Due to such ad clutters in various media domains, viewers have become cynical towards different forms of advertisement, thus making it tougher for corporates to reach their audience. With the advent of Bill Bernbach and the creative revolution of the 60s, drastic changes have been witnessed in the production and exhibition of content in advertising.
Covergirl is a renowned make-up brand in the United States who recently launched this new commercial promoting female empowerment. The brand itself has a reasonable extent of status within the beauty market, yet to compete with hundreds of other brands trying to make it up the industry, Covergirl needs to differentiate themself from others. Contrary to other commercials they have aired so far, which focused on promoting the function of the products, this particular ad encompasses characteristics that trail the legacy of the creative revolution.
Some signifiers in the ad include women who are all saying, “girls can’t.” They are attaching different verbs at the end like “girls can’t rock” or “girls can’t be strong.” But towards the end, they change their attitudes and say, “girls can.” There are logos popping up in pink that writes, “Be courageous” or “challenge.” What can be signified is that we know these women are celebrated figures, most American audience will recognize these women; they are famous singers, actors, entertainers, and sports players. What is also connoted is that the ad is seemingly targeted towards female audience. It is geared towards women who are treated in ways inferior to men, and it addresses the general stereotype of society that women are less powerful than men. The ad include comments that support the non-conforming and rebellious ideologies such as, “I like it when people say you can’t do something” and “I heard that girls couldn’t rap, I rapped. Girls couldn’t own businesses, I own my own business.” We also see that these celebrities are perceived by the general public as being “cool” and “down-to-earth,” thereby it may successfully appeal to the sarcastic and jaded youth who are cynical towards ads. This ad tactic exemplifies the idea of cultural cannibalism discussed by Goldman and Papson. “A common approach starts with the positive…appropriation of value. This frequently involves appropriating an image – a celebrity, a style, or the like – that is hot is terms of its potential market value.” (Goldman and Papson, P. 89)
Goldman and Papson describe four ways in which advertising is ideological, and although ads may create an idealized vision of the world, such concepts could be analyzed and examined for a better understanding of the society we live in. “Ads are ideological insofar as they construct socially necessary illusions and normalize distorted communication. We are studying ads…because we think ads reveal some inner cultural contradictions of a commodity culture” (Goldman and Papson P. 96) In my opinion this Covergirl ad does not facilitate the ideologies Goldman and Papson explains, at least not to a great extent. It does not disguise and suppress inequalities, but rather reveals them and challenges such unjust beliefs. It also does not promote a normative vision of our world; if the normative vision of women’s role is to be a housewife and care for their husbands, then this ad promotes otherwise that women can be just as active in society as male. Although one may argue that sexiest ideals are no longer stirred in the contemporary community and they are strictly skewed towards feminist logic, it is precisely why creators would use subjects like sexual inequalities in ads. It embraces aspects of counterculture and cultural critique that creative revolution is based on. These women all represent some form of subculture in American society. Ellen Degeneres as many people know is a Lesbian entertainer, and making her one of the spokesperson for Covergirl may show that the brand supports different gender orientations. We also see ethnic diversity in the ad with Whites, Blacks, Latinas, and Asian. There are appearances of pop musicians who are considered to be more subcultural rather than conventional. Pink, for example is an excellent example of subcultural singer who collaborates pop and rock. She is admired by many ‘cynical’ youths who call her a role model for overcoming struggles in her life and expressing it through rebellious yet sentimental music.
(A buzzfeed article on why young generation sees Pink as a role model.)
There is also a female hockey player who is thought to be rare and cherished in the sports industry.
Like the Volkswagen ad from 1950s by Bernach, this ad is considered ‘honest’. It doesn’t try to disguise or rationalize the concealed nature of social hegemony, but it protests against it. “Predominant ways of seeing are, however, almost always being contested of stretched by opposing social forces and relations. For example, in American society, patriarchy’s long hegemony has recently been effectively contested by women who find patriarchal ways of seeing as too confining and repressive to meet their interests.” (Goldman and Papson P. 95) And the content that criticizes hegemonic ideals are better accepted by audience who are skeptical at viewing ads.
This ad in many ways exhibits qualities of being the product of creative revolution. For instance, the straightforward messages that it sends out about female empowerment makes the audience almost forget that it is an ad trying to promote a brand. It speaks to the counterculture, such as the individuals who want to differentiate themselves from others. “What distinguished the advertising of the 1960s was its acknowledgment of and even sympathy with the mass society critique…It sympathized with people’s fears about conformity and their revulsion from artificiality and packaged pleasure.” (Frank P. 54) Also the ad attaches emotional and cultural meanings through strong and minimalistic layout and slogans. The catch phrase “Girls can” almost resembles the famous Nike slogan “Just do it”, hence emphasizing the artistic yet profound element of creative ads.
-YouJeong Kim (June)