People are constantly bombarded with advertisements. This marketing method has become so widespread that every single person in the world involves themselves with it every day just by switching on their television or by turning on their car. Ideas set forth by corporations are put into words or visualizations, and are specifically made that way to draw in a target audience. The persuasion techniques in advertising are so influential, that they actually form a desired connection with the consumer, and create needs that where once not present. The ability of achieving target consumers does not only enhance a company’s product popularity and revenue, but it also makes an individual do something they would not normally do, therefore effecting their way of living. An exceptional example of a target group that has been pin-pointed by corporations for decades is the female population.
It all started during the 1920’s when the tobacco industry in the United States wanted to increase their sales. Smoking then was a male trend, so they devised a marketing plan specifically directed towards women. The cigarette companies used the theme of the “independent strong woman”, and in turn, women began to smoke publicly and in abundance to portray their new status amongst society. This sparked a chain reaction of events conducted by women in order to exemplify their little found independence. Actions such as drinking openly and partying till the break of dawn broke away from traditional female morals, ushering in the age of the “Roaring Twenties”. A new breed of women was created, along with a whole new market for alcohol that was once not present, all thanks to one advertising strategy.
The female market can be diversified into another category, housewives. Apart from frolicking and drinking with men, women were stereotyped in American culture to being the member of the household that cleans, cooks, and takes care of the children, whilst the man is out in the real world working to put ‘food on the table’. Several advertisements ranging from foods to cleansers were released, perpetuating the female gender label. For example, a 1954 Jergens Lotion advertisement portrays a woman surrounded by china, smiling with her hands next to her face with a header stating, “I wash 22,000 dishes a year…but I’m proud of my pretty hands.” This statement today can be seen as sexist, however in reality, it appealed to the need for safety. Bare hands that are constantly exposed to hot water and washing detergent become dry and cause the skin to crack and bleed. It is a painful experience and an ugly sight, so logically women will do whatever they can to prevent such an occurrence and to keep their hands safe and sound. In this case the product is indeed helpful and needed. The ad even says that, “Even after years of married life, he still loves to hold her pretty hands”.
One must keep in mind that products such as household goods, beauty and cosmetic merchandise, personal female medicines or commodities (tampons, hair dye etc…), and even exercise programs specifically aimed at females, are aired on television twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week till this very day. Housewives spend most of their time at home where a television is present and probably always on. A whole day hearing or seeing different products advertised will start to affect a person on a mental level, especially if those products being advertised have their own catchy jingle.
Marketing research is based on a society, implying that advertisements adapt to a certain way of life and mentality during a specific time period. However as time progressed, a question can be asked on whether advertising itself began to mold society to whatever it pleased. For instance, the female role in American society was unequalled to that of men, and remained the same for over a hundred years after the formation of the United States of America, even though the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all citizens have equal rights of freedom along with its many attributes. Of course, the mentality towards women in a society began to change after numerous heroic and patriotic women stood firmly to their beliefs, and fought to gain respect through strikes and political affiliation (i.e. writings, stances etc…). However, even-though female rights had begun to be recognized, women were still oppressed by the dominant male social order.
Advertising has constructed a bridge between the American society and their lifestyle because of the representations used. It has long been an effective tool used by corporations to promote their product, increase their profit and make promises on items that can somehow enhance or better an individual’s life, whilst in reality they do not. Our experience of the world is based on making meanings of signs we encounter every day, and any given sign can have many meanings. The representation and signification in today’s media are constructed so that they have the ability to find common points of knowledge and understanding in the midst of a diverse body, eventually creating and pinpointing specific consumer target groups. The indeterminacy of representation is crucial when confronting a connotative meaning. People in society perceive and decode advertising messages differently depending on their status, gender, age, family background and even race. Overtime, the masses will allow signification to become a substance of their intertextual conception, eventually leading them to a “consumer-oriented way of life” through advertisements. Even though not all audience members accept what they see or hear, manipulation by advertisements influences the majority of the viewers. In a sense, advertising powers have become another means of population control by the government, sculpting a society’s every interest. Corporations and company’s know exactly what they’re doing when they advertise products, and they know exactly who will be buying their products.
The majority of advertisements are directed towards female consumers. The appeals used in advertisements shifted according to the evolution of a woman’s position in society, but in the end society changed based on the concoction of fake necessities produced by corporations. The role and independence of women in the American society had been aided by the relentless advertisements that broke the barrier between male and female ideologies. This is of course a good achievement; however instead of creating a unique image for women, it did quite the contrary, it made the woman a spitting image of the male egoist. From emotional appeals directed towards women such as the need to nurture, and the need to feel safe, women were hit with emotional appeals that imposed the need for guidance, dominance, escape and prominence.
The tendency in ads portraying women with male traits began to transform society, causing everyone to merely spend money based on the belief of un-realistic analogies in advertisements that became the turbine of consumerism. Both the female and the male population in United States are already consuming much more than they need to survive and live an adequately. Products are bullets and advertisements are the guns that shoot at you.