Sleeping with Someone

Recently, I received an email advertising a promotion from Jawbone (a company popular for its fitness trackers). The promotion was for World Sleep Day, for which the company ran a sweepstakes to win an assortment of devices it sells in addition to its trackers. The email, shown to the right, features a woman peeking her head out of blanket with black text saying, “Let’s sleep together.” Here, the metaphor of sleeping with someone comes into play.

Although the message can be construed literally to mean the company—embodied by the tracker on the wearer’s arm—wishes to sleep with the user in the same bed (the trackers have a sleep tracking option), the rhetorical message of the email diverges from the literal to the erotic. Interpreted differently, the sexual metaphor—sleeping with someone—conveys a message that is meant, I think, to evoke a sexual response from the viewer. Frankly, the message is that the woman in the advertisement wishes to have sex with the viewer. My assumption is, of course, predicated on a few presuppositions on part of Jawbone. Here are two that immediately come to mind.

First, the company intends this message to be read by a male. Second, it assumes that this male viewer is straight or is sexually attracted to women. Although I do not know whether Jawbone’s marketing department had these ideas in mind when creating this ad—and I likely never will—I can draw from experiences with other advertising media. Typically, advertising imagery follows the male gaze—rather, the straight male gaze. In my case, this ad fails its rhetorical work.

Sidebar: I purchased a Jawbone fitness tracker, but it fell apart with a few weeks of use. Also, a friend of mine on Facebook suggested that perhaps lesbians might be the targeted group. I doubt it.