CULTURE, TECHNOLOGY

Adverts are not all bad

By Jen Thorpe

We hear a lot of bad press about advertising – how it makes us feel too fat or too wrinkly or as though our body is not acceptable. There is plenty of this type of advertising out there, but it is not the only type. Some advertising however does more. Advertising can also show how this isn’t true.

One of the most popular ads I’ve seen that does this in relation to beauty is the Dove Evolution advert. For some reason, they’ve disabled the code that will let me put the video in here, but if you would like to watch it here’s the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYhCn0jf46U. It’s well worth seeing how distorted our perceptions of beauty have become.

Another way that advertising can support women is by articulating those difficult messages that people don’t always want to hear. When I tell people that I work for an NGO that deals with violence against women, it is the ultimate conversation killer. People are not sure what to say, or don’t actually feel ready to talk about it. Most people cannot spend all day thinking about violence against women, or sexual violence, because it paralyses them. They feel that they can’t do anything, or that they can’t do enough.

But Advertising can bring these messages home in a powerful way. Carefully crafted narratives don’t allow you to avert your eyes or change the topic, and so you have to keep looking. Advertising allows the message to look you in the eye and ask you to do something, or to get help if you are in a similar position. It can do more to get information about violence against women out, than most parliamentary speeches or laws can ever do.

I’ve selected three adverts here, that really stopped me from looking away. One of these was a South African advert by the women’s NGO People Opposing Womens Abuse (POWA). The other two are international adverts. Have a look, and then keep reading below.

So when you see something from the comfort of your desk, armchair or living room, it becomes harder to pretend that it’s not happening. This was also particularly true for me in this last advert. The advert communicates that things are not as hopeless as they seem, and shows that there are solutions. (warning, get some tissues immediately).

So adverts aren’t all bad. I think it’s just time to start choosing the ones we watch more carefully.

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