soaking in it
know what womanpower is, explains a self promotional pitch for the Ladies Home Journal. The ad shows a stylish woman wired to a mammoth computer that measures her whims with graphs, light bulbs and ticker tape. The magazine insists that, like the machine, it has its finger on the pulse of women desires. Perk and breathlessness permeate its claim to be able to harness the many elements of including power ( spots a bright idea in her favorite magazine, and suddenly the whole town sold on it! power ( you stick to a nine day diet for more than four hours at a stretch? and, of course, power ( it the power of her purse that been putting fresh smiles on the faces of America businessmen?
That was 1958. Today advertisers are generally more sophisticated in their execution, but their primary message to and about women has remained fundamentally unchanged. To tap into our power, offer us a new shade of lipstick, a fresh scented floor wax or, in the case of Mel Gibson patronizing chick flick, Women Want, L pantyhose, Wonderbras or Nike Women Sports gear.
The movie No. 2 at the box office after a month in theaters stars Gibson as Nick Marshall, a pompous advertising executive dubbed the King for his successful reign over Swedish bikini babe commercials. But Nick campaigns leave female consumers cold and he loses an expected promotion to women market whiz Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt). Nick boss explains that while he more comfortable with Nick, men no longer dominate how ad dollars are being spent.
Once Nick acquires the ability to read women minds after an unfortunate incident with volumizing mousse, a hair dryer and a bathtub a story unfolds that could only seem romantic to avid Advertising Age readers: Nick and his nemesis Darcy fall in love over Nike storyboards, brainstorming ways to convince consumers that wants to empower women and is state of the art, hardcore womanpower.
Women Want is more than a commercial for Mars vs. Venus gender typing; it a feature length product placement, a jarring reminder that the entertainment media is up for grabs by the hawkers of hair spray and Hondas. Which is not to say that the news media is off limits. Take Disney news giant, ABC. In November, after ABC accepted a hefty fee from Campbell soup, journalist Barbara Walters and View crew turned eight episodes of their talk show into paid infomercials for canned soup. Hosting a contest and singing the M Good! jingle on air, they made good on ABC promise that the would try to weave a soup message into their regular on air banter.
A favorite on the college lecture circuit, Kilbourne has produced videos that are used as part of media literacy programs worldwide, in particular Us Softly, first produced in 1979 and remade as Us Softly III in 2000. She shares her thoughts here about advertising effects on women, children, media and our cultural environment and explains why salvation can be found in a Nike sports bra.
In Women Want, Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt produce a Nike commercial in which a woman runs in swooshed up sportswear while a voice over assures her that the road doesn care if she wearing makeup, and she doesn have to feel uncomfortable if she makes more money than the road basically equating freedom and liberation with a pair of $150 running shoes. Is this typical of advertising to women?
Absolutely. The commercial in the movie is saying that women who are unhappy with the quality of their relationships can ease their frustration by literally forming a more satisfying relationship with the road. There no hint that her human relationships are going to improve, but the road will love her anyway.
Advertising is always about moving away from anything that would help us find real change in our lives. In the funniest scene in the movie, when Mel Gibson finds out how much it hurts to wax his legs, he wonders, would anyone do this more than once? That a very good question. But, of course, the film doesn go there. The real solutions to stop waxing or to challenge unnatural beauty standards or to demand that men grow up are never offered. Instead, the message is that we must continue with these painful and humiliating rituals, but at least we can escape for a while by lacing on our expensive sneakers and going out for a run.
Women Want presents a pretty mercenary picture of advertising aimed at women. You studied the industry for decades. Does it seem accurate to you?
It isn far off. As in the film, advertisers were kind of slow to really focus on women. Initially they did it by co opting feminism. Virginia Slims equated women liberation and enslavement to tobacco with the trivializing slogan come a long way, baby in the a little while ago it ran a campaign with the slogan your voice.
Then there were endless ads that turned the women movement into the quest for a woman product. Was there ever such a thing as static cling before there were fabric softeners and sprays? More recently advertisers have discovered what they call marketing, creating ads that exploit a human need for connection and relationships, which in our culture is often seen as a woman need.
Advertising and the larger culture often imply that women are failures if we do not have perfect relationships. Of course, relationships don exist in real life. Why are they so prominent in ads?
This is part of the advertising mentality. Think about Women Want there an ad at the heart of this film literally and figuratively. Everybody lives in spectacular apartments, they all thin and beautiful, and Mel Gibson makes this incredible instant transformation. He starts out as a jerk, he callous, he tells degrading jokes and patronizes the women he converse sapatos portugal works with, but because of his new mind reading power he gains immediate insight into women. He becomes a great lover in the space of half an hour. At one point his daughter tells him he never had a real relationship in his life, but by the end of the film he has authentic relationships with his daughter and his new love.
The truth is, most men gain insight into women not through quick fixes but by having close relationships with them over time, sometimes painfully. In the world of advertising, relationships are instant and the best ones aren necessarily with people: Zest is a soap, Happy is a perfume, New Freedom is a maxipad, Wonder is a bread, Good Sense is a tea bag and Serenity is a diaper. Advertising actually encourages us to have relationships with our products.
I looking at TV Guide right now and there a Winston cigarette ad on the back cover with converse sko tilbud a woman saying, I find a real man, I take a real smoke. There another with four different pictures of one man with four different women, and the copy reads, says guys are afraid of commitment? He had the same backpack for years. In another ad, featuring a young woman wearing a pretty sweater, the copy says, ski instructor faded away after one session. Fortunately the sweater didn
One automobile spot implied that a Civic coupe would never tell you, not you, it me. I need more space. I not ready for a commitment. Maybe our chances for lasting relationships are greater with our cars than with our partners, but surely the solution can be to fall in love with our cars, or to depend on them rather than on each other.
Basically, men can be trusted but H never disappoints? Love is fleeting but a diamond is forever? Sort of a recipe for lowered expectations, isn it?
A central message of advertising is that relationships with human beings can be counted on, especially for women. The message is that men will make commitments only reluctantly and can be trusted to keep them. Straight women, and these are pretty much the women in ads, are told that it normal not to expect very much or get very much from the men in their lives. This normalizes really abnormal behavior with male violence at the extreme and male callousness in general by reinforcing men unwillingness to express their feelings. This harms men, of course, as well as women.
In Women Want, Mel Gibson is literally able to into the female psyche, private thoughts and all, after he waxes his hairy legs and crams them into a pair of L pantyhose. Is it converse sapatos portugal unusual for advertisers to imply that the essence of womanhood can be found in cosmetics and commercialism?
Not at all. The central message of advertising has to be that we are what we buy. And perhaps what most insidious about this is that it takes very human, very real feelings and desires such as the need to love and be loved, the need for authentic connection, the need for meaningful work, for respect, and it yokes these feeling to products. It tells us that our ability to attain love depends upon our attractiveness.
By now most of us know that these images are unrealistic and unhealthy, that implants leak, anorexia and bulimia can kill and, in real life, model Heidi Klum has pores. So why do the images in ads still have such sway over us?
Most people like to think advertising doesn affect them. But if that were really true, why would companies spend over $200 billion a year on advertising? Women don buy into this because we shallow or vain or stupid but because the stakes are high. Overweight women do tend to face biases they less likely to get jobs; they poorer. Men do leave their wives for younger, more beautiful women as their wives age. There is manifest contempt and real life consequences for women who don measure up. These images work to keep us in line.
What do these images teach girls about what they can expect from themselves, from boys, from sex, from each other?
Girls get terrible messages about sex from advertising and popular culture. An ad featuring a very young woman in tight jeans reads: says the first thing he noticed about you is your great personality. He lies. Girls are told that boys are out for sex at all times, and girls should always look as if they are ready to give it. (But God help them if they do.) The emphasis for girls and women is always on being desirable, not being agents of their own desire. Girls are supposed to somehow be innocent and seductive, virginal and experienced, all at the same time.
Girls are particularly targeted by the diet industry. The obsession with thinness is about cutting girls down to size, making sure they not too powerful in any sense of the word. One fashion ad I use in my presentations shows an extremely thin, very young Asian woman next to the copy more you subtract, the more you add.
Adolescent girls constantly get the message that they should diminish themselves, they should be less than what they are. Girls are told not to speak up too much, not to be too loud, not to have a hearty appetite for food or sex or anything else. Girls are literally shown being silenced in ads, often with their hands over their mouth or, as in one ad, with a turtleneck sweater pulled up over their mouth.