Guess Jeans – the harem ad format

I should take my digital camera to Beverly Hills and snap some photos of typical Guess? billboards so you can see what I mean, but I can’t be bothered. Please enjoy my verbal description instead: every Guess billboard (with the exception of the Paris Hilton ones) contains several women and one lucky man. The staging usually suggests that all the gals are actually “with” the guy. But sometimes they despair of subtlety, and arrange unbuttoned clothes and straying hands to give the distinct impression we’re about five minutes from learning just how many women a guy can do at one time.

This is how the billboards look, regardless of whether they’re featuring Guess’ line for women, for men, or the whole shebang (pun intended). This suggests Guess finds female customers responsive to ads featuring hoardes of nymphettes draping themselves around Mr. Studly.

My question is: why? Do women just look at the clothes and not see the rest of the ad? Or does the idea of a harem sound just fine to many of them? I have to admit, the idea of me having a male harem sounds good to me, but I wouldn’t expect men to react well to images of it on a billboard meant to sell power tools to them.

At this point, I feel I should mention that Guess Jeans used to be made in the US, and were of high quality back then (I had a pair that lasted ten years). The ads were racy, even though they only featured one woman gettin’ it on with a guy.   Even weirder, she was usually the focus of the ad: if anyone faced away from the camera, for example, it was sure to be the guy.   They had a TV commercial that featured a girl getting bored by   her fling with a cowboy, and shuffling the cowboy off in a taxi.   It ended with him saying in a drawl, “Hey, where you goin’? … Wait, where’m I goin’?”   That was a nice twist on the usual stereotype of men dumping women when they get tired of them.
Then Guess started outsourcing to sweat shops in foreign countries, and their clothes became so cutrate I had to return a pair when a hole rotted through them mid-thigh after maybe four launderings. That was my last experience with Guess.   And that’s about when the ads changed to the new harem format.

Is there a definite corollary between sexism and low quality? Further research is required. 😉


  1. scarlett says


    I was chatting to my boyfriend about the phenomenon of Google, that their product as a search engine is far and away a superior quality to any other search engine that they don’t have to advertise. And then you have a discount store like Target, who’s QC (at least for what you’re paying) is exceptionally high and their ads feature happy models wearing the clothes, shoes, jewelry etc – basically just telling you in the most basic format what they’re selling. And on the other end of the scale you have compaines like Coke and Pepsi with very little difference in their procut (despite what bf might say) who need, among other things, a scantily clad Britney Spears flogging them.

    My opinion? The better the product, the better the word of mouth, and the more basic ad campaign you need. The dodgier (or more similar in a saturated market) product, the harder you have to advertise and the more you have to sell sex to mask the fact your product aint that special.


  1. […] I find myself wondering if it’s any coincidence – the overall amazing quality of the show and its overall amazing equality of its representation of women as people. We’ve noted in the past that sexist ads tend to be for crap products, and theorized that this might happen because discriminating customers neither buy crap nor see women as lesser beings, and so the ads are meant to repel choosy people who might complain about poor quality.  This seems even more apparent in TV. […]

  2. […] product quality around the same time as their ads stopped focusing on women and started focusing on men being fawned over by women, maybe on purpose: At this point, I feel I should mention that Guess Jeans used to be made in the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *