Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On advertising to real real women

Okay, so here's an open letter to all advertisers looking to advertise to "real women:"

Dear advertisers,

A lot of you have been making an effort to abandon the traditional skeletal, airbrushed models and start using "real" women in your ads. Let me say: way to go. As a woman who is neither skeletal nor, for the most part, airbrushed, I enjoy seeing women on billboards who don't make me feel guilty about the butt that, let's face it, ain't going anywhere, no matter how hard I work out. Dove, in particular, has gotten a lot of attention for its ad campaign showing women of all sizes, shapes, and ages who are braver than I would be to pose on billboards in their undies. Y'all have been doing so well that I'm reluctant to criticize, because I don't want to put you off the idea. At the same time, though, I feel it's necessary to point out one very well-intentioned mistake, to keep you from wandering down that same path.

Nike, you know I'm talking about you.

Nike's new ad campaign celebrates "big butts" and "thunder thighs," which sounds like a great idea, right? In theory, sure. But allow me to give you a little perspective straight from your target audience - not the standard for beauty and athleticism, surely, but at least a standard for, well, standard. I'm a woman between the ages of 18 and 35. My BMI is 24. I'm three inches taller and ten pounds lighter than the "average woman." I get in my weights and my cardio five times a week, and I also, on occasion, play some (fairly decent) tennis and do some (deeply righteous) backpacking. My thighs look like this one:

Nike, that is not a thunderous thigh. That thigh isn't even the sound an old Chevy makes when you try to crank it on a cold morning. That's a normal thigh. That's not Kirstie Alley's thigh; that's the thigh of a normal, healthy, almost-athletic young woman. And while your attempt to glamorize the "normal" body is admirable, you're not going to make anyone feel better by telling them that their "normal" body is, for the record, enormous.

So, advertisers, here's the secret to using "normal" women in your ads: treat them like normal women. They're not beautiful despite their normalcy, they're beautiful period. Imagine that you're using your ad copy as a pickup line in a bar. Telling a woman that she's finer than a summer day might just get you a date; telling a woman that she's got big ol' flabby thighs, but you think they sexy, will probably get you smacked with a handbag.

Oh, and Jamie, putting your hand on a woman's leg and exclaiming, "Whoa, there, quadzilla"? Not a compliment.

Much love,

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