Advertising: playing on our insecurities?
Advertising: it’s always in our faces, whether we’re
watching TV, reading a magazine or waiting for the bus. Today’s
Western culture is suffocating under a thick, unyielding blanket
of blatant commercialization.
There’s a reason for this phenomenon: simply put, advertising
The more in-your-face and the more novel the strategies are,
the more attention advertising garners. Inevitably, when a
product earns a place in the spotlight, all the hard work and
dollars (often millions) that were put into the ad campaign
become worthwhile as consumers flock to buy the latest product.
The fashion and beauty industries rely almost completely on
the power of the ad. Just flip through the glossy pages of
any fashion magazine — Cosmo, Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire — and
you’ll find that the majority of space is devoted to
advertisements for products that promise to make women look “younger” and “fresher”;
makeups and creams that guarantee to instill the buyer with
more confidence and sex appeal; and new fashions that appeal
to trend-seeking women.
Do the products actually live up to the high standards set
by the advertisements? Or is the entire advertising business
contingent on the concoction of believable lies? Let’s
face it: no product can change who you are, despite what marketers
would have you believe.
You’ll never look like one of those perfect supermodels
who look at you from behind layers of airbrushing and lighting
tricks — not even if you spend $50 on a new Lancôme
foundation compact. Drinking Budweiser beer will not make you
cool, nor will it send the ladies flocking to your door. Paying
to see J.Lo’s latest feel-good movie will provide nothing
more than a temporary, and often disappointing, escape from
your daily drudgery.
To clarify the disjunction between what ads promise and what
their products actually deliver, let’s take a quick look
at a few of the more prominent ad campaigns kicking around
McDonalds’ “urban culture” ads: McDonald’s
has shifted their angle from family-centred propaganda to the “hipness” associated
with urban culture. Rap music, ghetto references and a focus
on hip urban youth — what does this have to do with food?
Nothing, because their food is just piles of grease that will
only make you fat. So, why the angle? Simple: to open the door
to the youth market and equate consumption with “cool.”
Lifestyles condoms’ cartoon ads: A cartoon man, shirt
open, pedophilic smile on his face. Two cartoon girls, scantily
clad, hanging off the rather creepy-looking individual. Connotations
of partying, sex and specifically, the magical world of threesomes.
Caption: “Who said you can’t have it both ways?” Clearly,
this is geared toward the insecure male with its land-mine
of unmerited sexual references. Can purchasing condoms guarantee
more sex? No. Does Lifestyles want you to think so? Damn right.
Garnier’s “ideal beauty” shampoo ads: A
recent ad for Garnier Fructis anti-dandruff shampoo shows a
beautiful, flawless woman embracing a tuxedo-wearing man with
his back to us. All we see are his shiny locks — and
the woman’s magnifying glass, which she is using to inspect
his jacket for dandruff flakes that are not there (because
after all, this guy uses Garnier). The suggestion? That using
Garnier can make you so attractive that you’ll instantly
fall into a fairy-tale relationship. The reality? The ad is
designed to increase consumers’ self-consciousness and
Skyy Vodka’s retro/surrealist ads: Computerized images
of picture-perfect ’50s girls posing in suggestive outfits
while drinking Skyy Vodka. Need we say more? More importantly,
can the Vodka deliver? No, but in large quantities, it can
certainly make you act like a fool and do things you may not — and
often would rather not — remember. But that just doesn’t
sell as well, does it?
With limited space, it’s simply impossible to cover
the thousands of destructive and fraudulent advertising campaigns
that run rampant today. So for the time being, we’ll
end with the following advice: be an active consumer and be
aware of the advertising around you. Don’t believe what
marketers throw at you, because more often than not, ad campaigns
are founded on fiction, designed to affirm and intensify our