Media and Advertisement: The Power of Persuasion

By: Douglas Reyes


Steven Klein, Kate Moss for Alexander McQueen, S/S 2014

Advertising agencies have the power of persuasion. They know how to play on the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of the onlooker. Advertisements have the ability to convey hidden messages within the structure of imagery that alters the perception of an unsuspected viewer. Advertisers go to extreme lengths to come up with strategic ways of making a strong impact on the viewer, in turn making onlookers succumb to what is being “sold” to them. Prospective clients pay top dollar to have these advertising firms convince onlookers that their product is needed and not wanted. We’re living in an era of excess, where materials things are a must have, and not valued on a needed basis! What can you say? “We’re living in [an] age where the pursuit of all values other than, money, success, fame, [and] glamour [have] either been discredited or destroyed… for we are living in the age of [this] thing”! [1]


Terry Richardson, Equinox Ad Campaign, Autumn 2013

Advertisements have negative and adverse effects on the mental state of young women. Being exposed to this type of imagery at an early stage in life may potentially cause body dysmorphic disorders, eating disorders, self-loath, and suicide, as stated in this passage from Cutting Girls Down, “…adolescent girls in America are afflicted with a range of problems, including low self-esteem, eating disorders, [etc…]… Teenage women today are engaging in far riskier health behavior in greater numbers than any prior generation.” [2] Advertisements create this state of mental distress, which encourages young women to believe they don’t meet the standards of societies representation of “perfection”. This “perfection” is highly encouraged by the beauty, and fashion industry, as well as other media venues. This promotes irrational decision-making, which in turn encourages them to strive for these false “realities” created by advertising firms; “The culture, both reflected and reinforced by advertising, urges girls to adopt false self, to bury alive their real selves…” [3] The negative connotations within this state of mentality may result in a lack of self-esteem, which begins to redefine young women’s standards, and forces upon them the expectations of these advertisements.


Ellen von Unwerth, Equinox Ad Campaign, Spring 2008

Imagery within advertisement has the power to play on the esteem of young women; “Advertisers are aware of their role and do not hesitate to take advantage of the insecurities and anxieties of young people, usually in a guise of offering solutions.” [4] Advertising firms use both, subliminal context, and image tactics, within the content of advertisements to nitpick on the insecurities of young women. These ads are constructed to stigmatize young women, and make them susceptible to the standards of fashion, beauty, and media; “Girls are extremely desirable to advertisers because they are new consumers, are beginning to have significant disposable income, and are developing brand loyalty that might last a lifetime.” [5] This also encourages what society believes should be the aesthetic “norm” of today. On another note, advertising agencies are successful in making young women strive for unrealistic “perfection”; “You can never be too rich or too thin, girls are told. This mass delusion sells a lot of products. It also causes enormous suffering involving girls in false quests… in fact the quest for a body as thin as the model’s becomes a prison for many women and girls.” [6], by incorporating, and encouraging these notions within their advertising campaigns, advertisers are doing more harm than good. This damage is made possible by the evidence, and rise, throughout the years, of reconstructive (plastic) surgeries, predominantly by young women. Unbeknownst to them that these advertisements rely on imagery aided by computer editing software that manipulates the physical and aesthetic appearance of the models within these images.


Mario Testino, Tom Ford for Gucci, S/S 2003

Sexism in relation to advertising portrays women as docile, compliant, and submissive creatures with no sense of thought, values, or morals; “In ad after ad girls are urged to be “barely there”- beautiful but silent… they are even more powerfully attuned to images of women, because they learn from these images what is expected of them, what they are to become.” [7] Within these advertisements, especially high fashion ads, young women are minimized to mere vessels with no power and/or voice. They are portrayed as inferior to their male counterpart, and used as mere props for men’s entitled amusement; within this frame, they succumb to men’s dominance, animalistic sexual appetite, desire and need, all within the content of the imagery. The visual representation of this set of advertising campaign values can be portrayed as the new form of racism, as woman are subjected to lower class citizenship through a bigoted and misogynistic mind frame brought upon advertising campaigns. Racism and sexism have the same origin, the hatred of disliking those who are different from you. Through these advertisements women are oppressed, seen as less than human. They enslave and use them accordingly to feed into the empowerment of men over women, setting forth a subconscious hatred against them. Men are given the idea that they can control and domesticate women. No one is excluded from this! It includes the domination of potential love interests, as well as female relatives. They are encouraged to believe that women can be owned, and forced should be used to assimilate them. Now what woman doesn’t want that? NOT!


Mario Testino, Tom Ford for Gucci, S/S 2003

Media and advertisement can have a substantial impact on our daily lives. It has the power to make people go into a frenzy of insatiable indulgence. It can alter our train of thought, and even influence our everyday habits. Advertisements have the ability to evoke sentiments of nostalgia; making us feel good through positively reinforced campaign ads. In the same token, it can also negatively impact the perception of young people. Everyday we struggle with acceptance. Even as adults we are still trying to find whom we are. Advertising agencies have the upper hand on our train of thought, and they use this to their advantage to make us buy into the hype! They enforce their standards upon us, and we feed into the madness, and why is this you ask? We feel a need to belong! Simple as that! In the end, we’re humans with feelings, thoughts, and emotions and as long as we attain these qualities we will never surpass the influence the media has on us.

A campaign film featuring the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2014 Collection, directed by Steven Klein and featuring Kate Moss. Visit to experience the S/S 2014 collection.

See the Campaign:


All imagery and videos are copyright of their respective owner. I do not own or am affiliated with these companies, and do not condone the use, or distribution of these images and/or videos. Use is solely restricted to informative and educational purposes.

Works Cited

 1. Da Housecat, Felix vs. Pop Tarts. 2003. Party Monster Soundtrack. Money, Success, Fame, Glamour (Remix). New York. TVT Records: Track 4

2. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 129

3. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 130

4. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 129

5. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 131

6. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 138

7. Kilbourne, Jean. 1999. Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press: 138


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