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Rated: 13+ · Essay · Cultural · #1349221
Essay on the effects of advertising on our self-image.
Love the skin you’re in. There’s a reason that Olay’s latest slogan isn’t “Adore your largest external organ.” First of all, it rhymes. Second, it manages to imply just enough curiosity in the product and trust in the company to warrant a purchase. It accomplishes this by successfully identifying an audience and pertaining to its needs. This mastery and understanding of the power of advertising is never more apparent than in a recent promotional image found in a periodical.

A woman. Though her face is not shown, her bare body is obviously one of youth. Desirable curves rise and fall over a toned frame, yet they are not without a certain hardness of age. She is submerged. Amidst the cool currents she swirls, her dark hair suspended above in a listless dance. Streaks of what appear to be thick, bright green ribbon partially envelope her, their twisted forms writhing about in an uncontrollable manner. Condensed trails of tiny bubbles emanate from their rapid movements. A radiance projects form the scene. The woman’s poise shimmers with a vibrant glow reflected in the billowing strips. A single line of text pierces the spectacle: “Wrap your skin in a more youthful glow.”

Such is the latest fruit of Olay’s marketing loins. The company’s new body wash, “Radiance Ribbons,” seeks to capture the hearts and checkbooks of middle-aged women with promises of a rejuvenated look.

The aforementioned tagline illiterates throughout the ad with slight variations such as “help bring back a more youthful glow,” and “recapture a more youthful glow.” Apparently Olay not only assumes their seasoned their seasoned customers want to purchase this product, but that they are unhappy enough with themselves to do so. And really, who could blame them? Women, as we all know, have a dark, convoluted, and even enigmatic past with self-image and body appearance. The smooth, taut skin over the supple frame of yesteryear is tempting indeed. Even the most content woman wouldn’t pass up the chance to turn back the clock, if only for a short while. So Olay capitalized on a weakness that has plagued females since the dawn of chauvinism (time), big deal. Can we really blame them for taking advantage of this inherent trait found in all women? It certainly isn’t their fault that women are like this.

Well, it kind of is. Or, not Olay exactly, rather today’s society. Women are unhappy with their appearances because everywhere they turn there’s just another “Radiance Ribbons” making them feel inadequate and less attractive than their young counterparts. Older women are going to look at the product and say “I need this,” not because of some preconceived notion that they have bad skin or lack a certain “youthful glow,” but because an image-obsessed, media-driven culture has brainwashed them into thinking that they aren’t pretty enough, and therefore not good enough, to get by in the world. All for the noble cause of making a buck. The real problem with a product like this isn’t that Olay is selling it; women need a body wash and “Radiance Ribbons” fits the bill. It’s basic economics, supply and demand. The really irksome thing is the means Olay went about to sell it, more specifically the fact that that a marketing campaign such as this was needed at all.

Of course, women who run across this ad aren’t seriously going to believe that by using “Radiance Ribbons” twenty years will just melt away, though perhaps they should as the ad exaggerates no less. The woman shown is in no way middle-aged, nor does she lack or need a “youthful glow.” What then, is her purpose? The only conceivable answer is that she is a victim of the remedial age-reducing powers of Olay’s elixir. The paragraph located at the bottom of the ad, however, debunks this theory completely. According to it, the body wash should only be held responsible for giving your skin a “glorious” and “glowing” quality. So essentially this ad not only pressures women into feelings of inadequacy, but openly gives the wrong impression about the effects of the product it is trying so hard to sell. Is this right? Or moral? Or even legal? It doesn’t look good for an over-the-hill gal when this ad and so many others like it make up the very foundation of what is perceived as beauty in society’s consciousness.

Olay tells us to love the skin we’re in, but what exactly does that mean? Love the skin that we’ve had since birth, despite any casualties of age? Or love the skin Olay puts us in, one of a glorious, glowing, recaptured youth? The media’s effects on our lives are undeniably immense, but our influence on the media is no less extraordinary. So when an advertisement appears whose message is as warped as this one’s who’s to say that maybe we’re not a little warped as well? True, that the person responsible for the “Radiance Ribbons” marketing campaign was probably just doing their job and most likely didn’t think twice about it. But the sad truth is, when nobody thinks twice about this sort of thing it’s hard to love anything about ourselves.
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