How Many Body Image Ads Do You See Everyday?

How many times a day do I see commercials, billboards, magazine ads, internet sidebar ads that tell me that there are ways I could improve my own appearance? I’ll admit it: this isn’t something I ever thought to count before.
I knew a lot of ads aimed at women suggested that we aren’t good enough — but could be with whatever product that they have to offer! — but I never really realized how many times a day I see those kind of ads. I mean, I never noticed the ads on blogs or Facebook beyond the times where I would post a status on Facebook proclaiming my love for pizza and within seconds, all the Facebook ads would morph into weight loss and dating websites. (Thanks, Facebook!)
I spent one day writing down every single ad, from billboards to the internet,  that are aimed at making women and girls feels like they need to change. What did I find? Everyday, we are bombarded with ads instructing us — in a million and one ways — not only that we aren’t good enough, but their product alone can make us better. Can we talk about how that’s complete bull for a second? Just so you know — it is complete crap.
If nothing else, spending a day (I chose September 7 — a day with no big media events) paying attention to ads really opened my eyes to what I’m being told. Over the years, I’ve gotten very good at overlooking ads. But when I sit down and really look at a lot of them, it’s easy to see how absurd they are. Let’s look at some highlights.
Deodorant commercials. Ad and commercial count: 6. Your armpits are inadequate. Dove (or Secret or…) deodorant will turn you into a magnificent armpit goddess. You don’t smell good enough. You need to be “fresh…” If you already are “fresh,” you need to be “fresher” with Dove Body Mist.
Weight Watchers anything. Weight Watchers cookies, meals, plans, everything… I saw about 10 Weight Watchers ads in one day. What’s really weird about these ads is that the women in them — in both TV and print — are generally average weight. It is incredibly unnerving to see the suggestion that healthy-looking women need to lose weight.
“There aren’t even bear sheriffs!” This Yoplait commercial used to make me laugh… but now it kind of makes me sad. Don’t eat cake — you’ll turn into a gluttonous monster. Eat low-fat yogurt saturated with artificial sugar instead. You’ll only feel dead on the inside. The hatred and fear of food that is good in moderation — and the replacement with food that is not even close to natural or good for you (low calorie does not automatically mean healthy) — is really disturbing to me. Plus, I saw this commercial three times in a space of about two hours.
Hair dye. I saw about seven ads for hair dye, most of them about root touch-ups. Now, I’m not saying that we should all walk around with two-inch roots, but the women in the commercials had maybe two to three millimeters of roots. These commercials basically revolved around the fact that if you aren’t constantly monitoring the rate of your hair growth, then your hair is just a hot mess. I promise you, ladies, it’s really not.
What Did I Learn?
Ultimately, I learned that ads play into the insecurities of women. Maybe those insecurities have been created by ads or maybe they were always there (because we were made fun of as kids or whatever reason), but ultimately, ads target insecurities. As women we feel the need to look and smell good, as well as have soft, perfect skin, toned bodies, etc. We have little insecurities that we notice about ourselves that no one else really does. And we might actually forget about these little insecurities for a moment. But then a Weight Watchers commercial comes on with a woman who doesn’t look overweight at all… and you start to wonder, “Do I need to join Weight Watchers?” Or a deodorant commercial comes on and that little voice whispers, “Do you smell good all the time? Could you smell better?”
Ads target the societal pressures that women feel, and for that reason, we shouldn’t let them bother us. Ads exist to sell money – and there are no miracle products (really). There is no product that will make you look like Giselle Bundchen overnight. Paying attention to ads so much for a few days actually started to get to me: I started to notice little things about my appearance that bothered me, but that I had never really noticed before. Never have I spent so much time flipping through magazines and watching TV — two activities I hope to limit in the future, simply because having that much exposure to ads telling me how imperfect I am really did a number on me!
Ads don’t represent reality. Ads are never going to tell the truth, which is, if you shower regularly, you smell fine; your hair will survive an extra two or three weeks between dye jobs; most likely, you don’t need join Weight Watchers. If ads were honest, they would never sell a new product. But we have to remember that ads aren’t around to make us feel good. Ads exist, ultimately, to make money. And the easiest way to make money is to target insecurity. At the end of the day, ads are just ads and they don’t represent the truth about your body.

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