Look at this woman.

She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Absolutely perfect. Her glistening body is taught, toned, and slicked with oil. Her delicate fingers are decorated with vivid red fingernail polish, and her supple, teasing, skin has been airbrushed to an inhuman smoothness. This bronzed goddess is open, inviting, and eager. Her hands gently caress her own skin, seductively moving towards the area between her legs.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Yeah, that’s right. She doesn’t have a face. And the area between her legs is just barely masked by a Tom Ford perfume bottle.

As obvious and degrading as the bottle-placement is, the facelessness is worse. Our “perfect woman” could be sobbing her eyes out, scowling, or even asleep and we’d have no idea. This woman isn’t a woman at all, she is simply a body in a world where bodies are sold in the name of consumerism every day.


Outside of any conscious analysis, the picture itself is, admittedly, striking. The colors and style make an immediate impression, particularly the image of the woman’s red nails against the flesh-tone of her skin. The teasing quality of the two-paneled design is almost hypnotic, creating a spell-binding pull to see what, exactly, is being promised at the bottom of the ad.

So the ad is successful in grabbing audience attention. Does that make it right?

No, it doesn’t. It’s not just the objectified women who suffer, either. Sexist ads such as this one do as much harm to men as they do to women. Men who are put off or intimidated by the overt displays of impersonal sexuality glaring out at them from magazines are made to feel like they aren’t real men–and spend years constructing personas that mask their deep fear that their masculinity just isn’t masculine enough.

That’s really the point of this ad. It’s telling men that they aren’t enough. Because if they were real men, they would already have the faceless body waiting for them in bed. Because if they were real men, they would want that faceless body. How to become a real man? Tom Ford cologne. Wear Tom Ford and that woman will come to you–and what’s more, you’ll know what to do with her once you’ve got her.

And what of the women? What does this ad say about us? No real woman can live up to that fantasy. First off, how many real women do you know without faces? Putting forth the idea that a woman’s value can only be found in her over-sexualized body is unforgivable, and sets gender equality back decades. According to Tom Ford women aren’t enough either, not pretty enough, not sexy enough, not feminine enough.

I can’t help but think of the woman who posed for this picture. Is she proud of her work for the Tom Ford campaign? Which is worse, for her to feel pride or for her to feel shame?

We live in a world where we can be perceived as simply bodies, both men and women, a world where our skin itself can be branded and processed and sold. It is important for all of us, as individuals and as companies, to keep our selves and our integrity intact. As a society, we have passed the point where promises of meaningless sex and the objectification of the female body can be used as an advertising tool. Conscious, intelligent messaging that promotes positive change in the world is our only hope for a future where perfume is purchased because of how it smells and attraction is based on soulful eyes and sparkling conversation.

26 thoughts on “A Socially-Conscious Examination of Tom Ford”

  1. I cant believe they allowed this add to be run…talk about expliotation!!! It’s not cute, or sexy it’s gross and the “female” in the picture is probly just “legal”. That is just porn.

  2. Wow, are you serious? Your article delves way too deep into something that simply isn’t that terrible. You’re reading way too much into this. Sex sells & ALWAYS WILL. I’m a man, and I have my girl friend sitting right next to me, and after both reading this article we felt like your opinion is totally B.S. As a man Tom Ford’s ads don’t make me feel any less masculine, and they certainly don’t make my girl friend feel bad about herself either. We love his ads & think that they do an amazing job at promoting his product. Boo Hoo to you.

  3. Randomly came across this article and I’d have to disagree entirely with Tom. I am an art student and have had studied commercialism and the history of PR work. Tom to say she is reading way too into this merely shows your lack of understanding of how much work is put into advertisements. Edward Bernays, who is considered the father of PR and advertisement, studied psychology and used it as a means to manipulate the public into accepting and believing things. If you really think she’s reading way to into perhaps you should to bit of research on what is put into commercialism and PR work. No matter whether you morally agree or disagree with what advertising looks like, It is consciously designed to manipulate and lie. Most advertisements are based on promises that products make to people which they could never fulfill as very clearly seen in the one above. These are not my opinions it is the accepted truth by those that understand PR work on a professional level.

  4. I agree with your article here. You make some strong points. It’s not right to deface a woman in such a way, that she is only a body, selling sex/ perfume. She is not a woman though just a body, and that is demolarizing in itself, real woman are not faceless sex things. This is exploitation.

  5. I think the picture is totally degrading and should not be allowed. This or that study into the psychology of advertising is no excuse for human violation. In the UK, you are more likely to see a male exploited in such a way. Equally wrong, equally distasteful and equally justified in the same way this was.

  6. i agree with this article, and the comments supporting it, especially Joe M.’s comment. I am also an art/design student and have read much about this topic in my studies of the history of design and advertising. Anyone who thinks that we of this opinion are reading too much into it needs to understand that they aren’t reading ENOUGH into it. it’s sad that this sort of ad is seen by many people, both male and female, as acceptable. it’s a sad fact within itself that “sex sells”. you can say all you want that you aren’t buying this cologne because you believe it will get you this girl, but subconciously that’s what draws you to it and makes you think it’s a good ad. ick. it’s really time for responsible advertising to be the norm instead of this stuff.

  7. Speaking first on the image, I agree with those who say that most immediately, the purely pictorial content presses the limits of naked crudity; starkly transcending into near pornographic explicitness that is itself regardless, unfairly pictured. Or, only part of the picture. More [unfairly pictured] for the reason: sex. If one were to throw down 20 words that most specifically and trendily fashioned such a subject, inevitably, at the forefront of those said…would be sex. SEX! Dirty sex! You got it; there are different types of sex. Their is ‘making love’, their is the subject clothed, there is the natural process, and here most vividly, aside countless types, is the dirty ‘Hustler’ sex. The picture is not even ‘sexy’. Instead, just dirty. So, of course as an immediate caption, people are going to be provoked. Most reasonably because of the combination of a perfume bottle and a woman’s bare crotch. Obviously we are not talking about grandma’s pumpkin pie here; but instead, about a woman’s vagina. It does not take an artist to figure out that such a sensitive body part might be illustrated in numerous ways; if, of course, at all.
    Further, instead of making a lady-pretty picture, the nails are necessarily flaring red; thereby further insinuating the already unreal, the already dirty. The…unfortunate playboy-penthouse picture that we have long-since been preprogrammed to interpret. Sex, the word again! Dirty sex the phrase again!

    The second picture is of course a different step, one which, in numerous senses, descends. If I were defending the picture, of course a few expressions I would sententially if not paragraphically adorn would be “out of pop art”. “no part of the body is wrong”, “woman”, “above the twentieth century”; thereby appealing to the age-old concept of novelty so redundant in advertising. New!–I would say. NEW!

    However, I am not for the picture as a picture. As anyone who has browsed galleries of photography, I am inclined to generalize by saying that it’s plainly unorginal, [at best]. Even in artistic, colorific beauty, Lisa Yuskavage, someone who paints only female nakedness, would not paint such a picture! Don’t believe me?–Go look!

    Worse still, this is a far different picture than purely being that, a mere photograph. Far different than a mere art painting, that which is seen for its palable reflection of what we, on some level, hold to be of ravishing import. Like many of those who have said above, it, instead, is necessarily devided between the interfaces of advertising, social psychology, of that which “manufactures” our conscent and attention, of that which [demands] our collective attention with an already bruised subject, the female in all her blown-up and nearly naked beauty. It is between these and of course like all subjects when in relation to us, ethics. There is always a question of ethics that every one of us has to take into consideration.

    In various media markets, it is, put simply, out of place. On a subway wall of Hambourg, Germany; one would never expect something so grotesque as this while next to a non-metaphorical, not-suggestive, real advertisement of, for example, coffee, oranges, an automobuile, etc. On public networks such as ABC, this advertisement would not at all be what the millions of people expect, no of course not! Obviously it is aimed at a very specific type of consumer and, not at all so easily and generally ‘mediatized’ as people like Tom Ford might have it. And, for clear reason. Its certainly not for six year-olds. Its clearly not intended for that state of Mormons out there. No, just like all the comments say… its a woman’s private part being stuffed into our face like its an object of art and divinity and all things sublime!

    In the history of fashion, nudity has always been on the penumbra of focus. However, if one were to look through stacks of the history of fashion, one might easily come to the conclusion that aside from being without clothes, a major problem with nakedness has been how to capture it. Tom Ford has been quite iconic in fashion, and this was of course not his only idea of nudity. Samuel de Cubber, a friend of mine, was one of the first male models to ever pose nude as he did. I remember being in the agency, walking in the lounge, talking about his getting the job. And, just as I said, that was also for Tom Ford’s work. Obviously, it is meant to be called revolutionary. Radical. By various communities and fewer institutions, beauitful!

    I agree that beauty of the woman has been being exploited, has been and is on various levels damaging and dishonest and, needs to be reconsidered. For those of you out there who know anything about psychology or clincial illeness (or for those of you who don’t), one of the things you Should know is that a lot of books have been published on this very subject. On being a victim of fashion. Many of you out there might read “fashion victim” and sneer between your teeth at the ridiculous and petty absurdity of that expression. Fashion victim!–you might cyncially and rhetorically wonder… “fashion victim!” And to you, I will say, that is right, it is real. It is the drive to look a certain way that comes from an inundation of pictures such as this. It is a drive to stop eating that derives from pictures such as this… It is a drive to change one’s complete physicality that comes from pictures such as this.
    Where else if not in pictures like this would such problems start?

    I think the picture is, on numerous levels, disgusting. Careless. Greedy. I think it is harmful. And, best of all, I think it is not necessary if we wish to sell perfume. Hence, even on a functional level, what really is it doing? If the perfume is so excellent, so necessary before love can happen, so powerfully wonderful a scent… then why does Tom Ford in all his artistry, need a woman’s crotch to sell it?

  8. An interesting analysis. While I am confounded by our very American nature to reject the human body and to be angered by sexuality as opposed to violence, I find this to be a crude exploitation of the medium. As you remarked, its quite an effective one. What it lacks in creativity it makes up for with raw animism.

    While I leave it to the rest of your audience to discuss the nature of the piece, I myself am most intrigued by what sort of Photoshop process went into the bottle itself. The curves of the her barely masked butt, and the shadow of the nether regions only lends further emphasis on the product.

    Masterfully done, if in the end, pointless and tasteless.

  9. in the add you have pictures with the faces of (supposed)the same girl. Also you have pictures of man all nue.
    Just art, as what he is selling.

  10. Your article withholds one important information: where this advertisement was pubished. Is it from a women’t magazine, a men’s magazine, or a general audience publication like a daily newspaper or billboard. Depending on what audience it was aimed at, and depending on who could and, even more important, who could NOT see this add, it has to be judged entirely differently.

    If children or teenagers are exposed to these images (which I doubt) I would say this is porn and hurting the normal developent of healthy young people. If it was posted in a men’t magazine, I would say, it is more harmless than what any interested male will be looking at in the internet and therefore harmless. If it was published in a women’s magazine, I would say: women need to take care of their mental hygiene and not fill their minds with images and ideas that make them feel ugly, inferior or whatever. The fault would then lie with the female readers who without being forced to do so swallow this excrement day in, day out.

    Men are generally much less misogynist than women themselves. Tastes and expectations vary in men as much as the shapes and characters of women do. The most sexist publications, women’s magazines and women’s romantic fiction, are largely made by and for women.

    So, please supply this information, because taken out of context as it is, you can of course project all your prejudices into it.

  11. You really need to lighten up. its not that big of a deal. the add is sexy, and im sure the model was paid well. if you don’t like it, don’t look at it.

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  13. I don’t mind sexy ads, but this one was disgusting. These images are harmful to certain viewers if the viewer does not aggressive analyze the message in this campaign. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the advertiser to protect potential consumer’s conscious or subconscious thoughts. That privilege belongs to the viewer themselves. Personally, when I discover which magazine housed these vulgar images in its pages, I will be less likely to purchase or read that magazine on a monthly basis.

    Tom Ford’s add disappointed me, using sex in this intensity is an unimaginative way to gain attention. Taking into consideration the amount of money used in this company’s advertising, a more creative approach could have been taken to generate a buzz.

  14. I agree with Tom, Marc and Aaron. Yes, the ad contains a fair amount of sexual tension, but the analysis is unnecessarily dramatic. It’s not such a big deal. I fail to see the “degradation” and “explotation” too.

  15. i also found this ad pretty disgusting. There’s sexy and then there’s slutty. I wouldnt have mind a woman with her top off and have her hands covering her breast or something like that. Thats sexy. This is straight up porn. it has no right being published in a regular magasine. and im sure the woman in this photo is not mentally happy with herself. sure she might have a nice body but if u already know it, u dont have to flaunt it around to get noticed. besides, she wont even get noticed cuz her face isnt even showing. its degrading to woman cuz a real lady doesnt show herself off like that. obviously tom ford and the woman in the photo have no morals whatsoever.

  16. The pic is hot. I have to admit I love it. But as a woman, there is absolutely no way I am letting a bottle of cologne that close to my best friend if you know what I mean…

  17. I love this photo and I am a woman. This image immediately takes the mind to an erotic place. The idea behind perfume/cologne is in fact the notion that human scent/pheremones will elicit a raw animalistic response in people. I think that the rawest, most primal smell on a female is in fact her “nether reasons”. The juxtaposition or coupling (depending on how you look at it) of this woman’s body and the perfume bottle reminds us of just how powerful smell can be in the sexual seduction process.

    It is raw. It is crude. It is “in your face”. It is primal. But isn’t there a place for all of that at least somewhere in our society. Where this ad is place is definitely the factor in determining how offensive the ad actually is. If it’s in a men’s magazine then there’s no problem, but if it’s in Cosmo where little girls can see it, then I’d have to object. There is a time and place and CONTEXT for everything.

  18. Wow, this add may be of the perfect bad taste, for many reasons, but the article «A Socially-Conscious Examination of Tom Ford» is a clear projection of the author personnal frustration and paranoia.

    I don’t know wich is more pathetic.

    I am sorry to be that rude, and please, forgive my bad english for it is not my language, I just hope it was legible

  19. Huh. That’s one way to sell a product I suppose. Well if he really went to college and studied psychology in order to manipulate the masses into purchasing a product… I only wish this guy was my attorney.

  20. ……literally….there are women dying in the middle east and y’all are crying over a perfume bottle placed between a woman’s legs…. Literally you think tom ford is the Peak Problematique guy, ruining feminism. Oook

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