Part one in a series of four blogs, written by Miriam Indries, a young, upcoming Auckland writer with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. In this series, Miriam will give her frank opinion about the sometimes cynical world of advertising and its treatment of the fairer sex.
I am no expert on the world of advertising and I will not even attempt to educate you about it, because I don’t have the skills required for that - I will leave that to the professionals. But I am a woman, therefore a self-confessed shopaholic (we may have not invented money, but we sure know how to use it). And why is this relevant? Well, because the advertising world needs women, you see, us ladies make an awful lot of money for the clients of advertising agencies. Why? Because we buy stuff all the time. We buy things that we want, things that we need…we even buy things we don’t need! The biggest problem however, is that advertising targets us based on the high standards of “the expected image” portrayed by the media. These standards are of course unreachable. Therefore advertisers hit us where it hurts the most… our physical appearance. When we see an ad, it’s like it is speaking to us, inviting us into a new world of fabulousness, a world we want to live in, where we’ll be recognized as beautiful. How can this be? Why are we susceptible to all of this?
Well, for me personally, a good advertisement is one that speaks the truth. Take the Dove real women campaign for example. This I can honestly say is a well-done campaign. They used real women! Curvy, short, tall, big busted, small busted, cellulite, the whole lot.
This is reality, the thing many of us women are oh so afraid of. This ad made headlines in many countries, because, sadly, it was thought to be “an unusual ad”. “To use women who are not size zero? Wow this must be a joke!” But of course this is no joke, the ad actually highlights today’s average woman, who has body imperfections and eats normal food. I would seriously love to see more of these ads.
But unfortunately, most ads these days are full of lies, lies, and more lies, but somehow they still make us believe in the product. We fall for it because we are self-conscious human beings who like to spend money on our physical appearance. Women from all over the world look in the mirror disappointed, wanting to change everything about the way they look so they can match the beauty of the models used in ad campaigns. And those clever advertisers know this and so does their loyal Photoshop program, without which, many companies and products would suffer. We always buy new things, things that prove to be useless half of the time, so we end up buying more things. We always want to look better and better. Most advertising agencies are über smart, and they target us this way, knowing we’ll fall for it. The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow believed that a person achieves self-confidence and self-esteem based on their opinion of themselves. Sadly these days, Maslow’s years of hard work have been pushed aside by beauty products and “getting thin” machines. Seriously, all we see in magazines, TV commercials, infomercials (yes I do watch them), bus stops, toilet cubicles etc. is stuff about how to perfect our look, how to lose weight, how to get great skin, how to use fake tan (sadly natural porcelain skin “is so Marie Antoinette”). This literarily makes us feel like we are not good enough, and like lions jumping at a piece of meat, there we are, jumping to reach the phone and order the product, or rushing to a shop.
Take those hair ads for example. All the models in them have amazing, shiny, beautiful, to die for hair, all thanks to the shampoo advertised. Or is it? We see the model shake her head from side to side, her hair flowing perfectly from one direction to another. It looks too good to be true… that’s because it probably is. What most of us fail to see is that at the bottom of the ad, there is usually something written in very small writing (this is the trap ladies, that’s how they get us!) What does it say? It says something about the model wearing hair extensions. So the gorgeous hair advertised is not in fact so gorgeous, it’s fake! I suppose one would not be able to call this “false advertisement” because they do reveal their secret, available for the viewers to see – except for it is hardly noticeable, of course. But that doesn’t matter, we will still buy that shampoo, and we will not only do this, but we will tell our neighbors, our friends, our families etc. etc.
Another great example is the make-up campaign, especially the mascara ones. It’s bad enough they use Hollywood’s most gifted women, who are pretty much perfect looking. (Thanks to Dr. So and So for the lipo, botox etc). These mascara ads really annoy me – you see Eva Longoria or whoever, holding her new mascara, blinking her eyes at the screen. Her eyelashes look immaculately perfect, long, strong, everything we could ever want. Again, read what is at the bottom of the screen. “Eva's eyes styled with lash inserts”. Well duhhhhh, of course women won’t read that. They will focus on Eva’s eyelashes and visualize themselves looking the same, desperately searching the Internet for the nearest shop selling this product. And voila, millions of mascaras sold!
Some advertisers love to fool us and unfortunately they know how to do it. In today’s society, physical appearance is considered to be very important, and it can also help people get the jobs they love, and become so called “role models”. Brains are a thing of the past, beauty rules! Sad but true! Ladies, we are taken as a product of society, an experiment almost, for many ad campaigns. As if it’s not enough that we watch infomercials and buy all these different gym machines that are supposed to make us look skinny in a week (they leave our wallets looking pretty flat too), they do it with beauty products too. They know how to target us through “the promise” we most want to hear about any kind of self-improvement – "In just a few days" and this isn’t really the truth at all.