Makeup and skin care products direct their marketing strategies toward the insecurities women have been conditioned to have since birth. Having blemishes, lines, or sagginess are indicative of poor self-care, weak health status, and lost youth – all things women are conditioned to fear. While products and elective medical procedures delivered by cosmetic surgeons, such as Botox or fillers, may offer legitimate results for these “afflictions”, most come with such a high price tag that they are unattainable to the average woman.
Corporations have seized this gap in the market, filling it with over-the-counter lines of products promising to erase lines, tighten skin, and stop aging in its tracks. Most of these claims, however, remain unverified at best, and completely falsified at worst. In 2012, Proctor and Gamble were slapped with a class-action lawsuit which alleged that the company knowingly marketed their Olay Regenerist line of products using product claims and benefits they knew to be untrue (Hsu, 2012). Why, then, do Olay Regenerist advertisements feature taut-faced, lineless models?
For this assignment, I chose an Olay Regenerist advertisement from 2012, featuring actress Maggie Cheung, who was 47 the year this campaign launched. What strategies does Cheung use to achieve such a flawless complexion? Since the original advertisement proposed that the model’s appearance was the result of their products, I chose to subvert this messaging by jamming the ad with other products and strategies that aid in achieving a youthful glow. I chose to create 3 jams as a way to fully immerse the viewer in this altered perspective:
Jam 1: “Soften Lines/Soften Tool”
My first jam features arguably the most common tool in print advertising: Photoshop. Tools like Photoshop have allowed a completely unrealistic portrayal of beauty to not only infiltrate contemporary society, but become the expected norm. Photoshop allows graphic designers and retouchers to smooth, alter, or eliminate any perceived flaws or imperfections in a model’s appearance, often going beyond the realm of what is realistically achievable. This jam was created with the intention to subvert the ad’s “caption” by selling a product that can actually provide the promised results guaranteed (in the hands of a decent retoucher, that is).
Jam 2: “Which Came First: The Chicken or The Botox?”
Jam 3: “Luck Be An [Ageless] Lady”
My second jam utilizes a product earlier mentioned – Botox. This jam was meant to highlight the role that privilege and money play in beauty, using this particular ad as an example. As previously stated, the model in the advertisement is Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung. Consistently ranked among the wealthiest actresses in Asia, her accumulated wealth ensures that, if she chose to, she would never have to work again. Because of this, it is safe to assume Ms Cheung has access to what ever kind of cosmetic procedures and products she wishes to use. Why, then, would Ms Cheung choose a product known to produce less than stellar results? Surely if she needed anti-aging products, inexpensive and ineffective products by Olay would not be her exclusive beauty regime. Perhaps there are other, more proven line-eliminating strategies at play? Or, further, who is to say that Cheung’s beauty is a result of any products whatsoever? Maybe Cheung is lucky enough to have naturally age-defying skin, which brings forth the third and final jam. This jam focuses on pointing out the significant factor inherited genes plays on the effects of aging.
Nowhere on the advertisement does it show the model using the product, before/after images, or any other marketing tool that would prove that the model and the product have a relationship at all, let alone a causal one. Putting the two together, though, leads the viewer to unconsciously connect them. Who is to say Photoshop, Botox, or pure dumb luck don’t factor in in the same way Olay does, as implied by this ad? Through jamming this ad, deeper understanding of its weaknesses and absurdity is illuminated, unpacked, and questioned. Seeing is no longer believing.
Hsu, T. (2012) Suit alleges false advertising from olay anti-aging products. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/25/business/la-fi-mo-olay-suit-20120525