Rich Jerk Watch: Sexist, Homophobic Ad Tactics Home Page : Rich Jerk Watch : July 2007

July 3, 2007 16:16 - A Request to a Defender of the Rich Jerk's Advertising to Reconsider his Support

I wrote the following comment on Ross Goldberg's Immortal Marketing Marketing Musings blog, under his post entitled, "Why I WILL Be Attending Rich Jerk’s Playboy Party!"

Mr. Goldberg: I urge you to reconsider your support of this event and its prejudiced promotional material.

Mr. Felix (creator of the Rich Jerk character and business) employs blatantly sexist and homophobic words and imagery to promote his brand and make money.

Defenders of the Rich Jerk promotion claim that "it's only a character" as if advertising characters do not influence people's perceptions and attitudes.

To the contrary, the Rich Jerk sales letters, videos, and other advertising materials reinforce and perpetuate sexist and anti-gay attitudes and beliefs.

Do you think people are unaffected by advertising characters? If so, why did Mr. Felix create the Rich Jerk character in the first place?

Of course an advertising character influences people--that's the whole point of creating them in the first place!

But oftentimes the intended effect of an advertising character is not the only effect. Check out this historical example:

 Aunt Jemima Advertising - Perpetuation of Racist Stereotypes

which is also featured on this page:

Ads like the one above influenced White Americans' perceptions, attitudes, and behavior toward African-Americans for decades--centuries, if you include non-commercial propaganda produced by pro-slavery groups in the 18th and 19th century and Jim Crow writings and images during the post-Civil War period.

Thus, I hope we would all agree that advertising, including characters created as part of an advertising and marketing program, influence consumers. This influence sometimes includes changing or, more commonly, reinforcing and perpetuating prejudiced stereotypes about marginalized groups of society.

Although racist advertising still exists today, it is less blatant and less frequent than in the past. Advertising characters that perpetuate stereotypes about religious groups can also be found but are generally exposed and opposed faster than in the past.

But there are two groups which are still "fair game" for bigotry or prejudice: Women and GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered) citizens.

Therein lies the problem with the Rich Jerk's advertising. It's still acceptable in many circles, including the Internet marketing elite, to denigrate women and gays without compunction.

Mr. Goldberg, I hope you eventually recognize that you are condoning bigotry toward women and gay citizens by your support for--and defense of--the Rich Jerk Playboy Party and its promotions.

Sincerely, Mark
Mark D. Worthen, Psy.D.
Rich Jerk's Sexist, Homophobic Advertising: A Squidoo Lens

July 4, 2007 01:09 - The Dilemma of Controversy-Driven Advertising That Is Sexist and Homophobic

Several colleagues have expressed concern that by writing about the Rich Jerk Playboy Party we are playing right into his hands by giving him free publicity and that perhaps rather than focusing on the negative, e.g., pointing out what's wrong with the event and its advertising, we should do something positive.

I have given a lot of thought to the dilemma controversy-driven advertising presents. On the one hand if you do nothing, it won't go away, and, on the other hand, if you protest it, you draw attention to it and potentially give the advertiser what he wants.

When it comes to the Rich Jerk Playboy Party and its promotion--particularly the support given by leading marketers--I believe that on balance, remaining silent causes more harm than speaking out.

This is one of those issues where a lot of denial exists. By "denial" I mean an unconscious barrier to awareness.

Many people don't recognize sexism or homophobia when it's right in front of them. Very few of them intend to hurt others; they are simply ignorant (in the original meaning of the word: "lacking education or knowledge; unaware or uninformed").

This is where the old '60's term, "consciousness raising" comes in. Prior to the civil rights movement, many Americans (and citizens of other countries, I just know my own country the best) didn't realize that they held prejudiced, even bigoted, attitudes toward groups of people different from themselves.

But as more and more citizens began to speak out against racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and discrimination, people began to see how they had unwittingly been raised--by parents, extended family, and the culture at large--to assume that certain groups of people possessed certain characteristics.

The present situation in the Internet marketing field is similar. Many marketers, the vast majority of them male, do not realize that they possess prejudiced attitudes toward women and that they are--usually without conscious intent--perpetuating sexist stereotypes through their words and actions.

In order to effect positive change, these individuals must first recognize that their attitudes and behaviors are based on stereotypes and prejudice. Before then they have little incentive to change, primarily because they don't see anything wrong with their beliefs or actions.

Thus, I believe that conscious-raising efforts such as those I and other marketers are engaging in around the Rich Jerk Playboy Party advertising are quite positive.

It would be analogous to seeing a friend gradually develop a puffy face, weight gain, lethargy, and symptoms of clinical depression. To point out these changes might seem negative but, in fact, by calling attention to them you will open the door for them to recognize that there's a problem, seek a solution via a visit to their physician, receive a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, and begin taking medication that will make their life much better.

One must first diagnosis the illness (point out the "negative") before one can effect a cure (take positive action).

In addition to that general point, I am also participating in something I can't discuss yet that will be overtly positive and constructive.

Mark Hendricks is also putting on a free live seminar in Atlanta the same weekend as the Playboy event, which I probably won't attend but I will certainly help promote.

July 5, 2007 07:20 - A Logical Argument For Opposing the Rich Jerk's Sexist, Homophobic Advertising

I posted this Comment on Andrew Wee's blog last night. Mr. Wee is a multi-talented Affiliate & Internet Marketer based in Singapore.

Hi Andrew,

You state above:

There’s a bit of controversy from some Internet Marketers about boycotting the event as it seem to be promoting immorality or …I’m not entirely clear why they’re against it. [Read Tim Erway and Ross Goldberg’s posts]. I can understand what their detractors are saying, but I don’t really follow their line of logic.
Here is my, I think logical, argument about this issue:

1. Advertisments, including advertising campaigns featuring fictional characters, are designed to change or reinforce consumers' perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

2. Some advertising campaigns have an unintended effect: They reinforce and perpetuate prejudice toward specified groups, usually by characterizing such groups in a demeaning, stereoptyped fashion.

3. Kelly Felix, via his Rich Jerk character, has of late become increasingly sexist and homophobic in his sales copy and YouTube video campaigns. The Rich Jerk treats women as sexual objects who are his "property"--even to the point of "branding" his women (whom he refers to as his "property") as a rancher would brand his cattle. The Rich Jerk's material also perpetuates negative stereotypes of gay men, whom he specifically states are "not allowed" to attend the Playboy Mansion Party.

4. Given that:

a) Fictional characters employed in advertising campaigns exert a strong influence on consumer's attitudes and behaviors and

b) The Rich Jerk character frequently displays sexist and anti-gay beliefs; I therefore submit that

c) The Rich Jerk campaigns perpetuate and reinforces demeaning, bigoted views of women and gay men. We have an obligation to each other and to future generations to do what we can to stop prejudice in our society in general and in our area of business in particular.

Will you, Andrew, take a stand on this issue and ask Kelly Felix to stop using sexist and homophobic themes in his Rich Jerk promotions?

Mr. Felix is obviously a very bright, hard-working businessman who has made significant contributions by helping thousands of people learn how to make extra income online. I hope that if a number of his colleagues express concern to him and ask him to stop the sexist, anti-gay advertising that he will do so.

Thank you for your kind consideration and for allowing me this opportunity to communicate my request to you and to readers of your blog.


Mark D. Worthen, Psy.D.
drworthen at drworthen dot net

July 5, 2007 12:55 - What If He Had Written "No Blacks Allowed?"

I have heard from many people who ask a question such as, "He's just a marketer doing what sells, isn't he?" often referring to the Rich Jerk's "branding his property" video.

Here's the part of this issue I have a hard time understanding: Assume for the purposes of discussion that, instead of scantily clad young women, the Rich Jerk video I mentioned before featured a group of African-American men and women who were being "branded" and about whom the Rich Jerk" referred to as his "property." What would happen?

There would be outrage, protests, media coverage, lawsuits, etc. In other words, the American public would not stand for it.

The same would be true if the people being "branded' in the video were Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American, or people with disabilities.

So why is it that it would be unacceptable to feature all those other groups but it's acceptable to denigrate women?

And with regard to gay people, why is it acceptable to write, "No gays allowed" when we all know that if the Rich Jerk blog post ended with "No Blacks allowed" or "No Catholics allowed" or "No people with physical disabilities allowed" there would be a much stronger negative reaction?

The answer, is that American society still accepts prejudice and bigotry toward women and GLBT citizens in ways it does not toward other groups. (Although prejudice to Native Americans comes pretty darn close in my estimation).

Now, you can say, "Well that's just the way it is, life isn't perfect" which is, of course, a true statement--except for the word "just." Saying that it's "just" the way it is implies a certain degree of resignation and powerlessness.

And this is the main point of my raising this issue: To encourage other online business people to speak out because we are not powerless--in fact, people working together have tremendous power.

By "speak out" I mean something as quick and easy as responding to a forum thread like this one stating your agreement that the Rich Jerk's advertising is wrong and you have lost some respect for the marketers who are promoting his Playboy Party (not because it's at the Playboy Mansion necessarily but because of the sexist, anti-gay advertising).

An additional step would be to send a quick email to--or add a comment to the blog of--any marketer who sent you a promotional email about the event to tell them what you think.

Am I saying that this is the most important issue in the world today? Of course not. But there are many pressing problems in the world that we cannot influence quite as directly as we can with this one.

Each time someone is convinced to stop engaging in prejudiced behavior, that behavior becomes increasingly unacceptable until we reach a time when a marketer would never dream of creating such sexist or homophobic ads, just as today they don't dare create a blatantly racist ad.

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