“Some of these stories are closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” Alice Murno, from the intro to Moons of Jupiter

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." Arthur Schopenhauer

“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My favorite posts to get started: The Self-Righteousness Instinct, Sabbath Says, Encounters, Inc., and What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Artificial Beauty - Is There a Better Way to Advertise?

While the idea of objectification is as nonsensical as it is offensive, it is nevertheless undeniable that fashion and cosmetic industry marketers deliberately aggravate the insecurities of young, and not so young, women by setting unrealistic standards of fitness and beauty. A recent viral video (see below) underscores just how easy it is to create convincing dynamic images of women with impossibly exaggerated features, and the video’s popularity testifies to the pressure women feel to live up to these preposterous ideals. (Men are also subjected to similarly exploitative advertising, but that’s for a future post.) Still, I would wager most women would balk at any plan to do away with models and beauty product advertising altogether. It’s the deceit and the artificiality that they find infuriating.

So what would more truthful, more ethical, more realistic, but just as useful and effective advertising look like? If images really are as easy to doctor as the critics suggest, then it should be just as easy to transform ordinary pictures of everyday women into ads for clothes, accessories, and makeup. And we already have immense caches of digital images featuring exactly the types of women we encounter on a regular basis in real life. As TV commercials tend more and more toward obsolescence, and marketers cast about for newer and better ways to reach their audiences, it seems to me they ought to avail themselves of the opportunity to rise above their saprophytic, bottom-dwelling, insecurity-inducing industry practices. Why not use our friends, why not use us, as models—assuming we give them permission to do so?

Imagine registering at a website for a line of clothing or products we tend to find appealing, giving the operators access to our friends list on Facebook or some other social media site (with whatever necessary restrictions we wish to impose), and then receiving adds featuring our friends as they would appear decked out in the new fashions, done up in the new shades. These ads would probably be even more effective than the old-fashioned TV spots—and they would allow us to pass along the images to the very friends featured in them. “Check out how good you’d look in these boots!”

As long as there were some mechanism in place to ensure the doctored images resulted in faithful renderings of how the products would affect our appearance (and that could be tricky because the marketers would have a huge incentive to make the pics look too good), the problem of impossible standards and artificial ideals would be solved.

I'd be amazed if something like this isn’t already happening.

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