I recently wrote about Crimson Trace’s interesting banner at the NRA annual meeting in Louisville. The banner depicted 5 individuals using guns with Crimson Trace lasers to defend themselves. A majority (3 of the 5) were female, reflecting Crimson Trace’s heavy marketing to women. And yet the body language of the men depicted (leaning in aggressively) was very different than the women (leaning back defensively). I found that noteworthy as gun culture continues to attempt to bring more women into the fold.
This was fresh in my mind while I was going through some old gun magazines recently, again looking at the advertising more than the content. I was struck by a pair of ads run by Crimson Trace in The American Rifleman in 2009.
In February 2009, the following ad appeared:
And in April 2009, its apparent twin:
The first thing that struck me about both of these ads was their depiction of the aftermath of armed self-defense. I have never used a firearm in self-defense, but I remember well Massad Ayoob telling his MAG-40 students that no one “wins” a gunfight; you only survive. Both of the individuals depicted in these ads survived, but there is no sense of victory for either the woman or the man. I was surprised by that.
Also, although parking garages are often depicted as dangerous places for women — like in the N82 Tactical ad I mentioned in my previous post on Crimson Trace — the reality is that men are more likely to use firearms for self-defense outside the home and women are more likely to use firearms for self-defense inside the home. So, the depiction of the male model here in public and the female model at home is realistic.
Of course, the two ads are not perfectly symmetrical in other ways. The male is positioned in the front of the frame and used a full-size 1911, while the female shrinks to the back of the frame and used a snub-nosed revolver.
Also, I thought the language used in the two captions was telling. “The guy with the laser survived.” But not “The woman with the laser survived.” Rather, “Her laser saved her.” The subject of the sentence, the actor, being the laser not the woman. Certainly not “She saved herself” (or “He saved himself” for that matter), these ads being designed to sell Crimson Trace lasers.
Although I find the realistic elements of these ads interesting, I also know that advertising does not primarily concern reality. Advertising exists to sell products, and in doing so often sells much more than the products themselves. Advertising sells ideas and ideals about right and wrong, good and bad, problems and solutions. In visual media, it can sell products and ideas/ideals subconsciously, as the images resonate with viewers in ways they may not process cognitively.
If I had more time it would be interesting to systematically examine the thought process that goes into the construction of gun advertisements, and how people receive the messages encoded in these ads.