Adverts on the telly are like flies in the garden – you know they are part of the ecosystem but mostly they irritate the hell out of you despite your attempts to cultivate a Buddhist policy of compassion for everything. Sometimes you just want to crush the blighters out of existence.
Nothing knocks me off the track to spiritual enlightenment more than beauty products adverts on the telly targeted at women. These adverts create a glamorous illusion containing a lie that you too can look that way as long as you buy product X. Despite the fact that they’re asking you to identify with underfed waifs, while tricking them out with the help of the best make-up, stylists and hairdressers known in the PR world.
This image of physical perfection has always been difficult to live up to, but at least in the past the myth was achieved using real products, along with ace lighting, a catchy song and savvy direction. Over the ten years advertisers have been employing a battalion of crack CGI geeks to spruce up every pixel. Eyelashes are impossibly long and clump-free, hair shines with elven luminescence and wrinkles are non-existent. Thighs are long and firm, teeth are even and whiter than our disappearing polar ice caps and skin tone is lightened with appalling regularity.
When employing these effects advertisers are lying. There is nothing a woman can do to look that good. Worse still – and this is the part that crooks my dharma – is that the advertisements admit they are lying. In fine, hard-to-read print along the bottom you’re told ‘eyelashes enhanced in post production’ or ‘natural hair extensions used’. When outrageous claims are made about how much women love the product you discover that it’s actually 30 out of 38 women, drunk at a hen party, who concur that it reduces wrinkles on a night out. They don white coats and babble pseudo-science, hoping the graphics will mesmerise you long enough so you won’t notice the actual statistics quoted underneath.
Not only are the advertisers acknowledging their falsehoods, but they expect you to buy the product anyway. It’s been my policy now never to buy a product that employs these tactics. But I wonder, do advertisers think women are stupid? The answer must be yes, judging the way they pitch products to us.
After all, apparently we’d love to videotape our hair swishing and upload it to a web site. That’s what girls love, don’t you know: preening and competing with one another online. Every time I see that ad I want to hammer a fly into oblivion.
Here’s a video of a fabulous sketch from That Mitchell and Web Look, which in less than a minute deconstructs how advertisers pitch their products to women (and compares it to how they are pitched to men).
Don’t believe the hype ladies. Better still, don’t buy the hype.
Maura McHugh is a writer and blogger who lives in the West of Ireland and is happy to call herself a feminist. She’s a geek and a fan of horror cinema and comic books so she long ago developed a thick skin about not conforming to ‘normal’ womanly interests. She also likes fashion and make-up, but not when it costs her peace of mind. Maura blogs at http://splinister.com/ and is on Twitter: @splinister