Tag Archives: advertising

Facebook thinks that I think I need to lose weight.

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Extra Inches! Simple Rules!

 

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Generic “Women’s Magazine”, “shocking” report, amazing diet supplement!

 

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“Surprise him with a new body!”

 

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“Weird” fruit! “Holy grail of weight loss!”

 

And yes, I have asked Facebook to “don’t show me posts like this.”

Related Post: You don’t get to choose your ads, the problem with online advertising.

Related Post: Can gendered advertising affect change?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image

I Get Pitches

When you blog, you eventually start to get emails from PR companies and folks that are just dying to offer you “fresh content” that “Google loves” and that will “titillate your readers”. Too bad it is all so ridiculous, because otherwise I’m sure my readers would love to be titillated…

Do you need to figure out how to get the opposite sex to notice you?

Do you need to figure out how to get the opposite sex to notice you?

Do you need an app that makes a miniature keychain book of your photographs?

Do you need an app that makes a miniature keychain book of your photographs?

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Do you need any assistance with hair below the neck?

Do you need anything from someone with the gmail handle celebritytweens@gmail.com?

Do you need anything from someone with the gmail handle celebritytweens@gmail.com?

Bah. It’s hard to convey to advertisers and PR folks that writing about beauty culture or the cult of celebrity does not mean you will write about their tween gossip or manscaping must-haves.

Related Post: Mixed messaging on the interwebz.

Related Post: Curve Appeal vs. American Apparel’s idiotic contest

 

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Food, Hollywood

Rosie in the News: Swiffer Edition

Uh oh, Swiffer is getting some social media flak for choosing the parody the Rosie the Riveter image for a campaign for their Steam Boost product. Here’s the image:

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Sigh. Look, we’ve been through this before, right? Advertising is the way it is because people respond to it. No company the size of Swiffer launches a new campaign without focus group approval. So the question is not why does Swiffer butcher historical imagery in service of sexist divisions of housework. The answer to that one is easy (because focus groups said it would work…). The more interesting question is, why does it work so well? 

Having not sat on the other side of this particular one-way mirror and not being a homeowning 35-48 year-old mother of 2.3 children myself, I can only guess. To many of us, the Rosie image resonates because it symbolizes a defining moment in women’s history when work outside the home became significantly more accessible. It’s historically significant, and reminds of us of the complicated intersection of propaganda and progress.

But it’s not just that to everyone. It’s meaning has been boiled down (by advertising and pop culture) to a simple message of female strength and capability. It says “I get shit done” and “I don’t need help,” and “I am competent.” In that sense, it’s easy to see why women whose sphere of responsibility is their home would be attracted to an image that projects that confidence. They don’t care that, as one twitter commenter wrote, it “pisses on the legacy” of the original image.

Those were the women in the focus group. Not us. Do you buy things with “steam boost” in the title? Yeah, me neither.

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Alfred Palmer edition

Related Post: Rosie in the News: Rivets and Rosebuds

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Dove: Pioneer or Panderer?

dove_wideweb__430x327I must admit, the first seven times someone emailed Dove’s ubiquitous new ad campaign, I got a little weepy and emotional. It hit all the right cords, all the soft, vulnerable spots that most women (and many men!) hold deep about their appearance. My nose is too big. My eyes are too far apart. My chin is too pointy. My forehead is too high. My X is too Y.  It takes all those “toos” and flips them, revealing with a clever gimmick how much we underestimate our own beauty. Here, just watch, it’s easier than explaining it:

It’s good advertising. It’s memorable, it’s shareable, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy. I literally feel prettier simply by watching it. Maybe I should go buy some Dove products….

Hold up.

It’s a testament to how compelling this video is that I didn’t bother to put on my critical hat and unpack this bad boy a little. I was so distracted by the swelling music and the teary eyed attractive-but-not-too-attractive people that I forgot that the broader implications of this video are hella problematic.

The blogs Jazzy Little Drops and Eat the Damn Cake do a great job of breaking it down, but here are a few of the key issues:

1. Beauty is still #1 – As the participants in the video experiment articulate, how they feel about themselves as friends, employees, partners, as human beings is affected by how they feel about their looks. This might be true, in the technical sense that many people do feel this way, but it’s not okay. We attribute all sorts of “good” qualities to those that possess certain desirable traits, and all sorts of “bad” qualities to those that don’t. This campaign does nothing to undermine this correlation, but rather reinforces it. As one participant says, natural beauty “could not be more critical to your happiness.” Is that really the message we want to send when we’re pushing “Real Beauty?”

2. Only certain things are beautiful: Namely, anything thin. The positive descriptions of body parts are pretty narrow, “thin nose” and “thin chin” = good. Round face = bad. Freckles = bad. Forget the racial connotations (are thin noses the only good noses?), what we see reflected in the commentary is not that beauty standards should be widened, but that more people meet the arbitrary requirements than we think. Congratulations, you’ve made the cut! Should there be a cut? Well, no… but there is, and you made it (phew! you’re not one of the ugly ones), so bravo for you!

3. Speaking of race….: As Jazzy pointed out, people of color appear on screen a total of 10 seconds. Yeahhhhh, like that’s not reductionist. Do you remember the story about the black newscaster with close-cropped hair who got fired after responding to a viewer who told her to “wear a wig or grow more hair?” The idea that one certain thing–long, straight hair, for example–is objectively beautiful is preposterous. All you have to do is watch Jessica Simpson’s VH1 show The Price of Beauty to remember that what you think is beautiful isn’t necessarily the standard everywhere. Jeez, how arrogant can we get?

So where does that leave us? Where does that leave Dove? I’ve been skeptical of those folks for a while, ever since someone clued me in that their parent company, Unilever, is also the parent company of Axe (maker of body spray and terrible commercials).

The goal of this ad is not to change beauty standards. It is not to diminish the importance we place on beauty as a measure of woman’s worth. It is not to remind the universe that the way you look does not determine the kind of person you are or the value you add to the world. The goal of this ad is to make you buy more Dove products. Period.

Related Post: Why is it okay to put 16-year-olds in lingerie ads? It’s not.

Related Post: Models without make-up.

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People

Sunday Scraps 99

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1. TAVI: 16-year-olds have no right to be so cool and self-assured. This kid says everything I figured out ten years later about media, feminism, stereotypes, yada yada yada.

2. HEALTH: This American Life is on a roll. Killer piece about the huge upward trend in Americans filing for disability. Why? When? How did this happen? Better question, what do we do it about?

3. ADVERTISING: Sociological Images uses the interesting case of Rolling Rock beer to discuss the appropriation of working class iconography by upper class cohorts for the purposes of “seeming real.”

4. ROMANCE: Nick Offerman + Megan Mullally = Forever. THEY ARE THE BEST, and lucky us, NYMag compiled a history of their love.

5. POLITICS: Just for kicks, cats that look like politicians. Or politicians that look like cats?

6. LGBTQ: Really thought-provoking essay for BuzzFeed about the importance of gay porn, by gay porn performer Connor Habib.

Related Post: Sunday 98 - Marriage in China, mean girls, George Saunders and his editor, etc.

Related Post: Sunday 97 – Writing with a gender neutral name, Cindy Gallop, Anita Sarkeesian, etc.

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Filed under Advertising, Art, Gender, Hollywood, Politics, Sex

The Bent Over Cartoon Character That Ruined My Sunday

I’m warning you now that I don’t really have anything articulate to say about the following photo.  This is sign I saw walking through Wicker Park last weekend in Chicago:

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I feel vaguely assaulted. This is my sunday afternoon. It’s raining, I’m drinking my coffee, I’m doing errands, I don’t want to have to confront the hypersexual idealized form of this woman that American Apparel seems to want me to want to be. I’m not in the mood to soapbox about body diversity. I’m not in the mood to rant about what I think it does to girls when this is the image they see over and over again. Why am I still surprised by these things? This is not new. This is not different. I see this everywhere and I am bothered by it every single time.

There are kids around and this is not what I want them to think is “how to be sexy.” Wear a bathing suit and high heels. Have long mermaid hair. Be thin. Bend over. This is not how I feel sexy and I don’t think it’s how most women feel sexy (though, as always, if pulling this posture gets you going, be my guest). I don’t even think this is what most men find sexy. I think this is an extremely narrow vision of sexy cooked up by a porn-soaked graphic designer and a brand that picks campaigns that consistently stage women as  objects just waiting for sex:

Google "American Apparel Ads"

Google “American Apparel Ads”

Yes, yes, yes, I know… sex sells. I get that. This is not a plea for modesty or celibacy or anything so extreme. This is a plea for some sense of time and place, for context and propriety. There is room for sexuality in advertising, but there is no room in my Sunday stroll for a bent-over cartoon woman holding her ankles. Put that shit away.

Related Post: American Apparel’s “Next Big Thing” Contest

Related Post: But how old is she really? On underage models.

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Chicago, Media, Sex

I WILL respect myself in the morning, Zipcar

I’m a 21st-Century urban lady, so obviously I have a Zipcar membership. Mostly, I use it when I get all the way to a bar and realize I left my ID at home, or when my roommate and I are going on epic furniture shopping sprees. I forget that I have it until the moment I really need it, and then it’s there, patiently waiting. As a card-carrying member of the Zipcar family, I get promotional emails every few days which I routinely archive and ignore. But not this one:

Sleep over and still respect yourself in the morning, Emily. - emilykhmoss@gmail.com - Gmail

What a subject line! It’s not sexist, exactly, since there’s nothing in the headline or additional copy to suggest there’s anything extra-disrespectful about sleepovers for the ladies. It’s just…. old-fashioned, backwards, sex-negative, retro in a decidedly NOT cool kind of way.

Normally, Zipcar is pretty hip, with their discounted rentals on election day and their non-profit partnerships. I generally put Zipcar in the category of “knows what’s up,” which is why this subject line seemed especially antiquated and strange.

Duh, Zipcar, of course I respect myself in the morning. If I wasn’t going to respect myself in the morning, then I wouldn’t be having a weeknight sleepover…  You think I wake up on Wednesdays full of shame and embarrassment? That sounds terrible, who wants that?

We’re a generation* (especially the ladies, since we’re making up for lost ground), that prides itself on trying to have sex exactly when we want to, with exactly whom we want to, and exactly how we want to. We’re not perfect, obviously, but we don’t devalue ourselves over choices that, in retrospect, seem unwise. We learn from them, we grow from them, but shame is not on the menu. For us, a weeknight sleepover is not a question of self-respect. In fact, we’ve worked really hard to tie our self-respect to facets of ourselves other than our sexual decision-making (like our intellect, compassion, and kindness, for example).

In the scheme of advertiser fuck-ups, this is pretty minor. But seriously, Zipcar, had you run this copy by some actual users, you might have realized that this message severely missed the mark.

*Not the whole generation, obviously, just the urban, highly-educated, sex-positive, 20-something segment of the generation. I recognize that’s probably not a huge piece of the Millennial pie, but it is a huge piece of the Zipcar market. 

Related Post: Why the Idiot Dad advertising trope is awful.

Related Post: This gym’s advertising campaign was so gross, I couldn’t join.

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The “Idiot Dad” Trope

It’s not new, the Idiot Dad TV trope. Remember Tim Allen in Home Improvement? Lately, I feel like we’re making leaps and bounds forward on the portrayal of fatherhood on screen (see Google ads and Up All Night), and simultaneously reverting to the most insulting, egregious examples (see Scott Baio in See Dad Run).

Check out my new piece for Role/Reboot on Baio, the shortcomings of focus groups, Huggies, and why you “can’t be what you can’t see.”

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Related Post: There’s no wrong way to make a family.

Related Post: How to accidentally raise a feminist daughter.

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Filed under Advertising, Family, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Republished!

More on Gendered Advertising

The Good Men Project reposted my advertising piece from yesterday in the Good Feed blog, with a slight twist. When I went to tweak it for their purposes, it occurred to me to flip the script for a minute and think about male advertising icons. If the lady mascots are all about cooking and cleaning, what were the male mascots all about?

This is by no means backed by data or fact, it’s merely what rose to the front of my mind when I set my brain the “male advertising icon” task. Given that 80% of advertising is creating characters that brains accidentally remember, well, it seems like a reasonable metric for success.

Top Male Ad Icons of the last 10 years (According to Emily and in no specific order)

  • The Old Spice Guy
  • “Can You Hear Me Now?” (Verizon)
  • Dell Computer Guy
  • The Mac Guy
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis)
  • The Michelin Man (tires)
  • Mayhem (Allstate Insurance)
  • Jared (Subway)
  • Gecko (Geico)

So…. technology, cars, beer, car insurance, sandwiches. Interesting…

Who does what shopping is what drives this kind of targeting. We like to blame advertisers for pandering to outdated, antiquated, sexist stereotypes, but the truth is, they’re merely reflecting what their focus groups are saying. If we were less antiquated about who makes car purchasing decisions and who knows how to change a diaper, advertisers would be forced to reconsider their plans. We want them to take the high road, to lead us to wards equality and fairness, to reflect the values we wish we had, instead of the ones we actually do. That seems a little too much to ask.

Related Post: Back when I used to work in advertising…

Related Post: Target embraces diversity.

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Filed under Advertising, Gender, Republished!

Rosie in the News #8: Gendered Advertising Icons

Ad Age, a trade publication that keeps tabs on the shifting trends and constant mergers of the advertising world (of which I was briefly a member), has published their top 10 female advertising icons of the last 100 years. Guess who clocked in at #4? My girl Rosie. But who else is on the list?

Miss Chiquita

1. Morton Salt Umbrella Girl

2. Betty Crocker

3. Miss Chiquita

4. Rosie the Riveter

5. Josephine the Plumber (Comet)

6. Mrs. Olsen (Folgers coffee)

7. Madge the Manicurist (Palmolive dishwashing detergent)

8. Rosie the Waitress (Bounty paper towels)

9. Clara Peller (Wendy’s)

10. Flo (Progressive Insurance)

Here’s another way to think about that list: kitchen, kitchen, kitchen, Rosie, cleaning, kitchen, cleaning, cleaning, restaurant, insurance.

There’s a chicken and egg argument in the advertising world; can advertising compel social change? Or does social change drive changes in advertising?

Bottom line, advertising is about…bottom line. Advertisers will try create campaigns that resonate with how people currently feel to convince consumers that the product “understands” them. That said, pushing the social envelope can benefit an advertiser if they correctly predict the direction the winds are blowing. In those cases, the visibility an advertising campaign brings to an issue can function as a propelling force, both bolstering a movement and selling a product.

Case 1: Huggies – The Huggies “Dad Test” campaign generated some controversy earlier this year when some commenters argued that insulted fathers by suggesting parental incompetence. The gist of the spot was that leaving babies with their fathers was the ultimate test of a diaper’s dependability, with the clear subtext that dads are buffoons who don’t know how to take care of their children and consequently need a superior product to keep it together.

While the spot is indeed insulting, Huggies’ market is not stay-at-home dads, or even engaged equal-partner dads. Huggies is going after the moms who do feel like their husband are either unwilling or unable to do half the parenting, and unfortunately, that’s still a big market. If the ad didn’t resonate with moms, it would never have made it on the air, so in this case, Huggies placed the right bet. While the brand could bet on the social movement towards egalitarian diaper-changing, they’ve correctly guessed that as a whole, society is not quite there yet, and the “dad incompetency” message is still going to be effective for a few more years. Here’s to hoping that as Millennials start reproducing, the monetary momentum behind this kind of media dad-bashing loses steam.

Case 2: Target – After getting slammed for donating to anti-gay organizations a few years ago, Target has done an about face (at least, on the surface) with their wedding registry print ad that features a gay couple. While Target certainly risks alienating a substantial percentage of the population with an ad like this, their brand managers have judged that the marriage equality movement is gaining enough ground that they want to be on the right side of history. Simultaneously, an ad like this does tremendous work for said movement, as a national brand like Target (like Ellen for JC Penny), validates gays and lesbians as a meaningful and valued segment of America in a public, widespread, visually impactful way.

It’s not so hard to imagine these reversed. Huggies could have decided that equal childcare was close enough on the horizon to get a head-start on appealing to those parents. Target could have decided enough Americans are still anti-gay that this ad was too risky. But brands walk a very tricky balance, and the best ones choose the issues on which they can be an early supporter without sticking their necks too far out of the mainstream.

I bring this up because I think it’s telling that the most recent addition to Ad Age‘s canon is not selling a cleaning, cooking, or household product. Flo sells insurance? Boring? Yes, but not a particularly gendered sphere of consumer marketing (comparatively speaking). Progress? Remains to be seen

Related Post: The whole Rosie in the News archive.

Related Post: Interview with a social strategist.

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