Friday, March 12, 2010

The Crystal-Clear Answer

My answer to our readings and what advertising has done to our trains of thought is to poke fun at, and bring a sarcastic twist to, a lot of advertisements out there. It is bad enough the media and advertisers have psychological effects on some of us so much so that we want to starve ourselves thin or believe certain chores—cooking or laundry for example— are gender-specific. Why? and ... NO!

Why are commercials reinforcing traditional gender roles of the past—men cooking at campfires and barbecues; women making whole meals in the kitchen only (to point out some examples, care of Susan Bordo's Hunger as Ideology)—and not throwing a monkey wrench into the formula? Why are they making us believe that this or that is the look and then throw studies out there that tell us about anorexia and bulimia without doing something about it after putting two and two together? NO, the advertisers fail to do accurate studies and just harp on what the norm was 50 to 70 years ago. Today we have stay-at-home dads who work from home and are capable of cooking (why is it only suitable for a male chef on a cooking show or at a restaurant?) and women who go out to work. We even have newlyweds who only work and barely cook at home: What's that about??? And then we have another "NO" to advertisers who successfully impress norms and ideals of beauty in our heads. (I mean "no" as in grade school where when you did something really bad and you were scolded with that nasty school-teacher attitude to make you thing twice about doing something bad again; not "no" as in the answer to a yes or no question.)

No matter how you look at it, putting women in certain roles in commercials is not the answer. Virginia Slims then tries to associate women and freedom to make choices with cigarettes and that it is okay to choose to smoke since one is free to choose. Why would Virginia Slims tell women that it is fine to put their health in jeopardy? Why would anyone choose to put their health in jeopardy? In Gloria Steinem's article Sex, Lies and Advertising, she talks about Ms. magazine's choice to refuse cigarette ads, to which I'd like to add was a wise decision as well as a loss worth taking. Their decision to not place recipes next to food advertisements set Ms. apart while it also hurt relationships with food companies, but they stood by their morals—and these were good morals indeed: women should not have to associate food with work, work can be what you want it to be (a career, a part-time job, raising a family or all of the above). The bottom line is that choices should not be limited to what advertisers dictate (for capital purposes), but should, in fact, be fully-thought-out choices of the individual woman.

Advertising, in some aspects, seems to be moving to a more humorous approach in getting a pitch across. The answer, in my eyes, however, lies in poking fun at advertisements and being sarcastic in approaches to sexuality, using sex to sell, and not being specific in gender-oriented tasks or chores. I want to see regular people who are not starving to advertise jeans while having a piece cake without guilt. If I see a Virginia Slims advertisement with a woman smiling as she is smoking a cigarette, I want to see her friends in the background holding their noses with pinched faces in disgust or they could be walking away. I want to see a man baking something with his kids on the weekend while their mother is away on business trip with her overwhelming company that does not allow her time to spend with her family. Advertisements must break the norms of the past and catch viewers and readers by surprise to make viewers wow and laugh and say, "Oh man, that was a good one!"

These, though limited, changes or alternatives to advertising and other forms of advertising can help advertisers better pitch to consumers. Consumers are more willing remember a product introduced humorously to them. If advertising agencies changed up their decision makers and put students in their places, or people not being paid to create an advertisement, we would probably see good, fresh, and well-thought-out advertisements successfully pitching a product without ingraining an idea of wanting to look like a student or wanting to look like an unpaid intern. I believe if our class worked in an advertising agency, we would definitely find alternative ways to successfully pitch clothing, food or ideals of what gender roles should assume in society.

Do human beings even work in advertising agencies?

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