By: Morgan Hogan
Industries use persuasive methods in advertising to make consumers not only want, but need a particular good or service that is being advertised. In order to be successful and effective, many advertisements use images of visibly beautiful people, especially women. The images that are being used in these advertisements are not a reflection of our society, and what it has been for decades. Our society makes consumers believe that they should look like the beauty that is being advertised to them. What is being displayed in advertisements is a romanticized version of beauty. Many of the images of women in these advertisements are extremely offensive and discriminate against all women.
Displaying women who fit only one standard of beauty in advertising has had a harmful effect on not only women but young girls. Author and advertising critic, Jean Kilbourne, stated “the average American encounters 3,000 advertisements every day, and spends a total of two years watching TV commercials in their lifetime…At the center of many of these ads is an image of idealized female beauty. Models are tall, slim, and light skinned and digitally altered to ever-more unrealistic proportions,” (Kilbourne, 2015). There has been much research supporting the connection of women in advertising and the obsession with self-image and dieting. For many years, advertising has been at fault for the cause of eating disorders among these young women and girls, such as anorexia and bulimia. These eating disorders are life-threatening, all because they want to fit into society’s standard of beauty. In the article, The Relationship Between Media Consumption and Eating Disorders, authors Kristen Harrison and Joanne Cantor quote Andersen and DiDomenico stating, “that there is a “dose-response” relationship between media content that emphasizes the ideal slim figure and the incidence of eating disorders in the dominant female target audience, such that greater exposure to such media content is associated with greater levels of disordered eating,” (Andersen & DiDomenico, 1992). Many researchers have seen the relation between thinness in the media and the rising numbers of young women with eating disorders.
Most brands are still choosing to portray unrealistic beauty standards in their advertisements, beauty industries being at the top of that list. According to When Beauty is the Beast: The Effects of Beauty Propaganda on Female Consumers, “imagery used by the beauty industry has negative effects on female consumers by providing unrealistic standards and lowering self-esteem, which creates a strong need to purchase beauty products in order to fit the ideals of modern society,” (Greenfield, 2018). However, there is one beauty industry that is showing how beauty has no standards. Dove released their “#MyBeautyMySay” campaign as a countermeasure to our society’s definition of beauty. The beauty tycoon’s television ad displays a widely diverse group of women, all unique in shape, size, race, and everything in between. The one aspect that the advertisement focuses on is what all of these women have in common; telling the audience what has been said to discourage them. Many of the phrases used were “you’re too this” and “you’re too that,” however, despite all of these negative remarks these women achieved their goals and aspirations. The women in this advertisement did not let society confine them and showed the audience how beauty can’t be defined by standards. What made these women feel beautiful was the fact that they were able to accomplish their dreams. Beauty is as unique as every person on this planet, and brands need to start portraying it as such.
Harrison, K. and Cantor, J. (1997), “The relationship between media consumption and eating disorders”, Journal of Communication, 47, pp. 40–67.
Greenfield, Savannah, “When Beauty is the Beast: The Effects of Beauty Propaganda on Female Consumers” (2018). Theses/ Capstones/Creative Projects. 20.
Kilbourne, J. (2015, March 3). Advertising’s Toxic Effect on Eating Disorders and Body Image. Lecture presented in Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts.
Roeder, A. (2020, March 28). Advertising’s toxic effect on eating and body image. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/advertisings-toxic-effect-on-eating-and-body-image/