Tuesday, February 24, 2009

girl power

i'm getting ready to do a presentation on advertising to a whole bunch of 13 year-olds at the United Nations International School tomorrow morning.

and i'm nervous.

because their teachers dig out those old subliminal seduction books from the 70s and then they show them ads and point out "hidden" sexual organs or secret psychological manipulations that convince them to buy stuff.

or how we make girls feel bad about themselves.

and as usual, i am (like aaron eckhart in thank you for smoking) the evil empire.

i once had to do it opposite naomi wolf who was whooping up the girls and saying, "you need to hold advertising agencies accountable!"

so i said, "you need to hold YOURSELVES accountable."

there's a lot of victim mentality in complaining that images of women make you feel bad or manipulated.

first of all, when you're going down the highway and you see a huge billboard for a big mac or a whopper and fries - and you're older than 5 - do you really think that when you go through the drivethru, your order will look like that?

it is ADVERTISING.

we are selling an ideal. we are indeed convincing you to buy something by making it look as good as possible. it's a dream. it is not reality.

and the truth is - no one wants to buy reality. not least because we've already got lots of it.

but if you really don't like the advertising, get rid of it.

consumers don't seem to realize how much power they have.

how many creatives have made a beautiful socially-conscious ad for a client and had it get killed in focus groups because the consumers just don't care?

the number of times i've fought to have a woman without heavy make-up and/or retouching and had focus groups complain that she looks tired, ugly or like she just hasn't put herself together.

or shown a woman with a normal body and had her killed (not really just the picture) because "her thighs are fat."

or the number of times a line of copy gets removed or re-written because a consumer writes a letter saying that it insulted or offended him or her in one way or another.

i always say, "if you don't like the advertising - or the way women are portrayed, write a letter to the company. call them or tell them. ask your friends to do the same."

and i remind them, when they complain about britney spears or paris hilton, that they actually have the ultimate power:

"if you don't like britney spears or paris hilton or miley cyrus - don't buy their stuff. consumers control what is sold.

hate it?

don't buy it."

by the way, people are not buying Dove products.

> Study: Skinny Women Better for Bottom Line
> Researchers Find Thin Models Make Viewers Like Brands More, but Themselves
> Less
>
> Quote: "The really interesting result we're seeing across multiple studies
> is that these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it," Mr. Kees
> said. "They have higher evaluation of the brands. With the more regular-size
> models, they don't feel bad. Their body image doesn't change. But in terms
> of evaluations of the brands, those are actually lower."
>
> By Jack Neff
>
> Published: July 30, 2008
> BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Thin is still in for advertising, new research
> suggests, unless you're trying to sell cookies or self-esteem.
>
> Women who had just seen thin models were nearly four times more likelyto
> turn down a snack pack of Oreo cookies offered as thanks for their
> participation in the study than women who hadn't.
>
>
> A study by business professors at Villanova University and the College of
> New Jersey, inspired by Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty," shows that ads
> featuring thin models made women feel worse about themselves but better
> about the brands featured.
>
> Seeing thin models also made college-age women far more likely to turn down
> a snack pack of Oreo cookies offered as thanks for their participation in
> the study, or to opt for a reduced-fat version. Women who had just seen thin
> models were nearly four times more likely to say no to Oreos than women who
> hadn't, and 42% more likely to opt for reduced-fat cookies if they did
> indulge.
>
> Women in a sample of 194 college students aged 18-24 expressed more negative
> feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition
> after seeing thin models than before. So-called high self-monitoring women,
> or those more concerned about what others think of their appearance, were
> the most negatively affected by seeing the thin models in the study.
>
> More likely to buy
> The professors are still preparing a written report on results from a second
> phase of the research, which found that despite the negative effect on their
> body image, women preferred ads showing thin models and said they were more
> likely to buy products featured in those ads than in ones showing
> "regular-size models," said Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova.
>
> "The really interesting result we're seeing across multiple studies is that
> these thin models make women feel bad, but they like it," Mr. Kees said.
> "They have higher evaluation of the brands. With the more regular-size
> models, they don't feel bad. Their body image doesn't change. But in terms
> of evaluations of the brands, those are actually lower."
>
> Mr. Kees acknowledged the findings create something of a quandary for
> marketers, who might have a positive effect on young women's self-esteem by
> showing more typical women in ads, but suffer in the marketplace as a
> result.
>
> "I'd tend to be cautious about using models in advertising that wouldn't
> maximize the attitudes and evaluations of the advertising and the brands,"
> he said. "Certainly [Dove is] getting a lot of publicity, and it's a great,
> innovative campaign. But in terms of the bottom line of how that might be
> impacting ... purchase behavior, I'm not sure."
>
> Appetite suppressant
> Mr. Kees said the professors landed on the Oreo tactic, in which study
> participants didn't know their post-ad-exposure cookie-eating would be
> monitored, as a way of studying real behavioral impact in addition to the
> usual survey responses regarding ads.
>
> The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, backed by its Campaign for Real Beauty, has
> exceeded its original goal of reaching 1 million young girls by this year
> and expanded its target to 5 million by 2010.
>
>
> The data shows a definite, if short-term, link between thin models in ads
> and eating behavior, but Mr. Kees said he wasn't comfortable making the leap
> that seeing thin models could cause eating disorders.
>
> Dove and its agency, Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, weren't reluctant to connect
> those dots in their "Onslaught" viral video released last year, splicing
> scenes of yo-yo dieting and bulimia into a montage of beauty advertising.
>
> "That's a far stretch to infer an eating disorder from a one-time choice,"
> Mr. Kees said, but added, "That's certainly a scenario that would be rich
> for future research."
>
> The new study in part concurs with and in part diverges from some prior
> research on the impact of thin models. Research reported in 2005 and 2006
> from psychology professors at University of Sussex and University of West
> England in the U.K. concluded that ads featuring ultra-thin models do make
> women feel worse about their looks, but aren't any better at selling
> products than ads featuring more typically proportioned women.
>
> The Lower Chamber of France's Parliament earlier this year passed a law that
> would ban the use of ultra-thin models in ads, and authorities in Spain last
> year banned ultra-thin models from runways. Unilever also vowed to not use
> size-zero models in any of its advertising.
>
> Unilever stays the course
> In a statement, a spokesman for Unilever said the company believes its
> approach works. "Unilever is confident in the effectiveness of its
> advertising," he said. "We believe women have the right to feel comfortable
> with their bodies and not suffer from lack of self-esteem brought on by
> images of excessive slimness."
>
> Dove's campaign, he said, has "penetrated society and started a dialog about
> real beauty," adding that "we are thrilled by the overwhelming positive
> responses we have received from women (and men) as a result of the
> campaign."
>
> The Dove Self-Esteem Fund, backed by the campaign, has exceeded its original
> goal of reaching 1 million young girls by this year and expanded its target
> to 5 million by 2010. Campaignforrealbeauty.com, he said, already has
> reached 4.5 million people.
>
> Despite those efforts, he said, "There is no question that women and young
> girls are being bombarded with unrealistic messages and images of beauty
> that impact their self-esteem." But, he said, "We are excited to see now
> (and have seen in the past couple of years) a growing trend towards more
> realistic and healthy looking women in advertising and in the media."

here's what we suggested to AVON in terms of their positioning:


video

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