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Sexist advertising? There’s an app for that.

December 2, 2009

Apple’s much-lauded iPhone lets you talk, text, listen to music, take photos, surf the web, and with thousands of apps to choose from – do just about anything. As the slogan goes, no matter what you want to do on iPhone, there’s an app for that.

Want to see models strip to their underwear when the stock markets goes down? There’s an app for that.

Want to pass your commute time looking up cute Japanese women’s skirts? There’s an app for that.

The “app” is an increasingly effective way for companies to reach consumers anytime, anywhere with highly-targeted ads – and it’s catapulting sexually-exploitative advertising into the 21st century.

Take Amp Energy drink’s new app, “Amp Up Before You Score”, which gives young men pickup lines and background information to help land 24 types of women, including “rebound girl”, “treehugger” and the increasingly popular “cougar”. Rowr! The app includes a “brag list” that lets guys keep “a name, date and whatever details you remember”, and encourages them to broadcast their scores using Twitter and Facebook. Not surprisingly, then, Amp and parent company PepsiCo responded to complaints about the app via Twitter:

Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback.

They must not have been trying very hard, because – given the subject – it’s hardly the merciless mocking I would expect. Instead, the app reinforces outdated stereotypes and encourages men to view women as game pieces used to score points towards the title of World’s Biggest Bro. It may be just another weapon in the bro’s arsenal (store it next to your polo shirts and Axe body spray), but what happens when these young men grow tired of trying to outdo one another with points and pickup lines, and actually want to connect with women? If all they have to offer are directions to hotel rooms and links to facts that might impress your “type”, the future doesn’t look bright for any of us.

As long as advertisements – whether in a magazine or on your iPhone – normalize and even encourage the objectification of women, generations of men will view women as sexual conquests instead of counterparts. But there is a glimmer of hope: after receiving numerous complaints, PepsiCo eventually removed the “Amp Up Before You Score” app. I hope that offensive apps like this one continue to draw complaints, because no matter what you want to do on iPhone, there’s an app for that – and that’s not always a good thing.

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