Advertising involves making a product appeal to a target market and to do this effectively an advertisement must comprise of many different elements. The target market I will be referring to are women ranging from 16 years old to 45 years old, who desire to shave their body hair using women’s razors. Since my target market is any woman interested in consuming beauty/hair removal products, there are general features of ads found in this specific genre. From a broader view, women have always been over sexualized in advertisements and depicted as expected to fill specific gender roles and characteristics. The media and advertising play a huge role in influencing what women view as “beautiful”. Women are always associated with external appearance, the need to feel confident with their body and the ability to satisfy the desires of the male audience. Advertisements such as razor advertisements infer that women are not satisfied with their skin and need to shave in order to be able to socialize, and feel confident within the society and around men. Gillette’s Venus advertisements promote the message “Reveal The Goddess In You” which is ridiculous since women should not have to solely rely on razors in order to feel confident, powerful and independent.
Looking at the Gillette Venus campaign certain ideologies are shown and specific tactics are used to convey the desired message. A very recent Venus advertisement (2014) uses superstar Jennifer Lopez in a music-video like commercial. Throughout the advertisement Jennifer Lopez, dances and sings to a catchy melody while the camera constantly focuses on her body parts such as her legs and buttocks. The main message promoted is that “Every woman has an inner goddess” which is put forward by “a beautiful leg, a smooth, sexy Venus leg”.
A 2013 Gillete Venus& Olay advertisement depicts many women walking happily while emphasizing their hairless legs. The message that “goddess begins with your skin” suggests how important it is for a woman to treat her body and care about her appearance.
Going a bit further back in time, in 2010 Gillete Venus presented the Venus Embrace razor. This advertisement focuses on women who use the Venus razor in order to “reveal the goddess in you” since it “shaves you closer, so you can get closer”.
According to Goldman and Papson, advertising carries ideologies through culture. Goldman and Papson state that when seeing ads as ideological we consider four main points: “1) they socially and culturally construct a world, 2) they disguise and suppress inequalities, injustices, irrationalities and contradictions, 3) they promote a normative vision of the world and relationships and lastly 4)they reflect the logic of capital”(96). In these three Venus ads, certain ideologies are presented. First of all, the ads construct a world in which women do not have any hobbies, are not active but are only interested in maintaining their appearance. These ads hide some elements of reality such as inequalities, contradictions since not all women can be like J.Lopez or the rest of the Western thin, pretty women shown. The ‘Venus’ text shows women in a western ideology, white, slim and attractive. The ads ignore the fast that in non-Western countries women may not have as their #1 priority to remove body hair, because they have more serious health issues to be concerned with. The ads provide a vision that intimacy between men and women does not rely on personality at all, but only on smooth, sexy skin and appearance. Finally, the ads reflect the logic of capital since the razor is something that needs to be consumed in order to be used.
According to Ronald Barthes, we use semiotics in order to study signs and their meaning. In the aforementioned advertisements, signifiers are used as a way to attach meaning to what is represented. Beautiful women, glitter, sparkles are used to suggest the lifestyle attached with the target market of the Venus razors. The emphasis on women’s body parts signifies what the male audience wants to see, although these ads are only targeted towards women. Advertisers rely on using beautiful women who have a slim figure to highly feminize the Venus razors. Moreover, the ads contains many bright feminine colors such as pink, yellow in order to convey the feeling of the product being fun, flirty, feminine and friendly towards women.
These Gillette Venus ads remind me of the concept of “transformational function of advertising” since this function of advertising cares more about the meanings associated with the product and the experience presented by the ad. Less attention is paid to the use of the product but more on the Venus experience of “revealing the goddess inside of you”. Women need to reinvent their look in order to adapt to the new lifestyle, which is socially accepted.
In addition, these ads can serve as an example of the Creative Revolution of the 1960’s. There was a change in content and production of ads and a shift from an emphasis on sales to a power towards creative people. People started expecting ads to be clever, well produced, expensive, well targeted, authentic with storylines, characters and vivid messages.
For example, the J.LO advertisement is very creative, music-video like and can be described as “anti-advertising” because it steers away from traditional advertising that explains the product, its benefits and its intended use. (Frank 5)
The target market of the Venus ads directly relates to the concept of commodity feminism. Commodity feminism as described by Goldman, Heath and Smith attaches meanings of feminism to products, which are then consumed. It is a type of aesthetically depoliticized feminism, but in fact the Venus ads continue to address women in the language of beauty as defined by the male gaze and place too much attention on the body and appearance.
Similar to Sarah Haskin’s “Target Women” series mocking ads targeted towards women, I would suggest following what is known as “culture jamming” to challenge the prevailing ethic of consumerism. Vince Carducci described culture jamming as an “organized, social activist effort that aims to counter the bombardment of consumption-oriented messages in mass media”(Handelman&Kozinets). I would create a web video that would point out the irrationalities, and speak the truth of advertising for women’s hair removal. I would try to raise awareness by exaggerating on the ridiculous impact the media has placed on women’s bodies and appearance. My video would start off with a supermodel at a sophisticated cocktail party who is discussing with her girlfriends about her desire to find the perfect man. Although we would expect the model to attract the attention of many males, she does not attract any male. The viewers are curious as to why no one pays attention to her until she puts her hand up and a small patch of arm hair appears. The hair she has in her arms does not even show that much, but because of this she lacks confidence, and males do not desire a woman with even one patch of hair on her skin. The supermodel would then go to the bathroom, and take out of her shiny clutch bag, a tiny pink Venus razor and without even having to use soap, would shave off her arm hairs. Next, she would appear at the cocktail party area, with an angel like light surrounding her and so many men would approach her. This web video proposal would expose the ideologies and tactics, and poke fun at the original ads because it is a stretch on the importance woman and men place on a woman being flawless. Consumption and media have created such a normative vision of what a woman should look like, to gain the attention of the male consumer that even a supermodel with a slight amount of arm hair would not feel confident without her Venus razor.
These ads should be exposed because they present women as being overly obsessed with attracting males and desiring close intimacy more than anything. Mens’ razor ads do not follow such a tactic, instead they present men as powerful, active, successful business people. The Gillette Venus ads should be exposed because I don’t believe that women should be only seen as beauty products, lacking confidence if something in their body is not perfect. Men are not perfect, but no ad presents them as obsessed over their appearance. Women could be presented as interested in their appearance but simultaneously interested in having hobbies in order to gain confidence. The goddess inside each woman, should come out when the woman succeeds in other aspects of her life, and not when shaving her hair.