Lately, I find myself wanting for simpler times, for the days of soap operas dominating daytime tv, and the drama being interrupted by commercials selling things, not theories. See, just as evil twins and medically confusing comas have gone out of fashion, so has the acceptance of soap being soap. No, we need it to be so much more. What does the soap say about us? What do we say about ourselves?
I must applaud today’s execs for transforming the world of advertising as we know it. It’s really brilliant when you think about it. Companies discovered how to touch their audiences in a way that leaves the consumer feeling personally invested in a product. And how do they do it? By preying on vulnerable victims — oops I mean women. Beauty revolutions, body acceptance programs, and gender equality platforms means soap advances from a bar of fatty acids into the self-hug you didn’t know you needed. These new ads are magnifying the consumer’s insecurities in an attempt to win hearts while emptying pockets.
Dove’s “Real Beauty” short-films, Special K’s “Fight Fat Talk” experiments, and Pantene’s punchy “#ShineStrong” message are essentially saying, “You can’t feel positive on your own. You are your own worst enemy. You need us to feel better and have the life you really deserve.”
The saddest part about this new trend is not that we choose to believe it, it’s that we now expect all advertisements to follow the same guidelines. And the ones that don’t are demonized. The latest victim being Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect ‘Body'” campaign. It’s important to note that Victoria’s Secret was not trying to sell bodies. (They couldn’t get the permit required) They were selling bras named “Body” and displayed their product on their models.
These slender, professional models are the same ones who appear in the catalogue so many of us order from, and walk the runway in a fashion show millions of women watch. But because the company was selling bras and not a social movement, people got angry. The public was expecting to receive a “Buy one bra, get an inspirational quote free” offer. So, after hearing the public’s complaints regarding body image, Victoria’s Secret changed their slogan to “A Body for Everybody.” They caved. Lame.
For those who are still really angry at a bra, I suggest spending your hard earned money on a different product. However, most women will continue to shop at Victoria’s Secret because of its quality of undergarments, not it’s universal message. Their ads don’t need to push up self-esteem, their push-up bras can do that. They don’t need to reveal what beauty is, their lacy bottoms reveal your beautiful side.
Loving a message is futile if the product doesn’t live up to your newly enlightened standards. Some women just don’t feel good in their skin, and for those who don’t, there are self-help books I can recommend that are much more helpful than an advertisement.
Side note: I love Dove soap and Pantene shampoo. Been using both since I was a kid. Before the movement.
Here’s a classic Dove ad to get all nostalgic over.