Like clock work, her body pops up to the sound of the alarm clock blaring the local radio morning show. No music is playing to start her day with a catchy tune; it’s the station’s host advertising laser hair removal. She sighs and rolls over in her bed. This isn’t the first, or last time, she will hear this commercial. In the United States alone, national radio advertising revenue grossed 193.1 billion dollars in 2008*, and 92.0 billion locally (plunkettresearch.com). Advertising on the radio is typically less costly (allbusiness.com) and smaller companies, such as local offices for hair removal, can advertise more frequently. This guarantees women will hear their advertisements all day long. “Are you embarrassed by unwanted hair?” By noon, and three “laser hair removal” commercials later, yes, she is.
After fighting with her closet in the usual “What do I wear today” showdown, she leaves her house defeated (the hanging dresses won) and craving her usual bagel and iced latte. On her usual route to work, she looks up at the stoplight and catches the image of a model, blown up to billboard size, staring right at her. This billboard is saying “You are not good enough” with no words at all. Actually, it is advertising a local plastic surgeons office and she begins to question whether its time for a consultation? “Billboards immediately attract attention and usually leave a lasting impression if they are visually pleasing” (Day 1). In this case, that lasting impression is far from appealing. In Rhonda Day’s article, “How to measure the impact of billboard advertising campaigns” she writes, “They [billboards] need to be as clutter-free as possible and easy to read. They only receive about 2-4 seconds of a driver's attention so the message needs to be easily digested” (Day, 1). The image of this model is embedded in her mind, long after that light turned green. She skips her bagel and smear.
It’s 2:00 in the afternoon and she has left work early for a doctor’s appointment. In the waiting room, she flips through a magazine with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Bikini-clad Jen has a caption on the cover in bold, “Bye-bye belly flab! Four week AB makeover.” Magazines can be very addicting for women and depending on the style of magazine women often feel like they should portray the women in that magazine. Research has shown that “Portrayals of women in magazines may cultivate beliefs or expectations about physical appearance, sexuality, relationships or gender roles,” (Blaha, 1). With article titles ranging from “Take an inch off your hips” to “Makeup your skin will love” have drawn women in. In 2004, Rechert and Carpenter found “There has been an overall increase in sexual dress in portrayals of women and intimate contact between men and women from 1983 to 2003 in ads of different types of magazines,” (Blaha, 1). This overall picture perfect image placed in women’s’ heads leads to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and negative image portrayals. In Jennifer Love Hewitt’s article she talks about her long-lasting battle with weight issues and self-appearance but also says “I don’t care about my dress size; I work out to be healthy and feel good about myself,” (Detz, 59). If only every woman had the high self-esteem that Jennifer does then we would all be happier.
After a stressful day, all she wants to do is sprawl out on her comfy couch and catch up on “her shows.” What is on when she turns on the tube? Ah, yes another weight loss supplement, a Hydroxycut commercial. Hydroxycut is a dietary supplement that helps burn calories and boost metabolism (Hydroxycut, 1). The sexy, thin and pretty girls on the Television commercial makes every girl think about trying this product. Commercials are not only informative 30 seconds advertisements, but every aspect of them influences women. So not only do women see the different shapes, sizes and imperfections of other women daily but they also see the ways to perfect you, we can’t get away from it.
Here’s the breakdown; she has seen the ads, ogled the massive billboards, heard the advertisements, and skipped a meal…It isn’t enough anymore that she has to be bombarded with advertisements during commercials breaks. Advertisers are going big or going home, and just showcasing their product during the actual sitcom. Shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “What Not to Wear” use product placement to make women feel inferior if they aren’t using what is expressed to them as socially acceptable. Throughout these shows, the products used to create a “better” image for the woman receiving a makeover are constantly being flashed across the screen. If these products are making that woman so beautiful why wouldn’t every one else want to buy them? Viewers have been given an outline of what beauty is from the media industry. The media uses this normative beauty to sell their products by placing them in television shows that promote this created beauty. “If more women believe in a normative beauty, then more women will buy their product. Furthermore, if this normative beauty will improve your daily lifestyles, then how can the beauty paradigm be interpreted as anything other than extraordinary?”(“Product Placement”).
These shows have found creative ways to sell their product without the viewer even realizing a product is being pitched to them. “The corporations have found an interesting way to market their products based on human emotion, physical appearance, and social acceptance, a way that is very effective” (“Product Placement”). Product placement is not only advertising for how a woman should physically look, but what they should own. A woman’s self image is not only based on what they look like, but how they feel others view them.
Today’s television shows are giving women the idea that if they have the most fashionable clothes, newest phone, and are drinking the correct brand of water then they will be viewed with a greater respect and looked up to. Television shows such as “Gossip Girl” have used product placement to promote things such as Verizon phones and Vitamin Water. This product placement will drive women, who want to be like the characters, to buy their products. Product placement is hazardous in that it is changing our society into a mold that the media has created without the viewer’s realization.
With all the already chaotic events in the life of a female, it seems like these advertising tactics should seem minimal. In retrospect, they are so pertinent. In just one day, she faces a message of perfection she must strive to obtain. Whether subtle through product placement or the in-your-face billboard for Dr.Botox, it is the constant reminder that there is something you need to fix. And it works. Women continue to buy Shape magazine for diet tips, pick up the newest face cream at the counter, and go under the knife for Eva Longoria’s perfect nose. Has the media created this need for perfection or have we become so obsessed with perfection that media is just capitalizing on it? Either way, these advertisements are working well. Too well…
Blaha, Emily. "The Portrayal of Women in Magazine Advertisements Across Four Different Women's Magazines." Www.kon.org. College of St. Catherine. Web. 1 Nov. 2009.
Detz, Jeanine. "How I got slim & confident." Shape Oct. 2009: 59-64. Print.
Thermogenic Hydroxycut Advanced. Advertisement. MTV. MTV, Jacksonville, FL, 1 Nov. 2009. Television.
“Product Placement and a False Sense of Happiness in Reality Makeover TV
Shows.” Weblog post. Critical Studies in Feminist Art History and Visual
Culture. 25 Mar. 2009. 27 Oct. 2009.
"Advertisement and Branding Industry Overview." Plunkett Research, Ltd.. 2009. Plunkett Research Almanac 2009, Web. 27 Oct 2009.
"Radio Advertising Pros and Cons." Allbusiness.com. 1999-2009. Allbusiness.com, Inc., Web. 27 Oct 2009.
Day, Rhonda. "How to measure the impact of billboard advertising campaigns." Heluim.com. 2002-2009. Heluim.com, Inc., Web. 27 Oct 2009.