Archive for the cosmetics Category

Anxiety advertisers; how they changed the world for the worse

Posted in cosmetics, fashion, Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , on January 13, 2013 by marketingheart

Advertising was largely built on the fine, opportunistic strategy of trading in human weakness. For almost 100 years, advertisers have honoured the tradition a) pinpoint a problem, perhaps one consumers didn’t even know they had; b) exacerbate anxiety around the problem; c) sell the cure.

Whether it’s being laughed at because you have small muscles or can’t play the piano, not being respected because your car isn’t prestigious enough, not being desired because you have hairy armpits, not being cool because your phone isn’t the latest,  or not being a good mother for oh-so-many reasons, and let’s not even mention menstruation…advertisers sure know which button to push.

Hell, they do it without even trying. Apple’s famous (and brilliant) 1984 campaign – which put them on the map – was meant to inspire. But if you were happy just being you, wouldn’t this (edited) ad copy make you second guess your happiness?…

“Here’s to … The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. … Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Oh boy, I’m clearly not aiming high enough! But not all advertisers require quite so much of us. Dove (about whom I have blogged in approval) simply suggests women need to shave their armpits in order to attain enlightenment. No, Dove say, it’s not them creating the problem, it’s them solving it: according to research cited on Dove’s website, 93% of women think their underarms are unattractive and thus may refuse to wear sleeveless clothing. So if the desire for un-natural armpits hasn’t been caused by images published by beauty advertisers like Dove, then where does it come from?

Advertisers, through this use of shame (which is of course a kind of anxiety), have changed our views, and our world. Before Listerine figured out it could sell more of its anti-septic as a cure for bad breath, there simply was no social stigma attached to it. How many billion dollars has this strategic breakthrough yielded? How has this improved our lot as a race? And in case you think the classic approach to anxiety went out with the advent of colour TV, look at the current ad for Oslo Subway.

Research has refined the use of anxiety as leverage to encourage purchase. A study of commercials for the Danonino kid-food brand found no fewer than five kinds of anxieties being prodded: anxieties linked to the responsibility for providing healthy food to support a child’s physical growth; anxieties associated with the responsibility for providing appropriate nutrients to foster a child’s intellectual development; anxieties linked to the social exclusion of a child from his/her peer group; anxieties raised due to repeated conflicts about food intake that may threaten family bonding relationships and mothers’ anxiety for not being present enough for the child due to their own busy schedules.

Rich pickings for these ‘negative’ ads, for sure. The multi-billion dollar question is: do they work better the positive ads…is the carrot or the stick more effective? Entire books and literally mountains of ad research has been done into this vexed question (eg…), and the answer, like that to many complex questions, is probably ‘it depends’.

For me, this dilemma cuts to the socio-cultural responsibilities that advertisers and marketers have, but so rarely acknowledge. Anxiety disorders are are the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States with an annual societal costs of over $42 billion dollars (source Psychology Today).

Think about it: if all those fear-inducing ads has instead used more positive messaging, would we as a global community, have amassed such an overwhelming state of anxiety? And if we hadn’t, how different would our world look to us? Has the wealth reaped by Listerine and tens of thousands of marketers like them been worth the problems now so prevalent in society?

Before we leave the topic, as ever with advertising, a strategy can work in different ways.  In this ad you literally get rid of your old head:

And, wonderfully, the ad industry can, itself exhibit obvious anxiety. Take this sugar industry response to the ‘problem’ of dieting:

The classic is this response to people’s anxieties about smoking:

For a general discussion on specifically status anxiety I highly recommend Alain de Boton’s book of the same name, or if you prefer there is a spin-off series of videos here.

Do you think anxiety advertising has changed the world?

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In a world of fake beauty, authenticity can still pack a punch.

Posted in cosmetics, fashion, Marketing, advertising, ethics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by marketingheart

Can beauty marketing be done with ethics intact? Early this millennium, a global study by Unliever’s Dove brand of over 3,200 women across 10 countries found only 2% of women would describe themselves as beautifu (it was 1% in Australia) , 68 % strongly agree that the media sets an unrealistic standard of beauty, 75 % wish the media did a better job in portraying the diversity of women’s physical attractiveness across all sizes, shapes and ages.  By coincidence my own agency was researching the issue at around the same time for a chain of cosmetic clinics, with the same results.

In response, in 2004 Dove commenced its famous campaign designed to provoke discussion and encourage debate about the nature of beauty…and of course to differentiate its products in an industry characterised by hype, artificiality and over-claim. Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty‘ incorporated and has evolved to encompass a range of online and offline campaigns as well as the establishment of the Dove Self Esteem Fund. It’s worth reviewing.

The campaign was considered brave for using ‘real’ women instead of models. How real were the real women? Debatable.  Businessweek quoted the retoucher who worked on the images “to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.” So, despite the laudable use of different sized women, even the campaign for ‘real beauty’  published unattainable (by natural means) images of beauty.   As one commenter knowingly said “we know that no self-respecting art director (or client) is going to feature a “real” model with pock marks, day surgery or bike trip scars, and uneven skin tones – as “real” as those things are, they just don’t sell products unfortunately.”

Well, I’m not so sure. The campaign my agency launched at the same time as Dove’s also featured real women and we didn’t retouch a thing. Previously the client had been running horrible (and dishonest) ‘before and after’ ads, both sides heavily retouched, so the new approach was a big step for them. Yes, the clinics offered cosmetic procedures (non invasive eg botox etc), so arguably we were ethically compromised from the get go (depending on your views). But because (or despite) that,  we had the client agree to publish a ‘beauty manifesto’ which talked about the diversity of beauty,  the importance of self acceptance and keeping it real, and the undertaking where to never retouch images.The client promised to train clinic staff to identify and discourage serial procedure abusers. Our campaign was to incorporate a forum (pretty radical back then in the mid 2000s) where we hoped to encourage the debate about beauty. It was quite amazing to us when we became aware of Dove’s new campaign how strategically we’d come to the same place at the same time (us with a tiny fraction of Unilever’s resources of course!). The campaign launched online and in magazines:

..and the website…

Sadly the campaign was short lived. This was a brand building strategy but the client hadn’t told us how thin their funding was and they couldn’t sustain their business. We needed to add a retail dimension to the campaign, a challenge I would have relished, but we never had the chance, their business changed hands and was broken up. Would our strategy have worked given more time?

Judging by a PR analysis of Dove’s campaign, maybe so – it says the campaign returned $3 for every $1 spent.  In the first six months of the campaign, sales of Dove’s firming products increased 700 percent in Europe and in the United States, sales for the products in the advertisements increased 600 percent in the first two months of the campaign. In 2004, the first year of the campaign, global sales surpassed $1 billion, exceeding company expectations.
By the end of 2005, sales in the Asian-Pacific market increased from 19 percent to 26 percent. The press coverage has been massive; in the United States, launch coverage reached 30 million daytime television viewers via The Oprah Winfrey Show, which editorialised the campaign everyday for a week, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Today Show, The View and CNN. Engagement has also scored big: “Evolution” the viral video and the most famous execution of the campaign to date has been viewed more than 15 million times online and seen by more than 300 million people globally in various channels of distribution, including news coverage, by the estimation of Ogilvy Chairman-CEO Shelly Lazarus. (watch it if you haven’t already). Dove and Ogilvy won two Grand Prix Cannes Advertising Awards in 2007 (unprecedented). “Evolution” won Film Grand Prix and a Cyber Grand Prix. Dove won a silver IPA for effectiveness and a Grand EFFIE, which honors the most significant achievement in marketing communications effectiveness. One judge said “The judges said: “The Dove case showed the fantastic impact that marketing can have when you start with a great insight.”

Pity our guys didn’t have deeper pockets!

In a fabulous final irony, one series from the campaign  featured 50+ year olds naked under the headline “too old to be in an anti-aging ad…well this isn’t anti age, this id Pro Age”.

The campaign was not oinly banned in the US, “pro-family and women’s groups” urged a boycott of Dove products for “contributing to the sexualization of women as a commercial tool, as well as exposing children to adult nudity.” These uptight folks were also upset by some of Unilever’s campaigns for other brands (often men’s products) which were on occasion too risque for their fragile souls. Can’t win a trick these day, eh.

Still, it could be worse, as shown here in a Victoria’s Secret billboard which featured the line “Love your body”

Oh, and if you’ve seen ‘Evolution’ then add some spice with this great response (which has its own valid point to make!)

Real women, real beauty. Natural enemies of the cosmetic industry?

Posted in cosmetics, fashion, Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , , , , , , on August 2, 2010 by marketingheart

Some years ago I was involved in a piece of research which found that women were incredibly frustrated by the unatainability of the imagery published by the cosmetics and fashion industries. On the back of that finding we created a campaign featuring authentic women, real customers of the client we were working with. Yes it was a lot more work than simply calling the talent agency but we got some arresting images as a result. About the same time Dove was just embarking on its now famed Campaign for Real Beauty along similar lines. null

I wish my client had the staying/investment power that Dove has! My campaign lasted under a year, Dove has gone on growing theirs, now adding the Dove Self-Esteem fund.

Well, perhaps Debenhams in the UK has found the same thing. The U.K. department store retailer started by using plus size mannequins in the windows of its stores because they more accurately reflected the sizes of its customers. The company has also used a disabled person in a wheelchair to model in one its ad campaigns. Now the company has decided, in keeping with its promotion of natural beauty, that it will no longer allow photos of its models to be retouched. According to a report in the Daily Mail, a sign next to a shot of a model in the store’s window reads: “We’ve not messed with natural beauty; this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?”

“Our campaign is all about making women feel good about themselves — not eroding their self belief and esteem by using false comparisons,” said Mark Woods, director of creative and visual for the retailer. Exactly. But crikey, the uptake of such ideas by the fashion industry is astonishingly slow. The industry set up to provide products to help women look after themselves clearly hates the way they look!
madonna improved?