Advertising in magazines shouldn’t affect self-images

What do Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and Esquire all have in common? (Hint: It’s not the size triple-zero models.)If you guessed advertisements, you are correct.

Flip open the September edition of Esquire, Vanity Fair or Vogue, and you’ll find about 20 pages of ads before the table of contents.

The average American reads, views or listens to an astounding 850 advertisements per day, according to research from Texas A&M University.

Yet few Americans stop to think about the effects of this onslaught of advertisement. Unfortunately, this mindless consumption of advertisement is far more dangerous than most realize.

“Effective” advertisement has proven to be one of marketers’ most cunning and successful ploys, judging by its prevalence in the media. Sadly, it also comes at the greatest price to the consumer’s self-image.

Effective advertising promises a certain desirable emotion with the purchase of the advertised product. The main message of these advertisements is that the consumer’s life is somehow lacking and would be improved with the purchase of a certain product.

But the products cannot improve the consumer’s life as promised. They, instead, frequently leave the disillusioned buyer with an impaired sense of self-worth.

Take for example, a full-page ad promoting a new Nivea skin crŠme in the latest issue of Shape magazine. The text of the ad reads “turning small talk into pillow talk.” The background image shows a man and woman, who have presumably met only recently, lying nude in bed.

The message of the ad: ‘If you buy this new skin crŠme, you will find sexual intimacy.’ Oh, please. I seriously doubt the first thing on a man’s mind when in bed with a woman is the brand of lotion that she is wearing.

Often the most powerful effective advertisements do not contain any words at all. A full-page Guess ad appearing in the latest edition of Vanity Fair shows a man in a submissive position, practically worshiping a woman wearing the latest in Guess fashion.

The message tells women: ‘If you wear Guess, you are in control and men will be at your feet.’

Maybe it’s just me, but confidence and power have to do with more than just a semi-designer wardrobe.

If you men were starting to think that effective advertisers target only women, you’re wrong. Sorry guys – you’re not off the hook. Take for example, a Perry Ellis ad that recently appeared in Esquire.

The ad shows a comic strip with two business partners pitching a business deal. One is wearing a Perry Ellis suit, and the second is wearing – gasp! – the “other” brand. Of course, while his partner is a nervous wreck, the guy in Perry Ellis plays it cool, saving the business deal for the two.

Message: ‘If you want to make the deal, you had better be wearing a Perry Ellis suit.’ While no studies have been conducted on the correlation between Perry Ellis clothing and corporate skills, I seriously doubt that a specific brand of suit will make anyone shrewder in their business deals.

My point is simple. People who buy into advertisements such as those above, will be left only disappointed.

When it comes to effective advertisements, we often play the fool. Not only do the advertisements convince us that there is some void in our life, but they push a product that could never fill that void.

My suggestion is simple as well. Don’t buy into advertising.

Next time you see an ad that is attached to a certain emotion, ask yourself, will buying this product really make me happier, more confident, etc.?

Girls, I am not telling you to pitch your beloved Cosmo. I am simply saying that as mature and educated college students, we should all critically examine the message that is sent to us through advertising.

Such a message is shallow. We are not who we are because of the things that we buy, but because of the unique human spirit inside of us.

Matt Messel is a sophomore sociology major from Omaha, Nebraska. His column appears every Thursday.