Once upon a time, I was hanging out with several friends and happened to be watching a commercial about “feminine products.” (By the way, I love how there are almost as many euphemisms tied up into a woman’s reproductive cycle as there are for sex. It makes a certain degree of sense, but it’s still kind of hilarious to me.) A male friend sitting next to me groaned loudly and exclaimed that he hated commercials for tampons and the like because they made all guys uncomfortable and awkward. The girl seated on the opposite side of him and I let him in on the secret that women hate those commercials too, because they remind us of how much we fucking hate our periods. Also, to get over it. If I have to watch commercials with Jimmy Johnson peddling off-brand Viagra (which requires an active effort to not think about the man’s sex life), you can sit through two minutes of cute girls merrily skipping about trying to sell the idea of a “happy period.”
I’m not trying to enter into a war of the sexes. It’s just that marketing targeted at women is pretty ridiculous. Partly that’s because the people making the commercials know that women make most of the shopping decisions in a household. And partly it’s because of all the bullshit women do to achieve a “normal” state of attractiveness (which is for other women, not generally for men).
Most of the time, it’s all pretty mundane, but occasionally there’s a commercial or ad campaign aimed at ladies that makes me giggle in a perplexed sort of fashion. These week, I want to share a few examples of silliness in advertising, specifically for products aimed at the girl-type people.
- The women euphorically dragging metal blades across their skin in razor commercials all have waxed legs and armpits. Nobody’s hurt by this, but it makes one look at the men’s shaving commercials slightly more favorably because sure, the guy’s not actually shaving his face, but he hasn’t had it waxed either. The most misleading thing he’s doing is getting a fake leg up on his five o’clock shadow.
- I first saw the commercial for “Bootie Pop” on Comedy Central. I seriously believed I was watching an SNL or MAD TV skit. And nobody could possibly blame me for that assumption; it’s phone-order underwear with padding made to give white girls a bigger ass. The mind. It does boggle.
- I once had a debate with a guy friend about Victoria’s Secret commercials versus underwear commercials by Hanes or Fruit of the Loom, etc. He was adamant that the VS commercial gurus had achieved an advertising model that appealed to both sexes…right up until I made him try to watch one and tell me anything at all about the bras themselves apart from a vague sense of color. Victoria’s Secret commercials are only for women in the sense that they may prey on a woman’s desire to feel more confident about their bodies. They do absolutely nothing to impart the virtues of wearing a VS bra over a (significantly cheaper) product from another company. Women buy VS bras for a multitude of legit reasons, but not because of the ads on TV. Those are all for the boys, and therein lies the cunning of the VS marketing model: make men want to buy (expensive) women’s underwear and thereby tap the other half of the market.
- People have written a lot about the “fat slob with hot wife” or “older dude with young love interest” phenomenon in TV and movies, but there’s an interesting reversal that happens in commercials. The next time they show a happy family bundling up on the couch or sharing breakfast in the kitchen, take a look at the actors playing mom and dad and you might find that very often mom looks like a responsible, level-headed thirty-something, while dad looks like he just walked off a college campus. (The exception is usually when the commercial is supposed to be comedic; then the mom and dad might tend a bit older than you’d expect to have a set of precocious six year old kids bopping around.)
- Dear lady-person who does the Nook commercials. Please stop whisper-speaking at me. It’s creepy and makes me irrationally violent. Please, and thank you.
- If the commercial is too fucking weird for words, it’s probably for perfume (or cologne).
- Weight Watchers and diet company commercials that use celebrity success stories neglect to mention the fact that celebrities have the ability to attain unrealistic results because, while they’re just pimping the product, they’ve also had a staff of trainers and PAs helping to get them in shape on a schedule. Additionally, the recent trend in these commercials to have the celebrity swapping stories with “normal” people is the height of hilarity, as though the journey to fitness was even remotely similar between the two people. This is why Subway still uses the Jared guy in their commercials; he’s a real selling point because he actually was just a dude that lost weight by exercising and eating their product twice a day.
- I will never understand Garnier Fructis commercials. What flower child commune do these young people live on that they frolic all day with their superior hair? (Also, your “before” hair is always gorgeous.) I resent your mirth and smug tomfoolery on basic principle.
- Dancing with brooms/mops/what-have-you is just horrendously awful to contemplate, let alone look at. Nothing will ever make cleaning my floors a celebratory act. I blame Gene Kelly.
- There is no such thing as a “happy period.” Please stop telling these horrible, horrible lies.