By Jannel Varona

Since it was first introduced, advertisements has gone through many significant changes but it will always have a negative effect on our society. Brands and companies have one thing on their agenda when using advertisements: to sell their product and to make capital. Advertisers attract product consumers to a brand by making commodities desirable to the consumer. As long as the advertisements make money, the underlying negative messages that come with the ads do not matter. Advertising images make companies revenue by presenting ideas of sexism, racism and power hierarchies to its consumers. It is important for consumers to know that the ideas created by advertisements where white is good, black is bad, photoshopped beauty is real beauty and men are more powerful than women are only marketing strategies.

Marketing Strategies –> Money

In Sex, Lies and Advertising by Gloria Steinem, it states, “the ad world often creates black and Hispanic ads only for black and Hispanic media. In an exact parallel of the fear that marketing a product to women will endanger its appeal to men” (118). For instance, marketing a product such as make-up will not have an appeal to men in the sense that they will not buy the product for themselves. But because make up ads such as vintage ones below show patriarchy, it will still catch men’s attention. These advertising images represent the idea that if a woman wants a man, she must by this product. In The Will to Change by Bell Hooks, it states, “Patriarchy insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females” (18). These make up ads appeal to women because it reflects the idea that is she buys the lipstick, she will get the man’s attention. These ads appeal to men because it shows patriarchy and the idea that men have this power over women.

Above photos found on Modcloth.com

Advertising images also present ideas of racism in print and digital ads. Business Insider listed the ten most racist ads of the modern era. This included the 2011 Nivea Campaign Ad (shown below) told african-american men to “re-civilize” themselves. The ad shows a clean-shaved african american man throwing a not-so-clean-shaved african-american man. Unlike the Nivea ad, an ad for Intel knew it was being racist. Also shown below, the Intel ad shows a white male in the middle of the image with six muscular african-american men bowing down in front of him. According to Business Insider, Intel knew it was “insulting and insensitive.” These advertisements are so focused into selling the product that they overlook, or perhaps accept the underlying negative messages that images hold.

“Re-Civilize Yourself” by NIVEA.

Photo from Business Insider

One of the main negative underlying messages that advertisements has driven its consumers to thinking is sexism and what an ideal beauty is in society. In Cutting Girls Down to Size by Jean Kilbourne, it states that “girls are told by advertisers that what is most important about them is their perfume, their clothing, their bodies, their beauty” (132). In society today, thigh gaps, small waist, unhealthy living and the aspiration of becoming like a Barbie doll has become the norm. Kilbourne also states, “Even more destructively, they get the message that this is possible, that, with enough effort and self-sacrifice, they can achieve this ideal” (132). Girls and women are blinded by advertisements to what the meaning of ‘beauty’ really is. Society is moving in a direction where young girls as young as six years old are sexualized in beauty ads wearing a lot of make-up, high heels and designer clothing. Children are taught unrealistic and unattainable beauty. They are taught to stop being children and to start being adults. Advertisments use children as marketing strategies to lure more product consumers, but they are only objectifying young girls and teaching them false ideas.

Photo from HuffingtonPost.com

Ads that feature children.

Since advertisements always need to be unique and think differently from its competition in order to get more revenue and viewers, they should take notes on ads that portrays beauty in a real way like the Dove Real Beauty Campaign ad. It doesn’t portray an unrealistic type of beauty. It shows voluptuous women of different races to not only advertise their products but also raise awareness about of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty were created. It is important for advertisements to sell products in an honest way without underlying negative messages that shape its consumers with false ideologies.

The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty



  1. Hooks, Bell. “Chapter 7 – Feminist Manhood.” The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. New York: Atria, 2004. 107. Print.
  2. Kilbourne, Jean. Cutting Girls Down to Size. New York, NY: Free, 1999. Print.
  3. Minato, Charlie. “10 Recent Racist Ads That Companies Wish You Would Forget.”Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 07 June 2012. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/the-10-most-racist-ads-of-the-modern-era-2012-6?op=1&gt;.
  4. Steinem, Gloria. Sex, Lies and Advertising. Print.

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