Advertising plays a crucial role in shaping one's mind and attitude especially the societies reflection towards women. Advertising agencies tend to use women as an magnet to attract attention of their users and most importantly revenue (Khaneja, 2016). Advertising directors tend to spend hours into channelling their creativity and developing their advertisements for multiples channels (DiSalvatore, 2010) as a successful advertisement is able to carry and convey the desired message and representation to a wide range of audiences (Cortese, 2004, p.23), generate demand for the particular products or services (O'Guinn, Allen & Semenik, 2009) as well as to create brand awareness for both the product and company (Dahlen & Rosengren, 2016). An advertisement sells fast when the advertisement is related to an celebrity, athletes and many more (Cuneen et all, 2007). Throughout the past four decades, the representation of sexuality in advertisements has grown drastically especially shifting towards women. This is cause due to the high demand of “themes and behaviours” that is being portrayed in the media everyday (Courtney & Edison).
It all started in the early 1850's in which women were advertised to being wives that were completely controlled by their husbands. They were mostly shown in advertisements that were feminine products that were used to impress their husbands, cleaning products, endless cooking, alcohol all with an implicit message of the benefits of women staying the in the kitchen(Womeninads.weebly.com, n.d.). For example in the past, tobacco companies would use women as and only as a tool of attraction for men to buy their product and the models in the advertisements would be totally nude (DiSalvatore, 2010). Although recent studies has shown an improvement of the portrayal of women in advertising there are still a small percentage of media that portray women the same since the past. As time went by, models in the advertising industry became more and more explicit and inclined towards sexual acts.
Women constitute a large segment of the market consumerism and majority of the advertisements are created to attract the fellow women towards their product (Hung et al., 2007:1038). Women are often represented as product in an advertisement and nothing more than a product. If analysed closely it can be seen that women are always tend to be given the roles of a helper or of an object while men are represented as a strong character instead. Since the very beginning of time, women has been portrayed as housewives, dependent on men and sex objects. How the society interprets beauty has changed drastically over the time and would continue to change over the time; For example, what was thought to be beautiful in the early mid twentieth century is not the cup of tea of the current generation (Sebastian, 2008).Women are not the ones who are coming up with the beauty standards on their own, however the media plays a huge role in influencing women on what is ‘beauty'. If a certain image is repeated enough through the advertising channels; the society would accept it as a norm and include it in their daily lives (Alice, 2010).
Advertisers are widely known for sexually objectifying women. An BMW advertisement sexually objectifies women and sexual relationships between men and women. It can be seen that the ultimate attraction on the poster is not the women but the BMW car. The women's face is covered with a magazine which has a brand new flashy car, the women is placed in a position in which degrades and demeans her. Despite the fact that the advertisement portrays a passionate couple, the woman is nothing but a tool that serves the needs of a man (Newsactivist.com, 2016). The catch phrase ‘the ultimate attraction indicates that that the car hold a much higher rank than a women in a men's life (CORTESE, 2008).
Women are constantly given unrealistic beauty standards to hold up to. If they fail to do so they are not fit to be a women as they would be ashamed and held guilty for not being able to satisfy a men's desire. It is an ideology that tells women that they will not be desirable or loved by men unless they a physically perfect (CORTESE, 2008).
Victoria Secret is known to be one of the most powerful brand that been existed worldwide since 1977. Its known for selling seductive and sexy lingerie's, sleepwear, fragrance and has ventured into many more sub brands. Despite being well known for its lingerie's, Victoria's Secret has also ventured into the fashion industry and has successfully dominated it (Scribd, n.d.).
Limited Brand is the parent company of Victoria's Secret. Limited Brand mission statement is to be committed to construct a family of world's best fashion by providing captivating customers experiences that builds a long term loyalty towards the brand and deliver sustainable growth for shareholders. Victoria's Secret practices the four most important principle that its parent company was founded on. These principles are that the customer rules, which is to out the customer first and fulfilling their desires. Passion, where putting hard work in all aspects is the only way to produce extraordinary results. Inclusion, taking in consideration everyone's thought and experiences to promote diversity and to create successful connection with the customers. And finally doing right which basically means to do the right as loyalty, integrity and responsibility is vital. It is believed that due to these values Victoria's Secret is striving well in the industry(CITE).
One of Victoria's Secret biggest strength is their successful advertising strategy. Advertising plays a crucial role for a business especially the ones that are into selling lifestyles and image. Every year Victoria's Secret spends at least $66 million each year in. Victoria's Secret uses different medium of advertising in order to persuade women into buying their product which will help them boost their confidence and enhance their appeal(Chi Chang, Lin and Mak, 2004).
Victoria's Secret lingerie emphasizes on sexiness over comfort. According to the President and the CEO of Victoria Secret, he stated that the brand offers the customers glamour, beauty, fashion and a little bit of romance and in exchange if the consumer compromises on comfort for style. With that being stated, it is clear that Victoria's Secret does not rely on comfort as a selling point for their products. It is typically the younger generation who are willing to sacrifice comfort over sexiness (Chang, Lin and Mak, 2004).
Despite having spent $66 million each year for advertising, the past 12 months has been a roller coaster ride for Victoria's Secret as its sales indicates a decline in interest. According to Statista, 2017 the audience rate for their fashion show had a sharp fall from 9.23 million in 2014 to 4.98 million in 2017. Victoria's Secret is also struggling to sell off their heavily discounted items. They are not only performing bad in their sales but their direct sales and comparable stores of Victoria's Secret is currently at nine percent below 2016 (Forbes, 2018).
The company did suffer from several scandal due to conflict caused by their creativity and dispute due to cultural belief. For example, Victoria Secret received quite an amount of back lash due to the of an Asian-inspired Lingerie set called , ‘Sexy Little Geisha', as part of their new collection labelled ‘Go East'. After gaining all the media attention, for the wrong reason Victoria's Secret pulled of the line from their website. The company was also labelled to be channelling racist stereotype to promote its lingerie's (Edwards, 2012).
The lingerie giant launched a marketing campaign for their new line called ‘Body' in which features the slogan “The Perfect Body”. The campaign also featured ten model which is considered to be Victoria Secret's Angels in lacy lingerie's with visible ribs, protruding collar bones and thigh gaps – a very typical model body guideline.
(Victoria Secret, 2014)
It can be observed from the poster that the campaign is indirectly highlighting gender stereotyping. Gender stereotyping is when a women is discriminated and treated differently due to stereotypical expectation from the society towards women (Ohchr.org, 2014). Victoria's Secret Angels helps to push this gender stereotyping even further because an angel is a man's ideal idea of the so called perfect women. It is indisputable that large conglomerates are often blatant to disregard on the vast differences on how their models are from the average body type in the country today (Kay, 2014). From a very early age women are taught on how to sexualize themselves in order to satisfy men's desire.
Such advertisements from Victoria's Secret creates unrealistic goals for women, teaching them that only way to be beautiful is to look as one of their models and demonstrates lack of concern to women which can lead to serious psychological disorders due to the skewed representation of women in media (Herold, 2015). Gender stereotyping is harmful when it limits an individual's capabilities due their gender (Ohchr.org, 2014). According the social comparison theory (Festinger 1954) has suggested that such advertisements causes the viewer to idealized portrayals as the image portrayed in the advertisement suggest of an image of an ideal women (Repository.up.ac.za, n.d.) which the viewers tend to compare themselves with those who are portrayed in the advertisements. Victoria's Secret consumers consist of a majority of young and middle aged women made of different body shapes, therefore the catchphrases such as ‘perfect fit, perfect comfort and perfectly soft', used in the advertisement caused an outrage among both the consumers and non-consumers.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 69% of girls voted that visual representation negatively influences them on the idea of a ‘perfect' body. In a survey that was conducted by People magazine 80% of women responded indicating that images of women that are commonly portrayed in media makes them feel insecure of their body. How media represents the ‘perfect' body has become a major issue in the current society. An organization is labelled as tyrant when they tend to not to care about the level of self – confidence they are instilling into the younger generation especially when Victoria's Secret continues using skinny models (Herold, 2015).
(Victoria Secret, 2014)
After receiving back lash for their advertisement, Victoria Secret decided to renamed their advertisement but decides to keep the original picture. The campaign slogan now reads as ‘ A body for everybody'. Although the alternation of the campaign slogan is heading at the right side, the models portrayed in the advertisement does not justify the slogan. As stated above, there is zero body diversity shown therefore the statement ‘a body for everybody' just does not fit the advertisement. Instead of just correcting an error, Victoria's Secret should have just taken down the advertisements.
Victoria's Secret marketing audience consist of young and middle -age women including significant others looking to please their ladies (Lutz, 2013). The line ‘body' focuses on attracting young women. Women tend to buy Victoria's Secret because they feel self – conscious and wants to be accepted by the society's perception of beauty. Most of Victoria's Secret advertisements attract their customers through sex appeal. The concept Ethos and Pathos can be implemented in this concept in which Pathos is used by Victoria' Secret by utilizing the sex- driven appeal to the audience. While using Ethos for their celebrity branding to attract consumers as Victoria's Secret is known to have highly influential and powerful women that are quite recognized among the today's generation such as Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum and Kendall Jenner who have walked the runway of the famous fashion show(Anon, 2018).
Another target audience that is aimed by Victoria's Secret is men. Although it might seem ridiculous, one of the main reason on why this business exist is because the founder Roy Raymond was trying to shop for lingerie for his wife and felt extremely uncomfortable shopping when he decided to open up Victoria's Secret specifically to make men comfortable when buying lingerie for their partners (Fabry, 2015)
When it comes to advertising as stated above, Victoria's Secret does not hesitate to indulge on it. As for 2017, $383 million was invested in advertising which helped Victoria's Secret grow by 17.8% (eMarketer Retail, 2018). The company has monopolized a whopping 35% of the lingerie market. One of the marketing strategies used by Victoria's Secret to attract customers are their annual fashion show. It is the most watched fashion show as 800 million viewers tune in to watch the $12 million estimated catwalk. According to the Victoria's Secret CMO, the brand's sale increases the day before and after the show with sales totalling tens of million (Amed, 2011). The show is strategically positioned to be held during the holiday seasons where everyone is looking for a gift. Next would be their supermodels, Victoria's Secret supermodels play an important role in their organization the models represents beauty and class. Victoria Secret models holds the top rank and being one of their models is a sign of prestige(Chang, Lin and Mak, 2004). The fashion show and models does not only attract female audience but also male audiences. The show invokes the theory of ‘male gaze' in which suggest a sexualised wat of looking that empowers mean and objectifies women. In the male gaze, a women is visually positioned as an ‘object' of the male desire, her feelings, thoughts and her own sexual desire are less important than her being ‘framed' by the male desire (Loreck, 2016). However, Victoria's Secret has constructed sexually driven advertisements that has become the most influential tool in convincing today's consumer as to what the norm of women's appearances should especially for financial gains.
Despite having multiple successful campaigns, the ‘perfect body' was a failure due to the fact that Victoria Secret was advocating the stereotypical ‘perfect body'. The advertisement holds some infectiveness due to the phrase ‘The Perfect Body' which is misleading to what an ideal women should look like. The three phrases perfect fit, perfect comfort and perfectly soft are hurtful and shameful in which could lead to personal dissatisfaction and low self -esteem.
According to study conducted by Warwick Business School, it has been found that women are most likely not to buy a product if it placed beside an attractive image but would buy the product if the image is subtle instead (Phys.org, 2013). Contrastingly other lingerie companies such as Aerie, has begun to embrace realistic image of young women to promote body positivity by implementing a campaign that the goal is to make girls believe not only models are sexy but instead promotes that ‘real her is sexy' by using a diverse group of models and refuses to use photoshop for their pictures. The campaign sends out a message promoting body positivity in which, women should not be embarrassed with their body and drastically change their appearance(Grogan, n.d.).
Aerie takes a upper hand and uses their advertisement wisely by portraying a realistic young women with flaws and uses it to fight against the typical stereotypes of a women's body while Victoria's Secret still promotes body stereotype and does not concern about women. The main difference between the advertisement of Victoria Secret and Aerie is that, Aerie promoted women who has diverse body while Victoria's Secret models are tall, thin and fits perfectly for the context of stereotyping(Herold, 2015).
Another brand that advocates body positivity is Dove as it revealed its campaign for Real Beauty in 2004 by featuring women who's physical appearance which were very much different than the usual ones. Dove was committed to inspire body positivity among women and to create a wider definition for beauty. Dove helped to break the stereotypes as the media always tend to portray unrealistic bodies that women will never be able to achieve which causes women to be disgusted with their own bodies(CORTESE, 2008).
When analysed together, both the campaign creates an interesting outcome. Inaccurate of portrayal of women in advertisement can cause severe damage to women especially by developing disorders such as depression and anxiety. Based on the Aerie Real campaign and Doves the real perfect body are sticking with women who believes that media has to change the way women has been portrayed as it has been causing a misconception on how a women should look like and wants more diverse women to be portrayed in media to change the typical standard of women portrayal. Victoria's Secret should also try doing the same by adapting new ways to promote their product rather than just using skinny and tall models and not addressing the issue of body stereotyping. Victoria's Secret should also try to scrap of the traditional portrayal of women just in order to increase their sales.
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