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'An image can be stronger than an army': The ads that shook society

18 November, 2015 04:54
'An image can be stronger than an army': The ads that shook society

"Advertising reflects the mores of society, but does not influence them," wrote advertising powerhouse David Ogilvy in 1982, supposing a sort of ethical neutrality for the industry he pioneered.

That same year, Bruce Weber shot the Calvin Klein advertisement starring Tom Hintnaus that changed the face of advertising, presenting audiences with a homoeroticism unfamiliar to mainstream media, and perhaps proving the legendary patriarch wrong -- advertising can, and has, changed the way that the world sees things.

"When we passed a shelter almost everyone on my side of the bus swiveled his or her head to get a better look at the image, which was basically shoving the man's physicality down the audience's throat," explained art and fashion critic Ingrid Sichy, of the first time she saw the Calvin Klein billboard, with Hintanaus' sexuality front and center.

The image was shot during the peak of the AIDS crisis, when homosexuality was commonly affiliated not with desirability but with fear: Weber's underwear ad was shocking and sexy and subversive -- and it marked a new wave of fashion advertising that challenged societal norms, as well as selling clothes.

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