I get it. Showing a hint of breast gets attention. You certainly got my attention because I love breasts, I have a couple myself. And you probably didn’t want to show a full breast as you knew you’d get slammed so you went for the underdeveloped one. That breast and girl are so young, so not quite there I felt like a pervert taking a photo of your poster.
But that’s not why I’m writing to you Zoe & Morgan. If I’m just another woman rolling her eyes over the blatant sexuality of females in advertising then everyone will carry on ignoring me.
I’m writing to ask you one question. Do you know what beauty is?
You see, I get the game. I’ve worked in marketing for years and I’ve seen a lot of beautiful ads. I know you want to show glamour, desirability, and that while your model’s unattainable your jewellery isn’t, right? You can buy it right here at feelingshittyaboutyourlifesofixitbydroppingsomecash.com.
We all know beauty sells aspirational products because we think beauty is powerful. It’s not just a thought, it’s a universal truth. Beauty is powerful.
But I’m wondering if you thought of beauty as power, as if it has a source, how different your ad might be.
When I look at your poster I don’t see beauty. I feel sad for your model. She doesn’t look like she’s having a great time and she looks vulnerable. It looks like some photographer kept saying, “drape the fabric a bit to the left, no more to the left, just cover the nipple OK?” It makes me want to grab her and say “where‘s your attitude girlfriend? These photographers and advertisers are going to fuck you up unless you get some serious attitude. I know they told you to do this but imagine if we could inject you and your attitude into this ad instead of your shell. Your outer shell. Because you are powerful, girl. I can see it in your eyes.”
Zoe & Morgan (and Ruth), you make jewellery, good jewellery (I like your All Seeing ring), but are you All Seeing with what females like to see in ads? Nymphs are out because we’re not telling girls to be pretty and vulnerable and stick thin and have somebody buy jewellery for them. We’re telling them to stick up for themselves. To be strong. To respect their bodies and demand respect of their bodies from others. To be pretty smart about the beauty and advertising industry.
Good ads should have a strong idea, something that expands minds, and ultimately ourselves. If ads only give us thin, glamorous models then that’s all there is to focus on. And all that achieves is making girls feel inadequate. Oh dear, my legs are not the width of my arms. Cameron Russell, a hugely successful model, tells us in her TED talk that the industry has very highest rates of low self-esteem. Which is sad.
Ads that show beauty as something that only exists on the outside screws up girls who don’t feel beautiful on the inside. Beauty is the whole package, it’s not the shell. It’s who we are, it’s what we project from our core. That’s where the power is.
I’m sure you’ve seen monster high dolls? Young girls don’t want Barbie, or perfection. In Meaghan Trainor’s clip that 1,297,106,486 people have watched so she’s reasonably influential, she says “I won’t be some stick figure barbie doll”. Girls want fangs and super powers and shit-kicking high boots. Dripping blood’s not creepy it’s baddass.
My seven-year-old daughter likes Bad Blood and I let her watch it because Taylor Swift and Jessica Alba are not being vulnerable sex kittens, they are full of attitude and don’t mess with me sister-ness.
You must have noticed what Lorde did last year in Chile when she took her purple lipstick and smeared it across her face? A universal, rebellious up yours to the beauty industry. She mussed with her beauty on stage while we all wet our pants.
Imagine, instead of feeling bad for your model I felt her power. Imagine how show-stopping your ad could be. Instead of ‘steal me’ she would reek of ‘see me’. Just see what I can do. Imagine if you embraced her feminine and her masculine because she’s got it all there. It’s why you chose her. Now unleash that. Show us, the females you desperately want to attract, some respect. Don’t show us fragile thin bodies. Show us strong ones. Don’t show us naked. Show us naked ambition and high self esteem.
Then you’ve got our attention and our respect.
Smart brands create loyalty and respect and awe. Others create shock and envy and feelings of inadequacy. You’re all very talented. Your striking jewellery could be part of something that changes the status quo. Your crocodile ring could be full of don’t mess with me sister-ness.
Women feel beautiful when we’re strong. That’s what real beauty is. In honour of International Women’s Day this week I felt I had to write.
All the best with your business.
Angela Maree Barnett
Founder of FABIK read about it on the Huffington Post.
That poster leaves me between a state of speechlessness and fury. I wonder how Zoe or Morgan would feel if one of their daughters posed similarly at that age? Great and brave article Ange.
Thanks Jen. It’s been getting a few people wound up. Zoe and Morgan have responded here (unsatisfying sadly): http://stoppress.co.nz/opinion/opinion-nymphs-are-out-strong-new-beautiful
I like the note, that’s respectful but clear and to the point. I think along similar lines, walking down the road with my 11-year-old (who was born on International Women’s Day, celebrated this week) and we pass similar ads in the window, and how she’s surely going down that same path by everything that’s thrust upon her, that women must have to learn to deal with over time. The photo bothers me for some reason I don’t want to explore.
Thanks for saying so. We watched a guy stand and stare at this poster (frozen, shopping bags in hand) for five minutes this week. Ug. Parents are more scared of having the body image chat than the birds and bees chat apparently. One thing Dads can do is teach daughters that the beauty industry is a trick. Show her how ads are made – like this one:
and this one:
So that she learns when she looks at gigantic billboards of women in lipstick ads that they are not real. And then show her some footage of champion females surfing (or females lawyers debating in court or Emma Watson’s talk to the UN last year) and explain that being strong and sure of yourself is more beautiful.
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It’s funny because we’re all thinking of this particularly after March 8th, but with daughters, we think about it all the time. The brainwashing images and messages. Commercials are evil, spoken by someone who spent 13 years in advertising. I’ve realized that needs that much selling doesn’t need to be bought. Are there ads selling us air, water, broccoli? I’m digressing. What I really meant to say was, did you see the new Michael Phelps commercials? This is the kind of commercials I like to see; I just wish he was a woman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh9jAD1ofm4
Hey hey. Imagine if somebody made broccoli the most desirable fashion accessory…. Broccoli broaches? Wear it. Nibble it. Get smarter and look good. I digress too. I love that Michael Phelps commercial, now that’s good advertising. Have you seen the Misty Copeland one? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA
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You are a brave brilliant chick! Yes to everything you wrote! I am so fucking sick of the sexualisation of children! Advertising agency and brands need to stop it and take responsibility for their part in sexual abuse, pedophilia and the sex trade industry!
Thanks Paula. I am sick of it too. It’s make my Mama Bear roar. Can you tell? :)
Thank you Angela Barnett for calling this behaviour out.
Your challenge is clear and reasonable. Stop victimising and start championing. The brands that do this will win with authenticity, not some bullshit overdone child sexuality. I’ve worked in marketing and advertising for 20 years and KNOW there are better ways to make brands and businesses succeed. I have never, and won’t ever disgrace my team or clients with this kind of obvious work. Don’t get me wrong, she’s gorgeous and the shot is great – but give it the “would I feel ok with this being my daughter test” and it fails. And there’s the right answer.
Zoe and Morgan, you’re already a good brand and a great product. You can do better.
Thank you Aimee for saying so and seeing the challenge. Zoe and Morgan responded over here on: http://stoppress.co.nz/opinion/opinion-nymphs-are-out-strong-new-beautiful and I was sad to see they missed the point but were no doubt feeling defensive. Hopefully they might take up the challenge.
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