Saturday, October 12, 2013

Exactly what are they selling?

      We live in a day and age where advertisements are inescapable. Companies are constantly trying to sell their products, but exactly what are we buying? Sure we may occasionally buy the products they're endorsing, as a society we are more likely buying the ideals and/or lifestyles the advertisements are inexplicably are selling.

     Abercrombie & Fitch are one of the most notorious companies for pushing it's ideology to anyone impressionable. The company is constantly being bombarded with accusations of racist and sexist treatment of its employees and models. The company is also no stranger to lawsuits against its practices. It has been reported that Abercrombie & Fitch shows preferences to people resembles a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) in a traditional sense. This assumption is based on the imagery presented by the company itself. The models and employees are usually exclusively white with their men chiseled and their women petite. The message Abercrombie presents with its imagery is clear: beauty is white, "fit", elite, and only "naturally" attainable by few. However if you buy their products you might be closer?

      Why are companies inexplicably (or sometimes explicitly) suggesting these messages. Companies purposely try to make the consumer feel inadequate to the point where they feel the need to improve themselves. The company then conveniently enough offers a solution to the consumer's "problem". However very rarely does a company ever endorse the idea of loving oneself. Instead they offer an unattainable "ideal" beauty that even models won't possess, because they are assisted with: professional make-up, Photoshop, beauty teams, and countless other "insider beauty secrets".

      The problem with presenting the idea of an "ideal" body, face, traits, etc is that it's largely only an illusion. With ads and images being presented with the help of: professional lighting, make-up, Photoshop, and various other techniques we loose the reality of body image. Furthermore the use of these "beauty tricks" aren't even the worst part. The lack of diversity in advertisement is another problem. Most advertisements present it's consumers with the same generic look; hardly ever showing the different body types and skin tones. One might argue that they're immune to the effects of mainstream advertisement, however as Jean Kilbourne  states advertisements "We are each exposed to 1500 ads a day constituting perhaps the most powerful educational force in society” (Kilbourne, 121.) With the television and the internet becoming the most convenient baby-sitter advertisements are after all almost inescapable, and they teach us what is expected of us by the world.

In 2006 "Dove" released a promotional video showing the process that goes into a standard advertisement. 

 Interestingly enough a parody was later produce, and it's message was powerful. 
The Evolution of Dove: Parody

     So what can be done to negate the effects of mainstream media advertisements? The dove promotion was sure a step in the right direction. Many argue that magazine and advertisements should post a disclaimer when the use of Photoshop is used to enhance an image. After all if an athlete acquires any type of  performance enhancers like steroids - much like models  use with make-up or Photoshop - their names are required to carry an asterisk next to it. (or something along those lines)  Another affirmative action that can be done is debunking traditional depiction of gender, race, orientation, etc. After all there's always an exception of the "rule"Why not present these ideas instead of recycling and perpetuating old ones. Clear we as a society crave the presentations of new ideas, are we not hungry for it? Anthony Cortese states that "[t]he thin message is neither singular nor sudden. Nor is it merely a modern mass media construction. Rather, the mass media reinforce and reproduce thinness within a whole history of the cultural constructions of femininity which make it acceptable to audiences and so sellable to advertisers."(Cortese, 207.) This statement can be applied to almost any mainstream ideal that is presented to us on a daily basis, and tells us that these ideals aren't suddenly created by mainstream media. It recycles already accepted ideas and reproduce them. An idea has to had already been presented for it for it to be represented in the media. Ultimately the media sells us the same ideas we already buy, and if their formula works to sell why change it?  When we finally stop buying the products and ideals, then advertisers will eventually change the presentation of their products.

Works Cited

Kilbourne, Jean. "Beauty and the Beast of Advertising." Media & Values. N.p.: Winter, 1989. Print.
Cortese, Anthony P. Provocateur: Images of Women & Minorities in Media. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Print

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