Culture Jam Assignment

proactivOriginal Ad

Acne is something that almost every has, is, or will deal with at some point in their life. It effects nearly 85% of people from the ages 12-24. However common it may be, it is viewed as something gross and undesirable, and something that must be gotten rid of. I myself suffered from horrible acne, and took medication which altered my hormones and the oil glands in my skin; which had side effects such as drying out my skin to the point where I would shed like a snake and even changed my alcohol tolerance through its effect on my liver. I desired to take this medication, not because I was worried about the possibility of scarring or particularly bothered by the discomfort cause by the acne, but because I felt so disgusted by my own reflection, and seriously worried that the acne would get in the way of building connections with other people. I felt like a monster. It is these feelings of poor self-esteem that the multi-million dollar acne industry is built, encompassing tools, drugs, and skin care. However, this industry does not just profit off insecurities, it creates them. The ad I have chosen is one for the skincare company Proactiv, a company who targets teenagers and regularly advertises on TV and in teen magazines. This ad in particulay would have been targeted at heterosexual young women (there is a counterpart for heterosexual men in which the word “boyfriend” is replaced with “girlfriend” and the text colour is blue just in case you needed the classic colour indication of gender). These ads take advantage of teens insecurities by implying that acne is likely the reason the teen is single. I admit that I when I was dealing with acne, I felt the exact way this ad wanted me to. I worried that my acne would keep anyone from being attracted to me or view me romantically. The ad also perpetuates the medicalized notion of acne as something to be “cured” in order to be desirable. The existence of these advertising methods is so problematic as those who they market to are already very likely to have self-esteem and body image issue. Marketing in this manner creates yet another thing for teens (a thing teens often have little control over) to be concerned about. In my jam I look to satirize this already absurd ad and strip off the thin veil hiding the true meaning of the words.

proactivJammed Version

This is my jammed version of the advertisement. I began my editing by removing the words “Got Acne?” and replacing them with the words “Got Insecurities?”, because in reality, these companies do not care how about the severity of your acne, they just care that you have enough insecurities (or are vulnerable enough for them to create insecurities) to spend money on their products. From there I changed the subheading, remembering to keep the gendered colouring, and replaced the original text about not having a boyfriend with “Your self worth must be determined by the approval of men”. I used the word men specifically as I felt it, alongside the gendering of the text through colour, helped highlight the heteronormativity of the original ad. I chose the have the words in “approval of men” in the boldest shade of pink to place heavy emphasis on the link between feminine validity and male approval that the original ad implies. My text change is also a more blunt phrasing of what the original ad implies. The company does not market their product as a tool to make their consumer more pleased with themselves personally, but rather as a tool to earn the approval of others, in this case men. To tie my entire piece together I changed the product name on the bottle from “Proactiv” to “Regressiv” because that is what these marketing techniques are. Instead of building up the self-esteem and self-worth of youth like we should (and like magazines in which these ads have likey been placed are starting to try to do), ads like these take a step backward by attempting to negatively impact the way teens view themselves in order to create a market for their product.

While skincare can be a wonderful thing when chosen freely (I myself am a big fan of moisturizing as I like it when my skin feels soft and hydrated), ads like these which attempt to create their market through the attack on individual’s self esteem are a terrible blemish in our society.