Advertisements, Societal Values and consumerism

Advertisements, Societal Values and consumerism




Marketing or advertising has always been recognized as one of the most (if not the most) crucial pillars of any enterprise. Needless to say, time has proved it as an effective technique for increasing the sale of products and services, both old and new. In fact, the relevance, profitability and long-term sustainability of a business or its products is closely tied to advertisement and marketing. Its importance traverse the boundaries of business entity into the economy especially considering that it generates wealth for economies through taxes paid both on goods and adverts, as well as the trickle-down effects. Numerous jobs are created through production of goods and services, and marketing, resulting in a reduction in unemployment (Clarke et al, 1994). Needless to say, recent times have seen the incorporation of numerous changes in the arena of advertisements. This has all been done in an effort to enhance or improve their effectiveness in a rapidly changing world (Kilbourne, 1999). The changes have mainly been with regard to the quality of images used in adverts, as well as the message that they have to convey or send to their target audience (Clarke et al, 1994). On the same note, images and adverts carry certain messages pertaining to the moral values of the society within which they are produced (Kilbourne, 1999). Adverts and images are closely linked to consumerism, depicting a society where morality takes the backseat in favor of personal happiness and freedom.

Image 1

The image represents a cover page for an American magazine known as Harper’s Bazaar. The target audience for the image and the magazine at large are women, as the magazine describes itself as the fashion store for women who pioneer in buying the best, from couture to casual. Given that the magazine serves to advertise fashion designs and products targeting women, it goes without saying that the image is primarily aimed at attracting them into looking at the products advertised in the magazine and possibly influencing them to make a purchase, not only of the magazine but also of the products outlined in there. After all, that is the key importance of images as they speak a thousand words in a glance. The image is composed of five women in dark clothing against a red background. These women seem to be of different ethnic backgrounds as evidenced by the variations in their skin color, hairs, as well as physical features. However, the common denominator for their clothing is that they incorporate an element of elegance, sophistication and provocative designs. The attire of these women is evidently suited for different settings, including office, outings, clubbing or other functions. The elegance of their clothing is complemented by their high-heeled shoes, with some of them donning some bangles and necklaces. The foreground of the image incorporates the phrase “Bazaar presents…The Ultimate Supergroup” in bold letters.

On the face of it, the image underlines consumerism. This is an economic and social order that promotes the purchase of services and goods in ever-greater amounts. It is a theory that is built on the notion that a heightened consumption of goods is an economically desirable venture. In essence, the image is undoubtedly aimed at encouraging an increase in purchasing of the products outlined in the magazine. These are consumer goods such as perfumes, clothing and shoes advertised in the magazine. The impression that is created in the images is that with the purchase of the consumer products (clothing, shoes and jewelry) such as the ones that the models in the image have would be an express ticket to a happier life (Kilbourne, 1999). The advert promotes the notion that these consumer goods would make the consumer look “cool. It is worth noting that the portraits of the women in the middle ground resemble the person that the consumers would “apparently” become once they purchase the items outlined in this fashion resource. While this may not be expressly stated in the image, it is exactly the thought that the crafters of the image want to trigger in the mind of the consumer as that would be a considerably effective technique of getting them to make the purchase. On the same note, the propagates the notion that satisfaction, happiness and sex appeal are not only impending but can also be obtained through making the next purchase (Murphy et al, 2005). The notion presented in the image is that of happy and contented women, with perfect bodies belonging to “The Ultimate Supergroup”. This pushes the message that as much as an individual may be having everything that she wants, she will always be lacking something that can be obtained through the next purchase (Murphy et al, 2005). The bold phrase complements the portrait in creating the impression that happiness, satisfaction and sex appeal are within the consumers’ reach with regard to making the purchase. Needless to say, the clothing that the women have is quite skimpy in spite of its being sophisticated, elegant and fashionable. It exposes the legs including the thighs of the women, as well as cleavage, all in an effort to underline sex appeal. The women seem extremely contented despite the skimpy dressing. It goes without saying that as much as fashion and personal attire are a matter of personal choice, morality demands that some parts of the body remain private. However, the image creates the impression that morality and conservative societal values should take the back seat, with an individual pursuing happiness and freedom incorporated in such skimpy dressing and attire (Murphy et al, 2005).

While this image may be specifically meant for that issue of Harpers Bazaar Magazine, it is not an isolated case as far as its features are concerned. Harpers Bazaar is primarily a fashion magazine specializing on attire that looks, elegant, sophisticated and fashionable. While this does not always underline skimpy dressing, images of women of all races in skimpy dressing dominate the magazine, whether in print or in the website. In essence, their images promote a carefree attitude, where personal happiness and carefree attitude supersede morality and conservative values pertaining to dressing.

Image 2

The image incorporates the image of a lady in what may be termed as briefs. She is lying on elegant sheets wearing knee-high socks and a camisole alongside a panty with nothing else. She is blowing away at an inflated bubble gum, lying on the bed in a carefree manner in her skimpy dressing. Her white camisole seems to blend beautifully with the sheets leaving the audience to have a view of the blue knee-high socks that have white stripes and the tap panty. At the right-hand corner, there are descriptions of the apparel that the woman is wearing. The main or target audience for this advert is women, which is why the advert lays emphasis on the camisole, panties and knee-high socks.

The hidden meaning of the attire comes out clearly when the clothing and posture of the items incorporated are considered as a whole rather than in isolation. The woman is wearing skimpy clothing but does not seem to care much about the outside world or the audience. In fact, she goes ahead to blow at the inflated bubblegum. These attires seem to emphasize on the sex appeal, satisfaction, happiness and freedom that comes with the attire of the woman. As much as this is not expressly stated, the image of the woman oozes confidence and carefree attitudes, as well as satisfaction. Scholars note that advertisers would never make express statements that seem to force the consumer to make the purchase, rather they will carefully craft their advertisement images in order to trigger that thought in the target audience (Murphy et al, 2005). This creates the impression that women would be sure to attain satisfaction once they have purchased the items outlined. On the same note, the woman despite her non-conservative (skimpy) mode of dressing seems contented and happy. This underlines the contemporary society’s notion that personal happiness reigns supreme in relation to what is considered morally right.

As much as the woman in the advert may be skimpily dressed, the company is not solely known for making such adverts. In fact, quite a large number of the adverts in its website have individuals (both men and women) in full clothing as the situation demands. However, this does not negate the fact that the website still incorporates images of seemingly happy women with skimpy clothing, sometimes with their upper or lower bodies entirely naked, in a carefree manner.

These two images are similar in varied ways. First, both of them use skimpily dressed women in an effort to push their sales up. The skimpily dressed women are considerably slim in both cases, with perfect looking bodies, all seemingly contented and happy with themselves. While there may be variations in the elegance that both come with, it is evident that the adverts are aimed at underlining the satisfaction and contentment that comes with such apparel. Both, therefore, seem to promote or propagate happiness irrespective of whether the clothing or apparel goes against conventional moral norms.

However, the two images use different strategies of underlining carefree attitude, contentment and satisfaction. For the first image, the advert uses the smiling faces and the standing postures of the women, while the second one uses the lying posture of the woman and her act of blowing into the inflated bubblegum. These create the impression that the women are contented with themselves, with the consumer being expected to connect the dots to the purchase of the advertised items.

In conclusion, advertisement has been one of the key pillars of many entities. It is known to be a fundamental determinant of the long-term sustainability and profitability of business entities. However, it has undergone tremendous changes in an effort to remain effective in the highly dynamic world. In essence, advertisers have become creative in their presentation of images in adverts. Most adverts encourage consumerism, while negating conservative moral values and promoting personal happiness and satisfaction. This is what the two images do through the incorporation of skimpily dressed women, something that would be frowned upon in the conservative society. These aim at outlining the satisfaction that comes with the next purchase of the items outlined.


Kilbourne, J (1999). Deadly Persuasion: Why Everyone Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. New York: Free Press

Murphy, P E., Gene R. L., Norman E. B., & Klein, T.A (2005). Ethical Marketing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Clark, E. M., Timothy C. B., &David,W. S (1994). Attention, Attitude, and Effect in Response to Advertising. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Eribaum Associates

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