Dicey Advertising:

Why the Dice.com Ads Fall Flat

The first time I actually looked at a Dice.com billboard instead of ignoring it in my peripheral vision was last October. I was carpooling into SF for my first day at gSchool to make a career change to software developer. Immediately upon seeing it, I thought to myself, “Well, I won’t be using Dice in my career search.” At the peak, I saw 3 of these ads between Oakland and SOMA in one morning.

While there has been some talk about these ads, there hasn’t been much critique. I did find this article, but I agree with the commenters that the Dice.com ads are not really objectifying the men in them. The viewer doesn’t objectify the men and the advertising doesn’t intend the viewer to do that. What I find problematic is something else entirely.

When Dice.com presents men posting like pinups, they are posing like female pinups. These ads are “funny” because men acting like women is “funny.” And men acting like women is funny because femininity in men is emasculating and weak.

Secondly, these ads mock the women in the modeling industry. Yes, there are issues with unrealistic body standards and photoshop in the advertising and modeling world, but at the end of the day, the women in ads are bringing home money to feed themselves and their families. The posing and photography in the Dice ads mocks the women who actually fit the expectations that patriarchy gives them. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

One of the defenses of the Dice.com ads is that they are “satirical.” That may be true, but they are bad satire. Good satire and parody is at the expense of the people in power. On the surface these ads look like that: the men are not the “ideal” body shape, yet they are up on the billboards almost-nude for everyone to see. The images are at their expense. However, digging deeper, you find that instead of taking the stereotypical male programmer down a notch, these ads are suggesting that Dice will help them find jobs with good salaries. That is the opposite of taking people down a notch. It is reinforcing the current power system: men get the programming jobs and the money.

I tried to imagine a “nerdy-looking” woman posing in underwear in an ad like this. Does it still work? I don’t believe so. Women are already objectified so much that satirically objectifying a woman fails in its satire. This barrier to including women in the ad campaign negates Dice’s ability to advertise women as potential tech hires.

This is not only a women’s issue, but an issue of racial diversity. In all the ads, I’ve seen a man of color only once (in the ad I posted above). I imagine the reasoning for this is similar: the bodies of people of color are objectified and made exotic as well. It’s hard to spoof objectification when the person lives it.

Ultimately, Dice’s definition of the “hottest tech talent” does not include me nor the people I hope will be a part of my future workplace and team, so I have not included them in my job search.