Tag: Advertising

Portrayals of Families in Advertising: Are these Real?

Portrayals of families in advertising are nothing new. The earliest instance of family portrayal can be found in the ads produced before the industrial revolution. However, there have been controversies on whether these portrayals are based on reality or just presented in front of the consumers to increase sales. Some experts argue that these ads are created just for influencing consumers toward a certain product or service, whereas others claim that these are representative of the real life of people from different family backgrounds. Usually, individuals are depicted in family advertising as wives, husbands, parents, children and other members.

Families are illustrated as single family, interracial 7437875052_db6e5b6762_ofamily, same sex family etc., in popular advertisings. It is obvious that families have profound influence on our lifestyles. So, there is nothing wrong with families being portrayed in the advertisings. But the question raises on how families are being depicted in the ads. Are those representations accurate? Are those overly manipulated toward a targeted population? Are those neglecting a specific group or race? Individuals show varying observations on these questions. Some argues that advertising portrayals of families are appropriate and necessary to broadcast our family values toward a larger audience. Conversely, others claim that these family portrayal ads are simply manipulating the real family pictures and sometimes even presenting discriminatory point of views regarding certain groups, especially minorities.

11453181473_944f06fcfb_oLast year a cereal brand’s commercial with interracial family ignited huge criticism among audiences. Although most of the criticisms were positive, there were a number of controversial comments posted in the YouTube comment section. The ad showed a young girl asking her mother if the cereal is “good for her heart.” Her mother assured her that was so. The girl ran away with a cereal box, and in the next scene, the girl’s sleeping father awaked with a pile of cereals on the side of his chest where his heart was. There was nothing discriminating or upsetting about the ad. Despite of that, many viewers commented negatively attacking the use of an interracial family. In reaction to such controversies, the brand’s owner company affirmed that they would stand by the commercial and they would not take that down under any circumstances. The interesting fact is that after seeing such criticisms, the ad was hugely backed by the industry experts. One writer analyzed the ad by breaking it down into certain attributes and praised the good effort of the brand.

Nevertheless, the above mentioned ad is just a single instance of commercial with family. 10041408393_2523daabd6_oThere are tons of other ads, those depict families in many different ways. A group of researcher conducted a research on portrayal of gay families in advertisings and yielded interesting findings. The ads attempt for reproducing an idealistic vision of something that in reality is imperfect. Instead of portraying the homosexuals in a typical stereotypical way in these ads, they were portrayed using a division in heterosexual gender roles. Portrayed in a traditional way, they were just as stereotypical as the homosexual stereotypes. The thing is that the representations of homosexuals using heterosexual stereotypes are by some people considered as being more positive and “normal” than the ones using homosexual stereotypes.

Another study conducted on a sample of 944 middle-class men also revealed something attention-grabbing. The researcher claimed that the men with children but no spouse were more likely to be shown during football than were women with children but no spouse. Advertisements for computers and electronics were more likely to include men with children but no spouse than women with children but no spouse. Men appearing alone with children were more likely to be shown outside than women alone with children. Men were less likely to be portrayed cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and shopping than women. Men without spouses were more likely to be shown with boys and less likely to be shown with infants than women without spouses. Men were infrequently shown taking care of a child and were never shown caring for girls. However, men were often shown teaching, reading, talking, eating, and playing with children. To the extent that men were shown as more involved in family life, they still tend to depend largely on knowledge and activities that were stereotypically male.

3943074133_010c65c4e1There will always be controversies over portrayals of family in advertising regardless of how accurate it is. Nonetheless, the perception toward such ads is personal since the interpretation is individual and based on the previous knowledge and opinions of the audience. But it can be said that family portrayals are nothing damaging for ad unless it elicits anything discriminatory toward a certain group of people.

You are a Human, not a Hanger!

“Catwalk model: 5’9″ – 6″ Bust 32″-36″ Waist 22″-26″ Hips 33″-35″ | Description: very thin with fantastic posture”. These requirements are posted by a fashion model recruiting agency. These guidelines clearly show that a skinny body can give a girl a modeling job, even if she does not possess any knowledge about modelling. 496479351_a9444c7691_oThis picture is also true in case of male fashion models. All that modelling agencies need a “hanger” to put their clothes on. Fashion magazine PLUS reported that most catwalk models meet the Body Mass Index (BMI) physical criteria for “Anorexia”. “Anorexia nervosa” or simply anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by excessive food restriction, unsuitable eating habits, fascination with having a thin figure, and an absurd fear of weight gain, as well as a distorted body self-perception. People with anorexia nervosa often view themselves as overweight or “big” even when they are already underweight. Advertising and fashion industry is accused of influencing models to become anorexic for a bright career. However, advertising agencies should not be accused for every instances, as “negative body image” has been embedded in the society from the very beginning of the modeling industry.

An experiment conducted by a University of Alabama researcher revealed some interesting facts regarding women’s perception toward their bodies. 475104087_64aba66833_zParticipants who had knowledge of digital manipulation and those who had no knowledge, showed same attitude toward their desire to look like a swimsuit model seen in a photograph. In fact, after reading a statement about a fashion model photograph being enhanced, respondents seemed even more likely to assign higher attractiveness and thinness scores to the three models shown. So, advertising cliché like “You can never be too thin” may not always bring positive effect, sometimes it brings negative. This scenario suggests some very important aspects about the way women actively process images seen in fashion and advertising content. This findings further suggest that only advertising industry cannot be blamed to influence women to become thin, rather the women’s mindset regarding their body images as “More Skinny = More Beautiful” should be changed.

However, another study produced by a group of university researchers reported that the exposure to beauty and fashion media is a principal factor in influencing women to become anorexic. 1920addd734467841d3c1bf4398e77ca1223850888_fullIn such cases, their viewpoints regarding “body image” is significantly affected by the media advocating anorexia as the standard of beauty. Because of such controversies among the researchers, nobody can blame advertising agencies as the sole influencer of anorexic models.

Still, several advertisings have been banned under the ground that they have used “too-skinny” models in their ads. UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently took action against such ads after receiving complaints. ASA claimed that the accused advertisers used “too skinny”, “anorexic”, “socially irresponsible”, and “child sexualizing” themes in their advertisings, which are not acceptable to the audience. Based on such allegations followed by investigations, finally the ads were taken down from the media.

anorexia - Bryan Bixler #4Conversely, some ad agencies are actually working in favor of “anti-anorexia” movements to encourage models not to become too thin. A Brazilian modeling agency, “Star Models” has released a graphic anti-anorexia ad campaign, using Photoshop to turn models into life-size fashion illustrations. The ads, which run with the tag line “Say no to anorexia,” show a fashion illustration with typically exaggerated proportions next to a model wearing the same outfit – and the same measurements. the_fat_by_narsul_the_elf-d3jdzf1Though the models have been airbrushed to mimic the unrealistic illustrations, the ad pleads to young women: “You are not a sketch.” There is always a positive and a negative side of every philosophy. Some people think that too skinny body is a must for becoming a successful professional model. Others may refute that theory and believe in practical knowledge about the job. Ad industry is no different. Not all advertisers are encouraging thin body as the standard. There are thousands of ads aired everyday, featuring regular male and female body. So, our knowledge regarding the issue, social setting and individual mindsets should be taken under consideration when we blame somebody as the main culprit.

 BONUS: 10 Most Shocking Cases of Anorexia


E-cigarette Advertising: Who is to Blame?

“Make the Switch Today and Live Healthier”,E-Cigarette “Slim, Charged, Ready to Go” or “I have made the switch, will you?” These statements sound enthusiastic, right? At the very first impression, it may seem that somebody is promoting any food or wellness product. However, these are some mantras of popular vapor cigarette brands. Vapor cigarette, widely known as electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a battery powered cigarette that uses liquid vaporizer based tobacco products. E-cigarette became a huge hit so quickly after entering the market because, it does not produce ashes, it is rechargeable & handy, and it comes in different flavors. Because of these features, e-cigarette makers and smokers argue that it can be smoked “anywhere”, without harming “others.”

Despite of such “benefits” of inhaling e-cigarette, medical experts confirmed serious health concerns Falvorscaused from so called environmental friendly tobacco products, because, e-cigarette still contains “nicotine” as the main chemical ingredient in a liquid form. One of the main reasons behind the popularity of e-cigarette is that it comes in different exquisite flavors. A report published by NPR revealed that kids are being attracted so easily toward this tobacco product because of its flavors and blu“youth” branding by the manufacturers. NPR reported quoting a minor e-cigarette smoker that vaping is a “cool” and “new” thing”, and as it provides flavored nicotine, it is helpful in quitting smoking. Conversely, physicians denied such statements and blamed that e-cigarette companies are targeting kids for their nicotine products with false impression and they are going to destroy our future generation.

A study conducted by American Legacy Foundation reported that usage of e-cigarette among kids and youths is also high. 14% of those ages 13-17 and 39% of those ages 18-21 reported having ever used e-cigarettes. Among youth ages 12-17, those who had ever or currently smoked reported even higher rates of e-cigarette use, 53% and 59% respectively. Rates of e-cigarette ever use were higher among young adults who had ever smoked (68%) and current smokers (76%).

Advertising agencies are easily blamed for the success of e-cigarette company’s huge market share of kids and young adults smokers. Agencies are accused of real tobacco marketing strategies for branding e-cigarettes. They are creating the kind of advertising which are closely based on the theme of some cartoon characters, superheroes and they are also using “sex” with models and images to create a “heroic” image of e-cigarette smokers. More than seventy years ago Joe CamelR. J. Reynold Tobacco Company used “Joe camel” as its tobacco brand mascot, which was hugely popular over the years. More recently, e-cigarette advertisers are using such themes to attract youth. Stanford University School of Medicine initiated a major research on the impact of tobacco products. They have presented a comparative research on how e-cigarette brands are using the advertising themes of earlier tobacco brands.

Nevertheless, major forces behind such advertising campaigns are the e-cigarette manufacturers, not the agencies. Advertising agencies are doing such promotional campaigns for profits, just as they do for their other clients. USA Today reported that e-cigarettes fall into a loophole for federal regulation, which made the companies to advertise e-cigarette products just as like other consumer products. FDA has control over regular cigarette advertising, but they do not have any authority to regulate e-cigarette advertising. Moreover, e-cigarette makers are arguing that if e-cigarette has to be regulated on the ground that it is harmful for the children, then all alcohol, condom and such types of advertising should be regulated too.

SmokingRTI International researchers conducted a study which found that E-cigarette advertising expenditures have increased intensely in 2011-2012, compared to the previous year. There were about 80 e-cigarette brands who spent a total of more than 18 million USD for advertising in 2012. Till November 2013, the amount spent on advertising increased up to 39 million UDS including TV and magazine advertising. American Legacy Foundation also reported that e-cigarette TV ads reached 29.3 million teens and young adults from January through November2013, among which teens ages 12-17, 14.1 million were exposed to e-cigarette ads on TV while among young adults ages 18-24, 15.2 million were exposed. At the same time, print ads in magazines reached 32.2 million teens and young adults, among which teens ages 12-17, 9.5 million were reached through these ads while 22.7 million young adults ages 18-24 were exposed to e-cigarette print ads.

A recent investigated study conducted by some medical researchers from Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco confirmed that e-cigarette brands are targeting new smokers, specially children and teens for their products. They are using attractive copy, young & sexy models, heroism in theirs ads, and they are also taking advantages of federal regulation loopholes. The recent perspective of e-cigarette use and advertising brings the debate of “who is to blame for the upcoming destructive consequences?” The resolution to this debate is not so simple. Everybody is pointing finger toward others. Truly speaking, government, legislature, manufacturer, advertising agency, and public all have some sort of responsibilities to such consequences. So, not only stopping advertising will do but also there should be a general awareness among the publics, if we really want to reduce nicotine use. Government and federal legislature also needs to pass strong bills to restrict such products that can completely wipe out our future.

BONUS: Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising