Column: A PHD in insensitivity
October 16, 2013 | Chris Powell | Comments
While it’s not a revelation that advertising plays on our vulnerabilities and insecurities, a recent study from global media network PHD underscores just how much those fears can be used to inform advertising decisions.
This so-called “beauty study” from PHD in the U.S. surveyed 648 women to ask when they felt most vulnerable about their appearance and attractiveness, then used the information to create what it cynically referred to as the “ugly day” index.
This, by the way, from the agency that did so much through its work on Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty ”to create dialogue about the unrealistic expectations foisted on women.
Anyway, this new survey apparently found that nearly half (46%) of women feel least attractive on Monday, with Sunday close behind at 36%. So what better time to hit them up with images of impossibly glamorous women in order to reinforce those negative feelings and sell them more beauty products?
Kim Bates, who heads brand planning for PHD in the U.S., said the study demonstrates an opportunity for advertisers to “heavy up” and wrap marketing and media activity around those key occasions.
“Concentrate media during prime vulnerability moments, aligning with content involving tips and tricks, instant beauty rescues, dressing for the success, getting organized for the week and empowering stories,” said the release.
There is so, so, SO much to hate in the tone-deaf press release promoting the study, like the line that says: “While the study was designed to provide insights to marketers, the results may be valuable on an interpersonal level as well – especially for anyone who may need to speak to a woman on a Monday morning.” Surprisingly, it doesn’t mention that time of the month.
In a column explaining the study that appeared on AdWeek.com, Bates acknowledged that the use of the words “vulnerable” and “marketing” in the same sentence was an “open invitation” to misinterpretation, but said the study does not advocate exploiting women’s vulnerability about their looks.
Sadly, the release goes on to say that women’s positive feelings about their appearance seem strongest in a “relatively short window” between noon and 3 p.m. Phew, thank goodness it doesn’t come during prime time, right?