advertisingcorporate hypocrisyracism

Pure Snow or Bronze Sublime? (Wait, I'm Confused!)

By October 14, 2008 No Comments

Premise:

You have to give some credit to beauty companies. They have an unsurpassed talent at searching for – and finding – new areas to exploit.

The strategy goes like this:

1) Find one area of a woman’s body that has no dedicated beauty products/treatments

2) Make up a product/treatment that would “improve” said area

3) Through advertising and articles in women’s magazines, imply that the natural appearance of said area is unattractive/embarrassing and that you can only be pretty and acceptable if you buy the product described at point #2

After a while, sometimes with the aid of TV (with story lines dedicated to the topic) this idea permeates public consciousness, to such an extent that using the product (or treatment) becomes a necessity.

Some recent examples of products and treatments fitting the description:

– teeth whitening strips (“you need blinding-white teeth!”)
– pedicure (“your feet are simply gross without one”)
– Brazilian wax (“you don’t want to look like Chewbacca down there, do you?”)
– Botox (“wrinkles = unacceptable”)

and now, one area for which advertising is very tricky: skin tone.

L'Oreal "White Perfect" skin whitening cream for its Asian market; Self-tanning creams for Europe and America (France here)

L

Starting in the late 1970s, Fair & Lovely (parent company: Unilever, grandaddy of Dove “We’re for real beauty”) began promoting its line of skin bleaching creams in India. Other companies followed suit in Asian countries like China, Taiwan and Japan – even though women living in those countries already have a fair complexion. The advertising message: “white is beautiful.”

In India, the message in TV commercials and print ads is that you cannot find love or a proper job if your skin is too dark. If you use a skin bleaching cream, your face will become fairer in a matter of days, and you will be able to attract the man/woman of your dreams and get that amazing job.

In other Asian countries, where women already have a naturally fair skin, the message is slightly different. L’Oreal, Dior, and Nivea – amongst others – promote the sale of skin whitening creams with the message that exposure to the sun can be dangerous, causing wrinkles and skin impurities. A glowing, white skin is the symbol of youth and freshness.

Pure genius. Through the modification of ad messages, these cosmetics giants have been able to sell products to women of different racial origins and skin complexions.

Now, let’s come to America (North & South), Europe, and Australia. Most women there, just like in Asia, have naturally fair skin (that is, Caucasian women). I can imagine some ad men going, “What can we sell them?”

If the message is that in order to be beautiful you have to go against your nature, you can easily get to the answer: “tan is beautiful”!!!

So, starting at right about the same time, in the late 1970s, a tan body for Caucasian women has been the symbol of status (can afford time to vacation) and health (with paleness becoming synonymous with sickliness).

So, tanning beds became extremely popular in the 1980s, through the mid 1990s – until a link was found in between melanomas (skin cancer) and the use of tanning beds.

And now, the very same companies that to this day promote skin whitening creams in the Middle East and all over Asia – L’Oreal, Dior, Nivea – have an arsenal of self-bronzing and self-tanning creams for their American, European, and Australian markets.

These two ads, because of their opposite message, will positively make you flip:

Video #1 – L’Oreal Nutribronze

Video #2 – L’Oreal UV Perfect

Yay for cunning marketing!