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The unnecessary and extensive use of female models in advertisements is common not only in America & Europe, but also in Pakistan and rest of the world. Women are used to sell everything from cars to cigarettes. These advertisements use attractive women posing in ways. This type of advertisements initially started in the West to sell special women products, alcohol and adult entertainments. Gradually this trend spread to other markets & products and unfortunately it has been adopted by our market also.
The reality is that peoples of nearly all age group are influenced by advertisements and advertisers know this reality. After presenting an attractive model, the advertisers pose that their product/service can fulfill any need and can cure any problem or difficulty faced by the viewer.
There are two things to be noticed about women's appearance in commercials. First, in many advertisements women are used irrelevantly and these advertisements include products which are purely for men. Second, if presence of a woman is necessary in certain advertisements then advertisements focus mainly on beauty and body features of the model, and less on the product.
This practice has been carried out by various giant companies across the globe. One of the classic examples is the presence of a woman in the advertisement of Gillette Mach-3.1 Another example in the advertisement of FORD in which woman's body is compared with car's body.
Other examples are advertisements of JVC camera and Toyota Lexus. In both advertisements they have shown partial nudity, while presence of women was not fairly justified.
After watching these advertisements one thinks that what are they trying to sell, and what feelings they are trying to create.
In Pakistan a very prominent example was a billboard advertisement of a motorcycle company. The advertisement showed a motorcycle and an attractive women resting with it. There was model number, features and name of the company on the board but surprisingly there was no male model in the whole advertisement. In our culture we don't see even a single woman riding a bike.
Another recent example is of a series of billboards & newspaper advertisements of a local home appliances manufacturing company. The company has its advertisements for microwave ovens, window AC, split AC, floor standing AC and refrigerators etc. Advertisements show only woman models with the subject appliance.
One is surprised to find no men in AC advertisements specially floor standing models that are usually used in offices. Chiefly the buying decision of these products has to be taken by a man who is the runner of the whole family. Same types of advertisements have been produced by other AC manufacturers.
A local ISP company carries the picture of woman on their internet hour's card, and even a 10 rupee card bears the same. According to a rough approximation the percentage of female internet users in our country is about 30%. So what about the remaining 70% male users? The advertisement does not reflect the high percentage users and just trying to pull the customer.
Another relevant example is of a mattress company advertisement. The advertisement show a luxurious room with a female model, cool dressed, lying on a bed. The object of interest for peoples is the girl not the foam because they simply can't move their eyes from a living thing to a non-living thing. The point here is that mattresses are for the use of both genders, not only for the women.
We have seen a lot of advertisements of shops, available in under constructing shopping centers. Female models are used in such advertisements & billboards who invite people to buy those shops. Logically there is no reason of showing women models in such advertisements because shop buying & selling is mainly men's business. A giant cellular company has associated female models with one of its service and shows attractive female models wearing tight sleeveless T-shirts in their billboard, electronic, print & visual advertisements. The company totally ignores the fact that in our country male mobile users are much more than female mobile users.
Advertisers can not justify the unnecessary use of woman's body for selling their products. These ubiquitous images encourage us to think of woman as a commodity. Advertising is an effective and persuasive marketing tool which creates an entire cultural worldview, shaping our attitudes and beliefs. The advertisements portray females as tall, extra smart & extra beautiful. They give emphasis to the physical attractiveness of woman's body. Advertisers use models & supermodels. Many times photographs are airbrushed or otherwise altered to remove any lines, bumps or lumps to reach perfection.
The negative effects of advertising on women viewers fall into a number of problems. The most common effect is continuous increase in the number of women who diet & thus being involved in eating disorders. Across the world millions of women & girls who are unable to reach this standard of beauty, feel a sense of shame and failure. The average girl sees hundreds of advertisements per day and by the time she enters the age of adolescence she has received millions of commercial messages, most of them pointing towards the same direction that is to be ideal. A poll conducted in 1996 by the international ad agency Saatchi proves that advertisements made women fear being unattractive or old.2 Seventy five percent of the "normal" weight women in America think they are overweight and almost half of American women are on a diet on any given day. While 5-10 million women are struggling with serious eating disorders.3
Conditions are not much different in the major cities of our country. I conducted a survey in a local college. Data was collected from 50 female respondents with age range from 14-22years. Following conclusions were drawn:
? Half of the respondents told that advertisements stay in their mind not because of words but because of images.
? 76% of the girls are influenced by advertisements to buy products.
? 73& of the respondents are attracted by female models & 50% of the girls want to be like models.
? 60% of the respondents are not satisfied with their weight & 71% of them are somehow involved in dieting.
? In response to a question that what steps they can take to be like models. Almost 60% of the girls told that they can diet & improve figure for this purpose.
It seems that if consciously they do not strive to be models, but subconsciously these idealistic looks shape their views.
Today's fashion models weigh 23% less than the average female and a young woman between the age of 18-34 has a 7% chance of being as slim as catwalk model and a 1% chance of being as thin as a supermodel. Exposure to idealized body images lowers women's satisfaction with their own attractiveness.
Advertisers purposely present unrealistically thin & beautiful bodies in order to create an unattainable desire that is ultimately related to their products, so their customer never disappears. It is only used to play with men's emotion, to try and encourage them to buy the products because this supposedly will get the girl.
An old example is of Brylcream advertisement. In this commercial a poor man is seen going to work everyday with messy hair, sitting lonely on the train ride (sure sign of a loser). As soon as he adds Brylcream to his hairs, suddenly two gorgeous babes are hanging all over him.
Same type of advertisement of a famous drink was seen on our local media.
Many of these advertisements promote violence against women. The results have been seen in American society with more women injured from being battered by men than by all rapes.
An advertisement of After Shave Lotion starts with a man learning Karate in a centre. The voice in the background tells that it is essential to learn Karate when using our lotion because as you will apply lotion, its smell will turn all women mad & they will just attack you. Afterwards in advertisement they show that when man applies the lotion, 3 women try to capture him and he replies them by kicking them off.
Another very serious problem is the fact that advertisements almost always portray women as sex object in order to increase to appeal of their product. This significantly affects the way women think about themselves, particularly young women, because it is during the adolescent stage of life that young people develop their sense of self identity. This send the underlying message to women and girls that the only important thing about them is the way they look, causing many women to believe that their self-worth is dependant upon attention from men.
In response to a question that does a woman's value depend on her face or on her overall features and looks, about 98% of the respondent girls of my survey told that it depends on overall features & looks. And 77% of the girls were not fully satisfied with their personality and looks.
The commodification of women undoubtedly contributes to the high incidents of rape and physical assault in nearly all cultures around the world. These types of advertisements have also changed the thought process of men. Now a woman's value is determined by the way she looks. The impractical ideal in the minds of men lives only in the advertisements and not in the real world. This attitude is harming the women. All the credit goes to advertiser & then to media.
It is the reality that advertisers are not there to meet our social needs but are there to make sales and deal with big money. Corporations, whether big or small, can do anything to make a sale. This is a gift to society from Capitalism. Advertisements sell not only products, but also promises, life-style, images, hopes & dreams. But what kind of promises, images, life-style & dreams are they? This is the matter of question.
Conditions can not get better until & unless corporations realize that there are certain "Marketing Ethics" that have to be followed. Whether it is America or Pakistan, governments will have to look seriously into the matter. We ourselves will have to change our concept of ideal woman. We need to concentrate more on the product & services than on the projected bodies. Women will have to identify the red line between advertisement's world & the real world. Unless these improvements come into effect we will continue to suffer.
- Video available at:
- Peacock, M. (1998). "Sex, Housework & Ads." Women's Wire web site.
Available at: http://womenswire.com/forums/image/D1022/ 2
- Body Image and Advertising. 2000. Issue Briefs. Studio City, Calif.: Mediascope Press.
Available at: http://www.mediascope.org/pubs/ibriefs/bia.htm 3
- "Facts on Body and Image," compiled by Jean Holzgang. Just Think Foundation web site.
Available at: http://www.justthink.org/bipfact.html 4
- Olds, T. (1999). "Barbie figure 'life-threatening'." The Body Culture Conference. VicHealth
and Body Image & Health Inc 5
- Limpinnian, D. The Portrayal of Men and Women in TV Ads.
Available at: http://www.aber.ac.uk/~mcswww/Students/del0001.html
- Moore, J. Women and Advertising. Available at:
- Kilbourne, J. Still killing Us Softly. Available at:
Adnan Asfar; [email protected]
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