Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beauty is only skin deep. Please pass the lotion.

          A beautiful woman asked me why all the ads use beautiful women. This woman is a psychologist, so I guess it was a question that came directly from her subconscious.

          It was ironic because yesterday my marketing class discussed the Dove campaign --- what they called "the campaign for real beauty". It was the anti-cosmetic ad campaign Dove had been running to ostensibly promote women's self-esteem. The company told women that Dove believes women are beautiful just the way they are, with perhaps a few dollops of Dove firming cream.

          While L'Oreal was saying "You're worth it", Dove seemed to be saying "Don't spend it". The Dove campaign got a lot of publicity, showing good-looking women of every age and body type. (One of my students was quick to point out that Dove doesn't make cosmetics, so they had nothing to lose by knocking them.)

           There are questions about how well the campaign worked. Sales were up at first, and then off. Apparently women do want to look more beautiful, even as they age, despite what Dove says. Some women flatly concluded, "Dove doesn't work".

            I don't think advertising can work if it's too far ahead of its customers. People have been painting and decorating themselves since prehistoric times. It's a long time to be age-defying, as Revlon calls it. Women want to look beautiful and I want them to, too.

           Which brings me around to the original question. I believe that we find beautiful people appealing. We want to look at them and be like them. We want to emulate them. And advertising and fashion magazine spreads are one way we get information and guidance on how to do so.

           I'm not saying it's right, or making any other moral judgement. I'm discussing feelings, and I think they're human universals. We in marketing are paid to make and sell stuff and good looking models and spokespeople are among the ways to do it.

           Times are always changing and advertising will change with them. It will have to; ads can never be effective if customers are beyond them. Cosmetics are changing, too, becoming more natural, organic, less obvious, more fun.

           In the end, how we want to look is how advertising will look. And we'll say, "Isn't she beautiful!"

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