Advertisement is your Middle Name

In the 21st century, not any normal human being can survive a day without media and communication. Can you go a day without using a mobile phone, or watching television/ or a movie, or surfing the internet, or even walking down the neighborhood street? All these daily routine activities expose us to advertisements whether we like it or not, whether we plan it or not. Today’s forces of advertisement determine the “ideal” life style, the “perfect” shape, and even a person’s “optimal” status in life. Advertisement connects to consumer’s subconscious and alters people’s consuming trends, transforming us all to trapped followers and subjective thinkers. People do not think anymore, they just do what their brains are told to do and absorb all masked stereotypes. Not all people are as such of course, however a big chunk of society falls in the trap of media and advertisement simply because they are too consumed in consuming, and have no time to objectively think and analyze.

Analysis of Women’s ad

This ad shows an African-American model and another white model wearing clothes by United Colors of Benetton. The two women are tall, skinny, and have flawless skin, almost reaching the stereotypical definition of perfect beauty. Rick Ruffolo, the vice president of Bath and Body, once said that “If you look at the messages in mass marketing today and TV programs, the emphasis is on outer beauty, cosmetics and extreme makeovers” (Howard, 2005). This brings up the idea of perfect feminine “mannequin” appeal as a mean to promote sales. People’s definition of beauty has changed; beautiful now means tall, extremely thin, and basically having the “model-look.” Advertisement defines body shape and carves the way people value women and their anatomy. Again, nothing is accidental in advertisements: having an African-American in this ad is definitely not a coincidence. The mission of United Colors of Benetton is “combining culture with industry and offering young people from around the world an opportunity for creative growth and multicultural interchange (Fabrica, 2009).” Hence having an African American woman allows this brand to address a wide range of diverse people and to compete in more than one localized market. The “united” colors of its sweaters soon became a metaphor for the united skin tones of the youth from many different countries for whom the sweaters were designed (Fabrica, 2009). Not all brands are aware that “Black” women spend on average three times more than the general market (Neff, 2007). The strategy used to sell these items is also a branding strategy; however, it pertains to cultural and ethnic perceptions. Two decades after the Civil Rights movements, companies and advertisers began to integrate minority consumers into their main marketing strategies (Kim et al, 2005).  Benetton succeeded in advertising its ideas which soon became a consumer magnet thus selling more of their products.

Analysis of Men’s ad

Upon examining seven different Arabic magazines from October and November issues, I realized that the number of ads showing only men is extremely low compared to that of women. This brings up the issue of using women, as well as children, as an advertisement tool in order to play on people’s emotions and effectively promote a certain brand. Men are often used to advertise a message about power, sports, and control, as if women can’t be powerful or sportive. This Lacoste ad shows a low angle shot of a very elegant white man wearing Lacoste shoes. The shoes are pointed towards the logo in such a way to direct the viewers’ attention towards the crocodile symbol for Lacoste. The male is dressed in a very chic style referring to Lacoste’s basic look: the Sport-chic look. His jacket is adjusted to be open in order to show the crocodile on the upper right of the polo and promote the clothing line as well. On that same page, there is another close up on a male’s leg, specifically below the knee, giving great importance to the shoes, being the object advertised. To support these two shots, another two images of shoes are portrayed to display the variety in their collection. It is worth noting that in the upper left shot, the shoe color is warm: orange/red where as all the others are neutral colors: brown, beige, black, white, and grey. Warm colors usually set a powerful, energetic mood while, neutral colors serve to tone down colors that are intended to stand out. The usefulness of the content/style distinction rests on the intrinsic separation between what is said about and shown with the brand versus how it is said or shown (Philips and McQuerrie, 2002). All the detailed elements in the ad are coherent and make perfect sense; however, I couldn’t help but wonder why the bars behind the man are rusted. Everything has a purpose in advertisement, and one possible purpose for the rust may be to create a realistic atmosphere and to hide the mechanical adjustments in the photograph.

Analysis of Men and Women ad

The first jeans ad is centered at a white male and a white, skinny tall female. Both, man and woman are in their twenties; consequently, Salsa’s target audience is young men and women in this same age group. The photo is shot in low angle making it seem like the two characters are on top of the world. This camera angle makes people come out much larger than they are, thus giving them more power. The camera angle also helps portray their slogan, “Feel on top of the world wearing Salsa”, using photography. The impression of looking up at them triggers the audience to fancy looking up to them. It is hardly a coincidence that the woman is slightly tilted to the left, showing a portion of her behind. The male is standing straight front, giving all his body parts equal value; whereas the female’s backside is shown, giving more emphasis to her ass, especially that the man’s hand is precisely on her waist line. In today’s Lebanon, advertising rarely portrays or addresses women in a manner that isn’t awkwardly related either to looks or, at the other end of the spectrum, to motherly function (Bontems, 2009). It is part of Salsa’s marketing strategy to promise firm and uplifted butt while wearing their jeans. That is why they resort to emotional branding to attract more and more customers. This marketing strategy connects their brand’s preposition to their consumer’s needs and desires. Now-a-days people do not buy products; they buy ideas, life styles and social statuses. “Happy New You” is just another slogan that not only redefines the traditional meaning of being happy but also draws a strong relation between happiness and a pair of jeans.

By examining in depth the three different ads, it has become clear that advertisement is the protagonist in the story of our life. Companies build their marketing strategies by virtually selling their ideas rather than their products. Consumers are driven towards perfection and their ultimate goal is reaching the ideal body figure, be it their faces or their bodies. Susie Orbach, a British psychoanalyst, argues in her book “Bodies” that all of the globalized world, men and women, are suffering from a warped sense of beauty…She says that we are expected to look like Angelina Jolie from childhood to the old-age home (Solomon, 2009). This type of stereotype is one of many resulting from the mass media and advertisement “haunting” us. Always remember that what distinguishes a person from a consumer is his/her ability to distinguish between what he/she needs or desires and what the advertisers wants him//her to need or desire.


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