Essay, Research Paper: Advertising


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Advertising promotes more than mere products in our popular culture. Because
images used in advertising are often idealized, they eventually set the standard
which we in turn feel we must live up to. Advertisements serve to show us what
the ideal image is, and further tell us how to obtain it. Advertisers
essentially have the power to promote positive images or negative images.
Unfortunately, most of the roles portrayed by women tend to fit the latter
description. The irony lies therein since it is these negative images which have
been most successful in selling products. It is easy to understand the appeal
which these ads hold for men, as they place women in an inferior role; one
characterized by helplessness, fragility and vulnerability. Certainly one can
not deny that visual images serve to create the ideal female beauty within the
material realm of consumer culture. The problem is that if one strays from this
ideal, there's the risk of not being accepted by men. Advertisers, by setting
ideals, not only sell their products, but in fact reaffirm traditional gender
roles in mainstream America. Women portrayed in sexual ads are depicted as
objects and commodities, to be consumed by men for visual pleasure and by women
for self-definition. Any depiction of a woman in scant clothing ultimately makes
her look vulnerable and powerless, especially when placed next to a physically
stronger man. Studies show that advertisements will concentrate primarily on a
woman's body parts rather than her facial expressions. Also, it was proven that
over 50% of commercials portraying women contained at least one camera shot
focusing on her chest. Men enjoy these images, and sadly, women tend to try to
embody them, regardless of the extent to which they degrade themselves. Perhaps
one of the most recent, successful, and controversial ad campaigns of the
nineties is that of Calvin Klein. Ironically, in contrast to the normal,
objectifying advertisements that deface women altogether, Klein focuses on his
model's expressions. However, these expressions are similar to those of a scared
child. The naked female model in turn looks even more vulnerable than when she
was faceless. Here, in this ad Kate Moss is depicted as an innocent scared
child. Her fingers touch her lips as if she is not permitted to speak, while her
eyes look as if they are bruised. Moss' breast is exposed in this image, but
instead of appearing voluptuous, Moss appears to be almost prepubescent. She
stares vacantly and helplessly into the camera. Again, women see these images as
attractive to men and subsequently feel the need to embody them. Unfortunately,
the body of Kate Moss is an unrealistic and unattainable ideal for most women.
This distorted "ideal body image" is one of the leading causes for the
recent rise of anorexia in young girls. The "waif" woman image is
causing extreme low self-esteem for women in the nineties. The advertisement
proves effective because normal women can never, and will never look like Kate
Moss. All the hollow attempts will only bring more attention to these marketing
strategies, and ultimately more business for Calvin Klein. It is difficult to
pinpoint the cause for Klein's overwhelming success despite the nature of his
advertisements. Before Calvin Klein's waif image developed, it was thought that
concentration on a woman's voluptuous physical features was what intrigued men.
But this idea of Moss as a helpless child, with no real feminine curves at all,
reiterates the argument that the male attraction to certain ads lies in the
sexual power it gives them. Women please men in their nudity, their purity, and
their body size. Women can never be happy with themselves until their
representation in advertising become more reflective of reality. But if the ads
become more realistic, then the advertisements aren't able to sell their
self-help images. Essentially the world of morals and advertising, if the two
can logically coexist, form a constant vicious cycle.
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