Advertisements: Raising The Bar For Women Today

April 28, 2010 - Leave a Response

The first ad that caught my eye when flipping through People magazine was an ad for Jovan “Satisfaction” fragrance for men and women. At first, I admired the beautiful photo that took up almost the entire page.

It depicted a beautiful blonde gazing into the eyes of a ruggedly handsome man with an unbuttoned shirt, while sitting in a field of wheat, with a lake and an old-fashioned bicycle placed perfectly in the background.

At first, it didn’t appear to be that different from other fragrance ads that I had seen. But then I noticed a ridiculous claim printed on the top left corner of the page. It said, “Improve your love life; 100% satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back!”

I had to read it a second time to process if this was for real. How can a fragrance improve anyone’s love life? The cologne that a guy wears or the perfume that I choose won’t make that much of a difference. It’s completely superficial.

Our culture is intently focused on love and sex. Every girl puts on a show, dressing up in her highest heels, glossing her lips and curling her hair, in an endless pursuit to find the man of her dreams.

But is he really even out there? And is it fair that we as women are expected to flaunt ourselves in an attempt to catch his attention? What I want to know is why we feel the need to conform to the social pressures concerning women and body image.

After taking a close look at that one ad, I kept an eye out for more of the perfume advertisements that I would usually overlook. A few pages later, I came across yet another photo taken in a field of wheat… Weird.

In the picture, a very thin, young girl was laying among the wheat that was flowing in the breeze. She was scantily clad in a white bikini, almost unnoticeable against her fair skin. She clutched an oversized bottle of Marc Jacobs “Daisy” perfume against her chest, a large white flower topping off the cap.

Although the ad was clever, I wondered why the girl had to be wearing so little clothing, and why she was so terribly thin. Just another unrealistic message to the women in society, I suppose. Being thin and half-naked has nothing to do with daisies, and certainly has nothing to do with smelling nice.

With a sigh, I continued flipping through the pages of People magazine. Within seconds,  I turned the page, only to see Halle Berry staring back at me. She wore a slinky purple dress with an orchid pinned on the side, hiking up the hem of the already short ensemble. Emerging soaking wet from the ocean, she could easily catch the attention of anyone passing by the Halle “Pure Orchid” advertisement.

The everyday woman is far too easily influenced by celebrities. Especially after constantly seeing these heavily air-brushed pictures, women’s standards for themselves are set higher. At the same time, men begin to expect even more, disappointed when the women of the real world don’t look like the models they see on paper.

The next fragrance advertisement that I stumbled upon was “Very Hollywood” by Michael Kors. It depicted a glamorous blonde striking a pose on the red carpet in a rhinestoned gown, with her attractive male escort by her side, the paparazzi all focused on her, and a diamond ring that seemed to weigh down her delicate finger.

Once again, another celebrity that sets everyone’s standards unrealistically high. Not to mention, they just had to put a who-knows-how-many-carats diamond ring on her finger as she stands next to her man, and we see the portrayal of a woman who is dependent on men.

As the magazine came to a close, I caught a glimpse of one last fragrance advertisement that just put the icing on the cake. It showed the close up of a girl, only from her lips to her chest, wearing nothing but a necklace and some dewy pink lip gloss. Her lips were seductively parted, ready to nibble on the red candy apple that she held in her perfectly manicured hand.

It portrayed innocence, youth, beauty, and most of all, sex. None of which has anything to do with perfume, and everything to do with influencing our society to pressure women into conforming to some idealistic mold.

Somehow, even though perfume has nothing to do with your body, age, social status or sexuality, advertisers take advantage of women today, manipulating them to buy into the cultural images that are too often portrayed in the media.

Despite the obvious manipulation, we keep on buying the magazines that are filled to the brim with these influential ads, continuing the ongoing pressures on women in our culture today.


Superbad: It’s More Than Just A Movie

April 28, 2010 - Leave a Response

Superbad. Practically every young person in America has seen it, but do we even realize what’s in the stuff that we’re watching?

Superbad is a humorous movie about three high school boys who try to buy enough alcohol to supply a house party and hopefully get laid, but problems arise, and we watch as they struggle to make it to the party in one piece.

Sure, it seems like this movie is pure entertainment. But the truth is, we take a lot more away from such movies than we are aware of.

As you walk out of the movie theater, you talk amongst your friends about the funniest part, an unexpected twist in the plot, or your favorite character. Afterwards, you know that the movie probably taught you some overall moral or lesson.

But underneath all of that, I’ll bet that you have never noticed that the movie is more than just a few hours of entertainment. It’s a cleverly planned advertising ploy as well.

To start, within the first minute of the movie, the main character pours himself a bowl of Cocoa Puffs cereal. Within the next few minutes, he enters a convenience store with his friend, and we see product labels emerging in every direction.

His friend buys a Red Bull energy drink, and they walk through aisles selling Doritos, Puffs tissues and Skittles. Each product, in the hand of an actor or just in the background, is a tiny advertisement.

These types of every day items, particularly snack foods, were chosen to appeal to the movie’s target audience, which is young people. They are the major consumers of snack products, so viewing them in movies can encourage them to continue buying them.

As the movie progressed, I noticed that several of the characters who played the part of bullies were wearing Puma and Nike brand t-shirts, portraying an athletic, tough-guy image for that brand.

From the start, I knew that there would be a lot of alcohol shown throughout the movie. But to my surprise, most of the bottles of alcohol didn’t have labels on them. Some, on the other hand, were fake brands, like “Goldslick,” which strongly resembled a bottle of Goldschlager. Or, they mentioned “Kyle’s Killer Lemonade,” instead of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

The only visible label that was a legitimate brand was Old Milwaukee beer, which appeared several times throughout the movie.

I began to wonder, in a movie so focused on alcohol, why wasn’t I seeing more brands? In such a popular movie, why wouldn’t companies be fighting over the chance to have Superbad’s famous character McLovin drinking their beer?

It didn’t seem to make any sense, but then it hit me. Superbad is a movie about underage drinking. One kid bought the alcohol using a fake ID, and everyone at the high school party was clearly under 21 years of age.

It’s possible that alcohol companies didn’t want to advertise in a movie that encourages underage drinking, because that could give a company a bad image. They wouldn’t want to be known as the company that provides alcohol for underage kids.

So, rather than choosing real brands to advertise in the movie, producers made up their own fictitious beer brands to use instead.

It was definitely interesting to watch a movie like Superbad with the perspective of an advertiser in mind. I definitely think I’ll be keeping an eye out for all of those little advertising opportunities during the next movies that I watch.

Fame vs. Family

April 28, 2010 - Leave a Response

Imagine that you are on vacation with your family. Suddenly, during the time that you have set aside for privacy and relaxation, the paparazzi shows up without notice and snaps a few pictures of you and your family.

When you return home, you discover that those pictures have been published in the tabloids for the world to see.

Now, for the average person, that might actually be really exciting. But for a celebrity who is followed by the press on a daily basis, I would imagine that such an experience would be far from exciting. I think a better word to describe it would be infuriating.

The famous English actor Jude Law is a celebrity who recently suffered from the invasion of privacy that unwanted press can bring.

Jude Law sued the editors of the British magazine Hello! for publishing unauthorized pictures of his children this past January. The photos were taken while Law was on vacation in the Caribbean with his two sons and his daughter, as well as his ex-wife Sadie Frost and girlfriend Sienna Miller.

Law won the lawsuit for invasion of privacy in the beginning of April. The editors of Hello! magazine have agreed to cover Law’s legal costs, as well as paying Law $15,000 in damages. Hello! magazine agreed not to publish any photos of Jude Law’s family and children until they reach at least 18 years of age.

The magazine also will not publish pictures of Law or his family in places in which “he has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” for example when on a personal vacation or in the privacy of his own home.

However, they are still allowed to publish images of Law when taken at places such as the red carpet at a movie premiere, where celebrities should expect to be photographed and interviewed for publication purposes.

Law won the case because the photos were taken while he was on vacation, and should be able to obtain full privacy during that time. He did not give the press permission to take the pictures, let alone to publish them in one of Britain’s most popular celebrity magazines.

Not only did the magazine editors violate Law’s privacy, but also that of his children.

I fully support the court’s ruling. With the increasing ubiquity of the press, celebrities these days have little to no privacy, and they have work hard to obtain small amounts of uninterrupted private time for their personal affairs.

The media today is so pervasive in the lives of all people in many different ways, whether it means as a celebrity having your personal life exposed to the public, or as an average person having various extensions of the media surrounding you constantly in your everyday life.

Court cases such as this one, which highlight the invasive qualities of the press, will no doubt have an impact on the media industry. This proves the need for tighter restrictions on today’s press. The security of a celebrity’s personal privacy should take precedence over the pursuit for the next hot tabloid story.


Say “Cheese”

April 28, 2010 - Leave a Response

How would you feel if personal photos of you, taken by you, were sent out to cell phones and computers everywhere for the world to see?

Just a few months after suffering through the experience of being abused by her boyfriend Chris Brown, 21-year-old R&B singer Rihanna was brought back into the celebrity spotlight after alleged self-taken nude photos of her were leaked onto the internet.

This news story briefly describes the incident and raises some questions about the situation. Rhianna refused to speak about the incident, and the validity of the photos is being questioned. The photos in which she was seductively posed, yet still dressed, showed her face. The nude photos, on the other hand, did not actually show her face.

Despite the questionable legitimacy of the photos, the whole fiasco has certainly damaged her reputation. There is also question as to whether this whole incident was just a publicity stunt. If it was, then it only helped to draw in an overwhelming amount of negative publicity, tarnishing her image as a celebrity and as a role-model.

This scandalous story only strengthens the notion that we need to be wary of internet security, or lack thereof. Anything and everything can be spread around the internet like wildfire.

Also, since the photos were taken on a cell phone, the issue of “sexting” and the harm it can cause must be taking into consideration.

After all of the negative publicity Rihanna received, if it’s true that the pictures are of her, then it would be great if she could admit to the public that she took those photos. Through her both her widespread popularity as a musician and the attention she received from this scandal, she could easily use a public relations campaign to her advantage.

As a young celebrity, Rihanna is a role model with a predominantly young, female audience. While speaking out to young girls and re-building the respect of her fan base, Rihanna could clean up her image by creating an organization that supports the empowerment of women and acceptance of body image, focusing on resisting societal pressures.

Rihanna could explain the pressures involved in taking and sending the scandalous pictures, and could draw attention to the evolving issue of “sexting” among today’s generation.

As the youth of the millennial generation, we all know how many new problems are arising due to advancements in technology, and “sexting” is one of the most serious issues affecting young people today.

Many young girls are pressured, by peers or boyfriends, into sending out pictures of themselves using their cell phones. When put in the hands of the wrong person, those images can be spread around very easily, and the situation can get out of hand.

Rihanna can mend her image as a role model because she can relate to girls in that kind of situation. Her organization can provide guidance and support for those girls.

This public relations campaign has the potential to backfire, since the legitimacy of the photos is being questioned, causing people to speculate that it may have been a publicity stunt. If that is the case, then it would only further ruin her image, making her look like just another attention crazed celebrity.

Do we really need another Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, using sex and scandal to draw attention to themselves instead of utilizing their talents?

Hopefully Rihanna can successfully turn this situation around, cleaning up her image and finding a way for her talents, rather than her body, to shine through.


Try Taking a Closer Look at Those Magazine Ads

April 13, 2010 - Leave a Response

At first, I assumed that Killing Us Softly 3 would be a bland documentary, informing us about trends in the media today that we are all already aware of. But a few minutes into the movie, I realized that it was a lot more interesting than that.

Not only was the narrator really funny, but she mentioned some very interesting points that opened my eyes to some concepts in advertising that I had never thought of before.

One statistic that really caught my attention was that the average person is exposed to over 3,000 ads everyday! The video explained that ads sell values, images and norms–not just products.

The concept that the media influences women to have body image issues and eating disorders has always been apparent. One idea that Killing Us Softly 3 brought to my attention was that the media only portrays models who are flawless and idealistic in comparison to the average woman.

Only 5% of women actually have figures like models, and the pictures printed in magazines are all airbrushed. It is almost physically impossible to force yourself to fit into the mold of a model. If we aim to look like the models in magazines, then failure is basically guaranteed.

It is also interesting to consider that men are effected by the portrayal of women in media as well. When women are depicted in ads as being so perfect and ideal, men have higher expectations for women in real life.

So, not only are women guaranteed failure if they aim to look like the models in ads, but they are also being shut down by men who have been conditioned to have unrealistically high expectations.

Another idea that interested me was that men and women are portrayed very differently in ads.

Men are always portrayed as powerful, being placed higher than women on the page of a magazine, and taking up more space in an image. Women are always lower down on the page, with a smaller figure representing that women are more passive than men. Women are portrayed as innocent and quiet, looking child-like and passively covering their mouths.

Even in ads with children, the boys are aggressive and active, while the girls are timid and obedient.

These are all things that I think we all subconsciously notice, but never really think about. Once these ideas were brought to my attention, everything seemed to be so obvious, and I wonder how I’ve never noticed before.

I guess that’s just how advertising works–messages are slipped right into an ad, and we as consumers soak it right up before we even know its there.

Disney: It’s More Than Just a Company– It’s a Way Of Life

March 30, 2010 - Leave a Response

If you had asked me what my favorite movie was when I was five years old, I undoubtedly would have answered, “The Little Mermaid,” or “Pocahontas.” If you ask any other little girl today, her answer would probably be very similar.

There is nothing more typical than a little girl fantasizing about being a Disney princess, buying all of the latest Disney merchandise, and begging her parents to take her to Disney World. A kid today is practically a walking advertisement for Disney products!

It’s clear that Disney has become a huge part of our society. The animated Disney movies have become such classics, and I get the feeling that they are going to stick around for quite some time.

Growing up during the time when the animated Disney classics were being produced was the best thing ever for a little kid. The movies provided an exciting world of imagination, an opportunity for adventure, and an outlet for creativity.

Take a minute to think about the basic story behind many of the Disney movies, like The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Aladdin. The plot of most of the movies were generally the same, with a princess playing the damsel in distress, hoping for her prince charming to come save her, eventually living happily ever after.

When you think about it, the story lines seem cliché, but they really did make for great movies. Regardless of the plot, each movie always taught its viewers a valuable life lesson.

It is interesting to look back on the classic Disney movies now with a more critical eye. There are clearly gender stereotypes portrayed in the movies, for example how the strong man is always saving the weaker woman.

The women in the movies are idealistic; they are attractive princesses, with exaggerated hourglass figures, long hair, and beautiful singing voices. The characters in these movies are so stereotypical, and those stereotypes can influence the mind of a small child so easily.

If you have any doubts about the stereotypes in these movies, take a few minutes to look at this video! It does a great job visually illustrating just how apparent these stereotypes are in many of the most famous Disney classics.

Just as viewing violence in movies influences children to be more aggressive, seeing all beautiful women certainly influences a young girl to be self-conscious of the way she looks. It’s the same for young boys as well. Seeing the overtly aggressive, masculine figures in these movies undoubtedly effects them, too.

Children are like sponges, and the things that they see in movies can have such profound effects on their perception of themselves and the world around them.

Even today, as Disney produces newer movies that differ greatly from those old Disney classics, the same concepts hold true.

As newer movies and television shows are produced, it appears as though Disney is branching out from the traditional character types and story lines. Regardless, Disney is still producing movies aimed towards young kids which are very influential, like Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

I can see the effects of these new movies in young kids today. I work at a daycamp during the summer, working with a group of four- and five-year-old girls. When I ask them what their favorite movies are, I am disappointed to hear answers like “Hannah Montana” or more often than one of the classic Disney princess movies.

Although the most popular Disney movies are always changing, my campers are still decked out in all of the latest Disney gear just like I was, wearing Camp Rock T-shirts and carrying The Jonas Brothers backpacks.

With everything from The Disney Channel, Radio Disney, and Disney World, Disney is an incredibly successful and overwhelmingly powerful company, and it has a huge influence over the youth population of the past, present, and future.

It’s On Television, And It’s Also On The Web

March 30, 2010 - Leave a Response

You feel like you’ve wasted an hour of your life after watching it. Most of the time, it’s a little trashy. It has no plot, and it most likely isn’t even real. But for some reason, we all find ourselves watching it.

What is it? Reality TV.

I know it may be mindless entertainment, but I can’t help but get sucked into the world of reality television. I really don’t watch that many shows, but I’ll admit that I have loved, and will always love, The Real World.

As I read this blog assignment, it hit me; I missed this week’s episode of The Real World: Washington D.C.! I immediately went to the show’s website and began watching the episode online.

Almost every television show has a website associated with it these days, but MTV has one of the best websites in my opinion. They play full episodes of all of their television shows online, which is fantastic if you’re busy (or maybe just a little absentminded) and tend to miss your favorite show every week like I do.

Just for starters, the website is very visually appealing. There are so many colors and textures everywhere you look. The site features photo slide shows on every page, paired with attention-grabbing slogans and descriptions that focus on the highlights of the show.

There are also a ton of links to click on, lining the edges of the website and everywhere in between, which makes the site very interactive and user-friendly.

Much like myself, other users can watch full episodes of The Real World that they have missed online. Another benefit to watching the show online is that there are bonus clips, after shows, recaps and sneak peeks right there at your fingertips, providing extra entertainment for those reality television junkies that just can’t seem to get enough.

There are also features which allow users to leave comments, download music, and blog with other fans about the show.

One suggestion that I would make would be to find a way for viewers to interact with The Real World participants themselves. Even if it were just through an e-mail or blog, some sort of direct communication with the actual people that are living in The Real World house would be really cool.

The website also includes cast photo galleries, links to other seasons’ episodes, and a schedule of upcoming airings. Anything related to The Real World that you could possibly want is only a click away.


Social Networking: Is It Efficient, Or Just Entertaining?

March 29, 2010 - Leave a Response

Social networking is a major part of life in today’s society. It’s pretty clear that social networking has become more than just some trendy fad, and it’s here to stay.

Aside from the mindless games, virtual socialization and numerous opportunities for procrastination, we have to take a step back and realize the immense potential that these sites bring to our world.

There is an article on NewScientist.com called “Innovation: How social networking might change the world,” which addresses a selection of innovative ideas, created by businesses, that take advantage of all that social networking has to offer in a practical, useful way.

The article mentions how the skeptical founder of O’Reily Media “challenged the Web 2.0 community to come up with something more productive than time-wasting Facebook applications.”

Taking him up on that challenge, Barack Obama’s election campaign launched the “Obama ’08 iPhone application,” which made it possible for campaigners to quickly and effectively reach out to the public with information about the campaign.

There are several other networking sites that are taking on the challenge. For example, a London social networking site called “Accesscity” is currently in production, aiming to help users to find the simplest travel routes across cities. (They have a wordpress.com blog, too! Check it out.) Another network called We20 enables people from all over the world to meet and share thoughts on today’s leading economic issues in groups of 20. There is also Zimride, which helps people to carpool with others who they may never have met without the site.

Even our class website is an example of how social networking can be used in a very practical, beneficial way. It makes distributing assignments so easy and efficient, while keeping the students connected even when class is not in session.

The NewScientist.com article focuses in on the idea that social networking users should be “working for the greater good, rather than for their own amusement.” I think this is a great idea, though it is a bit idealistic.

Regardless of the productive possibilities that social networking sites bring, the pure entertainment that people derive from these sites is overwhelming. It’s obvious that there are people out there using social networking for smart, practical reasons, but there will always be an endless stream of people simply using social networking as a form of recreation.

You can’t deny that social networking has undoubtedly opened up a whole new world of potential for our society. It is up to the people–up to us–to choose what we do with these networks, to choose whether efficiency or entertainment ends up dominating the field of social networking.


It’s Only Two Days, How Bad Could It Be?

February 18, 2010 - Leave a Response

So… Avoid using media for two days.

…WHAT?!

Who knew how tough it would be to go without using media for two whole days? Well, it was brutal. I felt disconnected from the world. Left in the dark. Alone.

Alright, so maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it was still unpleasant. Although it was pretty close to impossible to avoid using media completely, it was definitely a challenge simply trying to limit my usage.

I left my ipod untouched. I didn’t watch television, and avoided using Facebook. I managed only to answer a couple of texts that were sent to me. I only used the Internet for homework.

It was tough. I found myself wondering what notifications were waiting for me on Facebook, and the unanswered texts on my phone were really starting to bother me. I really didn’t enjoy walking to class without my music. The soundtrack to my life was put on pause, and it felt strange.

Eventually, boredom set in.

To pass the time without media, I found myself talking face-to-face with my friends more, rather then texting them when I’m just down the hall. I started focusing on homework a little more, too. I guess my GPA will be thanking me for this little assignment later.

Some of the media I was exposed to during my two days of avoidance was unintentional. Teachers would show videos in class, and I had to use the internet for a few homework assignments and checking my school e-mail account. So, what about all the other stuff?

The lure of unanswered texts was tantalizing, and I’ll admit that I gave in here and there. How can you make plans to go to lunch without a phone? How can you ask a friend a question without texting them? How would my teachers assign homework without e-mail? It’s ridiculous how frustrating it is not to have access to the internet whenever I want it. It made me realize how often I simply google something briefly out of curiosity, and how much I take something as simple as a search engine or website for granted.

I began to wonder, “What did everyone do in the past, before texting and the internet?” It’s unfathomable, really. Although, I think that a major part of the reason why our generation is so media-crazed is because of how readily available all these forms of media are. If Facebook, television, and cell phones weren’t around, then the lure to use them wouldn’t even exist. I guess that would make the whole media-free thing quite a bit easier.

Through this whole process, I’ve come to realize just how much I rely on all the available forms of media in order to keep in touch with my friends, family and the world around me.

15 Hours Of My Life That I’ll Never Get Back

February 18, 2010 - Leave a Response

Keep track of your media usage for two days. The facts will surprise you.

It’s interesting to see how logging my media usage really put things into perspective. I think we all acknowledge the fact that the media is constantly pervading our lives, but we never realize just how pervasive it really is.

I would never have thought that I spend a whole 31% of my day using media! That’s a whole 15 hours, an average of 7.5 hours each day, taken up by media consumption. Even if it’s as harmless as sending a quick text message here and there, that’s still using media, and it’s still taking up time in my everyday life.

I was the most shocked to see how much of my media-consuming-time was spent watching television. I usually don’t watch much at all, but the data says otherwise. That’s probably because I logged my media use on Monday and Tuesday, and on Tuesdays I always watch American Idol. Also, the Olympics are on now, so it seems like everyone has the television on at all times, even if it’s just on in the background.

I think that the most shocking discovery is how much time I spend on Facebook. I spent about two hours on Facebook each day! I guess my excuse for that is that I’ll randomly go on Facebook while I do homework, or while I’m just hanging out. Not to mention, now there’s instant messaging on Facebook, which keeps me on even longer. I’ve come to realize that although sometimes it’s fun and entertaining, most of the time Facebook is just another way to waste time and procrastinate.

According to the data, I learn about the world mostly through the internet. Even without looking at my little media pie chart, I could already tell you that I never pick up the newspaper, and I rarely even watch news on television. I’ve realized that I generally hear about what’s going on in the world by hearing from other people, whether it’s over Facebook or during class. Despite how often I find myself on Facebook, I also keep myself connected with the people in my life a lot through texting.

And then, there’s music. Right when I wake up in the morning, I put on some music and listen to it as I get dressed. I always have my ipod by my side on the way to class, and even have music playing in the background when I do homework.

I’m pretty sure music is a major part of almost everyone else’s life today. As I put my headphones in my ears on my way to class, I notice all of the people around me doing the same thing. When I walk down the halls in my dorm, I hear music seeping its way into the hallways from other people’s rooms, too. Music is everywhere, just as Media is everywhere.

Who knew how much media is incorporated into our lives every day? Before this assignment, I sure didn’t. But I definitely do now.

Are you addicted to media? Take this quiz and find out!

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