Advertisement & the Consumer: Who’s Shaping Who?

Something has been bugging me for a while. I think it started with those American Apparel ads of barely clad women who looked less like someone I could relate to and more like someone I should evade or offer aid to. The ad woman typically wore very little, and was sprawled in some unnatural fashion showing a vulnerability I would expect in a woman who had been attacked or threatened (below is an example, but not as dark as the ads I saw before. Googlers beware that a search of American Apparel ads could result in images often deemed as pornographic). I think I never stepped into an American Apparel store after seeing those ads in the streets. Aside from the ads, I feel like most of those clothes (or of most popular brands for that matter) would not fit my personality or my body.

It looks like she fell on a table. Someone help the poor girl.
It looks like she fell on a table. Someone help the poor girl.

Roku’s insulting ad that inspires nothing of worth in the public.

I don’t mean the title to mean “shape” as in the “shaping” and molding of a body, but the bending and twisting of a mind. I was deeply moved by Jean Kilbourne’s documentary “Killing Us Softly 4” (If you haven’t seen it please make your way to this link: and check out the trailer as well as other educational resources regarding the topic). I have believed for quite some time now that advertisement is failing the public. It is demeaning, insulting, and worst of all the representation of a culture and an essential teaching tool. Some statistics revealed in the documentary are quite eye-opening so I would recommend watching it before bearing the full force of my argument.

There needs to be a re-purposing of the use of marketing and advertisement to promote the advancement of expectations of the society we live in. Aside from the very relevant and important points made in “Killing Us Softly 4” about the subjugation of femininity, the representation of the male “ideal” and the consumerist drive, I have witnessed active attempts by the media to lower our standards of thinking, innovation, and personal potential.

If ads that are directed to the general public are simple, uninspiring, sexual, and uncreative, we, the consumers, are given a low standard to meet. We don’t need an education, formal or informal, to understand the media. Instead the requirement presented is having a television, wasting time watching trash, and having a sexual drive.

Ads need to, at the very least, incorporate higher vocabulary, be relevant to the topic they are presenting, and not be solely for shock value (i.e. the superbowl ad that posed a woman perceived as an ideal of beauty and a man who is perceived as a lesser species partaking in sloppy yet sexualized kissing). We complain that media is turning the public into what it is, but instead of re-purposing the medium for a higher calling of instilling values, education and innovative thought in the public, we merely use it to sell; sell sex, sell toys, and sell ideas (not all good ones). And by “we” I don’t mean just anyone, I mean everyone who has a voice, who can write, talk, or show displeasure at what is happening. Advertisement will change, if they realize that they can’t package our identities and sell them back to us at a markup. A very costly markup.

What do you think?

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