place of female identity, we need to start a conservation, and not stop until people listen.