Reebok backs that ass [claim] up


Imagine you are a Reebok ad executive facing flat sales and an even flatter image problem. Do you:

a) design an ad campaign based on the product you were given and its proven benefits

b) quit your job because it’s too hard

c) spend the whole day watching episodes of Mad Men on Netflix Instant to channel inspiration

d) based on little to no scientific evidence, claim that EasyTone footwear will measurably strengthen the muscles in the legs, thighs and buttocks, and then design a sexist and objectifying ad campaign based on this faulty claim that promises the shoes will, among other things, “make your boobs jealous of your ass”??

If you chose d), congratulations! You did the same thing as the real-life Reebok ad folks.

Not that it was legal. You may remember that almost a year ago, I wrote a silly pun-riddled post quoting the New York Times takedown of the bunk science behind Reebok’s claims. Well, now the AP reports that Reebok must pay $25 million in customer refunds for what amounts to false advertising.

I don’t know if it bothers me more that this ad campaign sought to exploit women’s insecurities and culturally normative standards of beauty, or that they lied about their product’s benefits to do so. But it is encouraging that their actions were found to cross a line.

And although $25 million probably amounts to a drop in the bucket for Reebok, considering that toning shoes were the fastest-growing segment in the footwear industry last year with a $1.1 billion market share, it’s a start. And in addition to the financial returns for people who purchased the product, the case serves as a good and necessary reminder to all of us folks trying to live our lives in the most deliberate and informed way possible to question the images and claims we encounter on a daily basis…especially when they come from corporations who aren’t technically in the business of caring about anything except profit.

Soo in conclusion…Occupy Wall St anyone??

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • billy williams

    F)!-I spend the entire day watching parks & recreation with strong feminist lead AMY POEHLER,YA!

  • Chloe H.

    Also important to note that these “toning shoes” actually cause real damage to the human body – people’s knees, hips, and backs are at risk when these shoes are worn consistently. If a class action law suit was to be followed, hopefully they could organize one from folks who endured high medical expenses due to the shoes.

    • toongrrl

      Really? Where’d you find that info? I guess I have another reason to avoid these shoes if it weren’t for the sake of wearing something on my feet
      I thought they were hoaxes that were created to make money off the gullible, now they work….on wrecking our bodies

  • Brady

    Not to be a nuisance, but I think the comment of the shoes causing harm to the body is laughable. This can easily be said about any type of shoe that may not be good for your body. You need to know what you’re wearing and if its the right shoe for you.

    On the other hand,
    These concepts shape how the media views the male and female genders, judging what people should look like and how they should act. The ad creates perceptions of the other gender that can affect ones behavior. Some ads are done very tastefully and respectively while others are aimed towards making the viewer feel as though they are not good enough. Many of the commercials and ads in the media use this idea to create need for the product. These advertising ploys play with the viewers’ self-esteem and self-image. In this ad the female body is “chopped” into two pieces: butt and legs. The focus of this ad is all about sex appeal, supported by the very skinny women dancing in short shorts, skirts, and minimal amounts of clothing. The women are viewed from the waist down only, showing skinny legs and a very tight butt. One must think while watching this ad, “Can I look like that if I wear those shoes?” This ad contributes to the concept of the female gender and femininity by adding to the notion that ‘girls can always be skinnier’ and that there is always something you can do to look better. This ad focuses in on a woman’s breasts, having the breasts talk about the tight and tone butt taking away all the attention. “Make your boobs jealous” of your tone and sexy butt and legs is the purpose of the ad. This furthers the idea that being feminine means being very sexy with skinny legs and a tight butt. The concept of the female gender is, again, being conveyed to the viewer of the ad as an object rather than the fact that women are people with varying body sizes and ideas of beauty. People of color are not represented in the women’s Reebok ad, which, on a side-note, I find interesting. The main intention of the ad is very clear; using the perception based “attack” on the viewer to get them to feel the need to buy the product. A persons’ perception of themselves and their self-esteem, along with societal impression management of ones master status, is a very powerful tool and these ads are evidence that the media knows how to use our own minds to their advantage. A similar ad that is aimed toward portraying masculinity and how men should look is the Shake Weight for Men ad. The body is “chopped” into a piece from the waist up to the neck. The men shown in the video are extremely fit, nearly “steroid” like figures with muscles bulging. This is how men are seen in ads for virtually any product you can think of: shirt off, washboard abs and huge arms. This general body type of men in the ads of the media today also attacks the self-esteem and self-image of men. The ad says, “You will build definition, size and strength.” Masculinity is viewed as the necessity to be a big, strong, buff man and gives the impression that the male gender has to look this way in order to thrive in today’s society.

  • Michael

    This is really an interesting article to me, I think its absurd how a well known company can be so sexiest. They are exploiting women’s insecurities so there company can make money, which I think is ridicouls. They are protraying a image that makes it seem that it is sexy to have a nice butt. The media is also making it seem that it is okay for this kind of sexist advertisement to be displayed on main stream media. I bet there are a alot of women offended by this advertisement cause it really offends me and im a male. And the fact that there is no scientific proof for this shoes is kind of pointless I think this could fall under a false advertising since there is really no proof behind these shoes. Also there is a chance that you can be permenatley injuried from these shoes I don’t understand why a women would ever buy these shoes. It would be so sexiest if this product was being advertised to both a male and female audience. I think there should be a boycott on rebook products until they advertise the shoes to a male and female audience or they take the products of the market.