The Evolution of Advertising

Why is History Important?
Airbrushing and Computer manipulation are not new in Beauty Advertising.  Magazines such as Playboy have a long history of manipulating images of the women in their magazines.  This is a problem because it adds to the exploitation of women.  We will see that this problem is a historical one as well as a modern one.

In her book “In your Face:  The Culture of Beauty and You” author Shari Graydon discusses a model from the 1960’s named Twiggy.  Twiggy was five feet six inches tall and only weighed ninety one pounds.  She reflected the girl next door if according to the New York Times “just like your next door neighbor if he happens to be a skinny 12-year-old boy” (31).  Feminist critics argued that Twiggy represented an impossible ideal and was a way of keeping women subjugated to the beauty industry by “focusing their attention on dieting to achieve the right body shape instead of on lobbying to be paid the same wages as men” (31).  Creating a culture of inequality in our society is a problem and why we chose to focus on the beauty industry.

What is Advertising?
The cause of the problem of computer manipulation in advertisements to women is linked to the culture of advertising itself..  Advertising can be an annoyance.  We don’t understand the sheer number of ads until we look at it critically. 
Advertisements are on busses, billboards, soda machines, and about a million other places.  David Croteau and William Hoynes in their book, Media/Society reminds us that “They (advertisers) address their audiences as consumers and celebrate and take for granted the consumer-capitalist organization of society” (186).  As Croteau and Hoynes make the argument that advertisers see their audiences as consumers ready to consume their product, this dehumanization of consumers leads to ads that feature idealized depictions of feminine beauty that we often see on television and in women's magazines.

In her book “Ad Women” Juliann Sivulka notes “Advertising in America developed within a culture that distinguished between men and women, masculine and feminine, on almost every issue imaginable” (41).  Consumption of products was no exception to this rule.  Sivulka brings up the point that advertising is differently geared toward men and women.  This division of advertisements reflects the culture of the United States and as Sivulka points out what we buy is no different.  This allows advertisers to fine tune their advertisements to men and women respectively.  That is why ads directed at men (beer ads) feature men who may be more out of shape to relate to the consumer of the product.  The beauty industry features airbrushed and idealized women as a way to relate to their consumer the message that that ideal body image is normal and acceptable.

PT Barnum and a Look at Advertising Culture
Advertising affects us.  PT Barnum is well known for running circuses.  He is also known as an advertising genius.  Barnum understood the power of creating an event.  In his book “20 Ads that Shook the World” James B. Twitchell discusses Barnum.  He writes “Barnum was probably the first adman to understand the bizarre ratio between the spending of money on advertising and the increase in revenues.  As well, he understood the importance of creating occasions in which to make the sale” (24). 

Barnum seemed to have figured out that the more money you spend on advertising, the more people are aware of your product.  He also understood the importance of “creating occasions” which is staging publicity events.  A few weeks before bringing the circus to town, Barnum would plaster the town in posters featuring his exotic animals and his sideshow acts such as Tom Thumb and Jo Jo the Dogfaced Boy.  Barnum knew the sensational posters would create a buzz in the town.  This led to a lot of success for Barnum.
Understanding that more money for advertising leading to a greater awareness of the product being sold can help explain the overwhelming volume of advertisements that are put out by the beauty industry.

In Media/Society Croteau and Hoynes discuses women’s magazines and their role in advertising.  About the covers they say “The most visible ad is the cover of the magazine (188).  By using an airbrushed or computer manipulated model, the cover of the magazine advertises to the women who read the magazines what they should look like.  The cover is often the main selling point of a magazine and so the cover must reinforce the consumer culture. 

Like Barnum, Croteau and Hoynes suggest that womens magazines understand the importance of creating an image.  Barnum did it with the posters of the animals and circus acts.  Magazines do it with the image of the beautiful woman on the front of the book.  Advertising affects us because we want to get something out of it whether it is to see exotic animals and entertaining acts or achieving a higher societal standard of beauty.

What Can We Do?

The problem of computer manipulation and airbrushing in advertising directed at women is a pervasive in our society as it has ever been.  The cause of the problem has been the advertising culture and goes to before the days of Twiggy to the culture of computer imagery that we live in now.  PT Barnum was influential to advertisements now because of his ability to create promotions that captured the imagination of the people he wanted to attract to his circuses.  The beauty magazine industry uses manipulated imagery to capture the imagination of the women they hope will read the magazine. 

There is no one solution.  In our campaign we have focused on education and awareness.  By being aware of the problem we can begin to resist the beauty industry.  We hope to reduce unnecessary cosmetic surgery and eating disorders by making the culture aware of the tactics employed by the beauty industry.  Join us on facebook and twitter and help to spread awareness to your friends and family.  It will take a lot of noise on our part to combat the noise of the beauty industry.