Friday, October 11, 2013

Issues in Advertising

                   Over the years, advertising has had the tendency to present it's audience in a narrow minded view, when considering the the sexism, racism and power hierarchies brought to light. It's stereotyping and particular presentations has had negative effects on certain groups of people. Even if one tries to resist messages brought by television, newspapers and magazines, they still find it hard to avoid the influence advertisements have had on them. After all, they play a big role in the world and are constantly appearing in the lives of people, whether or not they realize it.

                     When it comes to cigarettes, audiences have found a big transition with how companies will promote their products. Much of this is due to how gender roles have changed, and the cigarette business is no stranger to sexism. Marlboro originally made its product for the average female but eventually wanted to win over men. In 1981, Marlboro ads aimed to appeal to American male. The Marlboro cigarette that was known to be mild and weak was now strong and empowering, thanks to the cowboy persona. These ads contained the bad ass cowboy, who males preferred to emulate, with his apparent smeyes (smiling eyes) and hardworking pose. Douglas Kellner explains, "Since the cowboy western image provided a familiar icon of masculinity, independence and ruggedness, it was the preferred symbol for the campaign. Subsequently, the Marlboro man became a part of American folklore and a readily identifiable cultural symbol." (Kellner, 127)   This masculinity becomes a reoccurring theme in cigarette ads, considering that companies aimed towards selling to women began to promote masculinity. This Virginia Slims ad above shows a contrast between the female of the past and the female of the present. Above, it is apparent she is doing labor, not by choice, and is discontent with her lifestyle. Down below, there's a female that sports the same hairstyle and outfit with a modern twist, and now she has this independent flare and sort of assurance that one can see through her smirk. The newer advertisements promote a new glamorous female that looks sleek and sexy compared to the former frumpy female stereotype. The slogan says, "You've come a long way baby." Kellner describes her as being, "No longer the smiling, cute and wholesome potential wife of the earlier ad, she is now more threatening, more sexual, less wifely,and more masculine. (Kellner, 129)

                      When Gloria Steinem worked for Ms. Magazine, she noticed it had a
tendency to promote products that were solely feminine. She wanted to put a stop to it and add products aimed at both men and women, however, "Food advertisers have always demanded that women's magazines publish food recipes (preferably ones that name their products) in return for their ads; clothing advertisers expected to be surrounded by fashion spreads (especially ones that credit their designers); and shampoo, fragrance and beauty products in general usually insist on positive editorial coverage of beauty subjects, plus photo credit besides. (Steinem, 112-113) She knew breaking the barriers would be hard, but with change 
in imagery, products could appeal to both sexes. Particular products consumed with rigid advertisers were the electronic/automobile products which intended on appealing to the males. She isn't exaggerating when she says she, " [s]pent more time persuading advertisers than editing and writing for Ms..." (Steinem, 113) She noticed how at car shows women barely showed up, unless they were the hot girls posing with champagne in their hands. It also was apparent that the car industry rarely sold their cars to women, mainly because women felt they needed permission from their husbands to purchase their cars. 

                      In an industry that's dominated by heterosexual consumers, the typical heterosexual wouldn't consider how hard it is to target a lesbian audience. What makes it difficult is that the demographics in the lesbian community vary, in terms of income, race and age group. "According to the market strategies commonly used by advertisers to develop target consumers, four criteria must be met. A group must be: (1) identifiable, (2) accessible, (3) measurable, and (4) profitable. In other words, a particular group must be "knowable" to advertisers in concrete ways." (Clark, 143) Lesbians are consumers, but they're not targets in the eyes of Capitalism. Only recently has the gay community started to have more recognition, the gay men more than the lesbian woman. However, it is so discreetly done that people are not able to easily pinpoint it, because the goal is to be able to sell to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. The writer mentions how in a Calvin Klein ad, there are two shirtless men, one poses on his stomach and the other poses on his side. This is an attempt to grab the homosexual audience's attention. In another ad, there was a female model representing masculine allure by sporting short hair and a manly jacket, she was insinuating the dyke sense of style. One interesting thing is that during social movements, lesbians tried to rebel against capitalism and didn't want to be categorized as inferior or girly. Therefore, they flaunted a different style, by wearing the pants. Nowadays, lesbians feel more drawn to dress in any matter, whether masculine or girly. "Fashion conscious dikes are rebelling against the idea that there's a clear one-to-one correspondence between fashion and identity." (Clark, 145)

                   In the advertisement for Clorox Bleach, there isn't only sexism but racism as well.The narrator proudly says, "Laundry is not new. Your mother, your grandmother, her mother, they all did laundry, even a man or two." (Clorox Bleach) This saying comes to show that doing the laundry is a job meant for the female, and if a man were to do it, it would be a rarity; it's something that isn't expected of a man. According to this ad, the gender role will remain the same, throughout the years, because society has grown to learn it by example. It is noticeable that there are only Caucasian people in the commercial, and the fact that they exclude other races could be unintentional. However, one thing that doesn't sound right is the phrase, "The bleach most trusted to keep whites pure white is still Clorox bleach."(Clorox Bleach) To viewers this phrase could have double meaning, considering that the product is meant to keep all clothes bleached and the subjects in the commercial are white. It comes to show Caucasians still play the ideal audience in most advertisements. 
                    As insulting and narrow minded as these advertisements may come off, their purpose remains the same as as it has for decades. These ads are meant to set an example to the intended consumers and are made to make them feel a certain way. Through these ads, consumers aim to fulfill the image portrayed to them, even if that means they won't necessarily get there. When it comes to the cigarette product, both males and females aim to feel superior and macho. The Marlboro cowboy encourages men to act as mighty as him, and the Virginia Slims poster child encourages females to emulate the independent woman. As for the homosexual community, they are made to feel inferior and left out by the heterosexual community, and non-Caucasians can't seemed to fit well with the stereotypical Caucasians portrayed in the consumer world. These images can make individuals feel insecure and unfulfilled, because they'll aim to be something that the product promises they will be. However, once they own the product, they won't feel any better and will crave more of the image.
                    One product that has brought a fresh perspective on imagery is dove whose commercials include real women. These women are of different backgrounds and have different body types. None of them are stick thin or airbrushed; they represent what should be healthy and what is naturally beautiful. The reason the new commercials are such hits is because they make women feel that they don't need to represent an unrealistic body type, instead helping them praise their individuality. Advertisers should aim to be as positive as this company, because they improve an individual's self-esteem. This video below shows how an artist draws a sketch of how a female thinks she looks and compares it to a sketch of how other people perceive her. The results are different, since each subject's perception of themselves is highly exaggerated and inaccurate compared to the other version's gentle drawing. As one female stares at her version, she says, "She looks closed off and fatter. She just looks kind of shut down, sadder too. The second one is more beautiful...She looks more open and friendly and happy."(Dove United States) Another woman comments, "I have some work to do on myself...It's troubling. I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices in the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children; It impacts everything."(Dove United States) When older women admit to having self-esteem issues, it says a lot about the world that influences them, which is why it's crucial for advertisements to change things around.


                   The world will continue to feel the impact brought on by advertising companies, and as long as consumers don't feel negativity then that's what's important. It's unfair that advertisements resort to playing favorite towards certain groups of people and exclude the rest of the population. People shouldn't be made to feel left out and insecure just so that a company can sell their product. Ads like Dove have opened the door to a new hope that will help individuals love themselves, no matter what orientation, race or age.

Kellner, Douglas. "Reading Images Critically: Toward a Postmodern Pedagogy," Boston Journal of Education. Vol. 170, No. 3 (1989), 126-132. Print.

Steinem, Gloria. "Sex, Lies and Advertisement."  Ms. Magazine. July 1990: 112-120. Print.

Clark, Danae. "Commodity Lesbianism." The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 1993. Print. 

Clorox Bleach. Advertisement. April 2007. Television. 

Dove. Advertisement. Dove United States. 14 April 2013. YouTube. 

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