Posts tagged advertising
Posts tagged advertising
If you don’t know much about the history of the pink ribbon, or the massive cause marketing facets it has, then you need to watch this film.
The fight against breast cancer has been depoliticised. Pushes from pharma companies to produce a “cure”, combined with corporate links with fundraising campaigns, have fundamentally shifted the debate and public awareness of the disease.
History of the ribbon: corporate appropriation
The Guardian covered this in their recent article Cancer’s not pink:
The pink ribbon was originally orange. Conceived in 1990 by Charlotte Haley, a 68-year-old American, it was a grassroots protest against the fact that only 5% of the US National Cancer Institute’s budget was going towards cancer prevention.
When Estée Lauder asked to use the logo for a breast-cancer awareness campaign, Haley wanted nothing to do with it, saying she had no wish for them to use the ribbon as she felt it was too commercial. So the company changed the colour to pink, because research identified it as the most non-threatening, soothing colour – everything a cancer diagnosis isn’t.
Estee Lauder threatened Charlotte with their vast squad of lawyers, and then just evaded the legalities by slightly changing the colour.
From the start, a symbol tainted by corporate appropriation.
Cause marketing: framing it nice
Charities like Susan G Komen for the Cure (recently famous for their decision to not back Planned Parenthood) are largely responsible for the links between breast cancer fundraising and corporate cause marketing i.e. ‘buy this and part of the profits go to a good cause’.
The bottom line is that these companies only enter these partnerships because they are lucrative.
To be an effective sales tool, breast cancer needs to be portrayed as beatable. Positivity and reassurance mean that the more you buy, the more you’re helping is the dominant philosophy.
An off-shoot problem is that the focus on positivity is that it:
- creates a frame of ‘the more I fight the more likely I am to succeed’, which promotes victim-blaming when it fails e.g. “oh you should have eaten more green veg”;
- implies all breast cancer is always treatable and beatable;
- softens something ugly and difficult, and invalidates the very valid feelings of anger people have.
This sanitising from corporate links took the teeth out of the growing movement pushing for prevention rather than a “cure”, and shifted focus from preventative options.
“It’s not a conspiracy, it’s business as usual”
Popular focus on the disease being beatable on one level encourages the quick fix self-help ideas you hear in the papers: “eat more fruit and veg”, “do more exercise”, etc.
What most people don’t know is that only 20-30% of breast cancer is caused by known risk factors. However, publicising this would undermining the public perception of the disease being manageable, and thus undermine the potential profits from cause marketing.
This focus on a cure encourages an atmosphere of medicalisation, even when that’s not necessarily beneficial for patients. 85% of funding goes towards cures in the form of pills that may only increase life expectancy by a small amount. Only 15% goes towards prevention of the disease - a far less lucrative market.
Of the money going to prevention, only a third is going towards investigating environmental causes for breast cancer. Another problem with corporate links: cause-marketing companies are ‘helping the cause’ whilst profiting from products that cause breast cancer.
A few quick examples: the estrogenic plastics used in Ford’s manufacturing; the rBGH growth hormone in dairy products (Yoplait); the fact that only 20% of ingredients in cosmetics have had any safety checks (Estee Lauder, Revlon). All these companies engage in breast cancer cause marketing.
The sad fact is that this is an inherent problem with corporate engagement in fundraising.
Not even touched on the fact that most research studies focus on white middle class women because those are the ones with buying power for cause-marketing products, or the globalisation of pinkwashing (using the social licence from breast cancer campaigning to operate in places like the middle east by the US after Iraq war).
Pink Ribbons Inc. by Dr Susan Love is the book the film is based on
Welcome to Cancerland, an article by Barbara Ehrenreich
Breast Cancer Action do some great work in the US e.g. the Think Before You Pink campaign
big shout-out to Human Rights Watch for screening the film!
This is a good and important subject.
I’m not a big fan of the commercialization of breast cancer research.
I do want to point out one thing though. Breast Cancer went from being one of the most devastating forms of cancer to one of the most curable largely because of the fundraising and publicity brought to this particular form of cancer. Here’s a quick look at the improved survival rates
For local disease, the number of women alive at 10 years rose from 55.0% in the first decade of the study period when radiation therapy was the mainstay of treatment to 86.1% by 1995-2004 (P<0.0001 for trend).
For regional disease with skin or lymph node involvement, 10-year survival improved from a dismal 16.2% to 74.1% over the same period (P<0.0001 for trend).
Even for those who presented with cancer disseminated to distant sites, improvements were seen from 3.3% alive at 10 years among those seen in 1944 to 1954 up to 22.2% by 1995-2004, again a significant trend at P<0.0001.
Other kinds of cancer, such as Ovarian cancer, have not improved so significantly. There hasn’t been a new drug for Ovarian in something like 15 years.
All the fundraising and activism does have an effect, a serious one. So I’m a little uncomfortable with some of the things quoted above about too much funding going to “cures in the form of pills”. People, those pills are the reason that breast cancer is a survivable disease. Pills like Tamoxifen and Herceptin allow people with the worst forms of breast cancer who might have been given 3-4 months to live to go on living their life for many more months, years, even a decade after that. To the person who now gets to see their 40th birthday or watch their kid graduate high school, that’s a big fucking deal. Actually complaining about that smacks of anti-medical paranoia that I’m really wary of right now.
Here’s the real problem: the whole reason we need fundraising and activism is that the government does not provide enough funding for medical research. If we had the funding structure to do the research that’s really needed for ALL forms of cancer, we wouldn’t need individual funding efforts like Susan Komen with all of the attendant problems that leaving research to corporations and semi-shady foundations brings.
Other than that I fully agree with the critiques about cause marketing and linking products to breast cancer fundraising.
I NEED TO SEE THIS
Worth a watch.
It is about women in the media and politics.
- Women love to clean; they love it so much, they wear nice clothes when scrubbing the toilet and they dance with their mops.
- Only women know how to clean or use cleaning products.
- The moment a man says his wedding vows, he becomes an infantilized moron with no judgment skills and incapable of the most basic decision making. Fortunately, their wives are also their mothers.
- Eating fast food bacon chili cheeseburgers not only doesn’t make you fat, it makes you sexy and masculine.
- Eating chocolate gives women orgasms.
- If no chocolate is available, yogurt is an acceptable substitute.
- Everyone lives in houses.
- People give each other cars with oversized bows for Christmas.
- Relationships exist only between men and women, and people of the same race.
- Opening a bottle of beer ensures that a host of attractive people will start dancing in your proximity.
- Girls do not play with trucks, cars, or construction equipment.
- I want smoother, younger-looking skin.
- It’s acceptable dinner conversation to discuss the fact that one’s appetizer and two entrees only cost $20.
- Blue liquid comes out of vaginas.
- Blue liquid also comes out of babies.
- Most driving consists of country roads or Highway 1 in Big Sur.
- Birth control pills are used for clearing your skin or regulating periods, not for actual prevention of pregnancy.
- Cooks at chain restaurants wear toques and lovingly prepare your food on butcher-block tables.
- When a man shaves, he only has .1% body fat.
The translation of the text is “Oppressed women are easily overlooked. Please support us in the fight for their rights.”
As Dusenbery writes,
It seems the folks who created this ad not only have a hard time seeing agency but actually went out of their way to erase it as thoroughly as possible and then stomp on it some more. And then equated women who wear the burqa with bags of trash. Literally.
I completely agree, and would like to add some broader context. This is not at all surprising, given the recent of attempts in the West to obscure the agency of Muslim women in juxtaposition to their white, Western saviors. One of the more blatant examples of this was the discourse of the United States government that it was going to war in Afghanistan in part to save Afghan women from the Taliban. Laura Shepherd argued in an excellent 2006 article in The International Feminist Journal of Politics (which I’vecitedbefore) that the US discursively constructed Afghan women as the “Helpless Victim” that was submissive and lacking agency, under the oppressive control of the “Irrational Barbarian.” This discourse, was used, of course, to posit the United States (specifically, its military) as the saviors who could rectify the situation for these women. Much as the agency of the women in the German PSA was erased, this narrative denied the agency of Afghan women, who, as Shepherd writes, are afforded “only pity and a certain voyeuristic attraction” (p. 20).
Of course, this specific discourse hasn’t ended. As this TIME Magazine cover from last year shows, it continues to serve as a means of justifying the US occupation of Afghanistan.(Cover to the August 9, 2010 edition of TIME)
This discourse assumes, obviously, that the US presence in Afghanistan is a clear benefit for women in the country, a position at least some women’s organizations in Afghanistan contest. Samhita Mukhopadhyay at Feministing had an excellent post on this issue last summer.
I should also mention France’s recently-instituted ban on the full-faced veil, which Dusenbery argues – citing Jos Truitt – is a similar erasure of agency. I agree with her, and again would add that this fits in with this general (Orientalist) discourse about Muslim women, their uncivilized oppressors, and their White saviors.
Mother’s Day: it’s not a day for moms to be celebrated, it’s a day for moms to get their shit together and clean the bathrooms with their female children.
I sincerely hope that this is a photoshopped ad. I fear it is not.
Thanks Mr Clean for that lovely social commentary. I love to clean on days that are meant to celebrate me, too! Like on my birthday, omg, GREAT day to clean the entire house! My favorite!
Seriously, where’s the ad that says “This Father’s day, get back to the job that really matters!” with a picture of a Dad doing household chores? Does it not exist? Really? NEVER WOULDA GUESSED.
I can’t even write anymore since this should speak for itself as to how fucked up it is.
Not gonna lie, I love Pixar generally speaking, I even applied for an internship with them this summer (fingers all kinds of crossed) but I don’t know what they’re really doing lately. Their next release is Cars 2 which, tbh, I’m not super excited about. Cars wasn’t my favorite and I’d much prefer a sequel to, well, probably any other of the Pixar films. And the fact is that it’s a movie that’s clear cut target audience is boys. Of course of course there will be girls interested and there will be boys uninterested, but if you watch the trailer, it’s pretty obvious they’re going for the action-adventure and automobiles thing, which is, in the advertising world, all for the boys.
And really, I might not have ever noticed this had it not been for Disney’s Tangled advertising debacle. John Lasseter, the founder of Pixar, was made head of Diney’s animation department not all that long ago. It’s only been within the past 4/5 or so years and in animated movie terms, that’s not that long seeing as these things take YEARS to make. And since Pixar’s former president and founder is head of Disney animation who is affiliated with Pixar, it’s safe to say that he’s pretty much a huge influence over both companies. So my point with that is the fact that Tangled is Disney and Cars 2 is Pixar is at the moment irrelevant. Their overall advertising and current policies are pretty much in tandem.
As you may or may not know, Tangled’s title (it was originally just Rapunzel) and advertising campaign was reworked fairly late in the game. The reason? Alienated any male audience, too princess movie. Whatever, I’m not an advertiser, I wasn’t there during the process, maybe it was only aimed to girls. Which I would call a problem cause you want EVERYONE to see your movie. More people watch it, more money, hallo capitalism that’s how it works. My solution? Aim the advertising to a general audience and don’t aim to a specified gender. Their answer? Take the focus off Rapunzel/the princess and aim on Flynn Ryder. And then the next release from the Disney/Pixar giant family is Cars 2, aimed at boys.
….Sooooo your solution to your problem of alienating one gender is to alienate the other? Anyone else see a problem here? And yet, the majority of the merchandising I’ve seen for Tangled is aimed at girls (Barbie dolls, dress up costumes, tea party sets, you name it). So you can’t tell me that you wanted to aim it to boys because you wanted to sell them merchandise. Cause you’re not making any for them.
Pixar also at one point had a movie titled Brave slotted for release voiced by Reese Witherspoon about a princess who’d rather be an archer but I haven’t seen news about it in a while though it hasn’t been officially dropped. And to add insult to injury, Disney just “closed the book on fairytales/princess movies” and dropped some of their planned releases (Jack and the Beanstalk, The Snow Queen). They claim it’s cause they’re just not original enough any more and they want to work on more innovative ideas. How much you want to bet that it’s probably because they’re too “girly?”
Although I did enjoy this post and wholeheartedly agree with it, I think there’s a very important point missing here: why should a princess movie alienate boys?
As children, I don’t think any female/perceived female was alienated by The Lion King, even though it was about a prince and then king. I don’t think any female/perceived female was alienated by Aladdin. Neither were we by Tarzan, or Toy Story, or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, or any movie starred by a man, usually a man who would become the prince, or have a prince-like role. So why should boys be alienated by princess movies?
Why can’t we encourage boys to watch these movies and have fun? We don’t say these movies are alienating simply because there’s a lot of heterosexism and cissexism in them; otherwise we would not say they’re girls’ movies either. We don’t tell anyone that they’re wrong assuming that boys can’t like these movies because, I think, the general perception of a male is someone who can’t care for love, can’t enjoy romance, and will never accept pink.
And I think we all know this perception is false and nothing more than a gender role and stereotype. If we can’t accept the fact that Disney buried their princess movies, we shouldn’t say that we’re mad because girls won’t have movies for them. We should be sad because this is a cissexist action. Because presuming a boy can’t like pink - because teaching him so - is gender policing.
Also, is it just me or most boys’ stuff are considered gender-neutral, and most girls’ stuff are considered, well, girls’ stuff?
Liz posted the original post, but I just started reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orienstein that actually talks a lot about the princess culture. So I just termed the phrase “princess culture” but it does describe how girlhood is seen in the US. Princesses are marketed towards girls and are seen as girl things. Advertisers, especially Disney, only market the princesses towards girls because girls are supposed to want to be princesses. The princesses are aimed towards girls unlike “boy” things like science, math, dinosaurs, etc. When companies make “girl” versions of boy toys they are -surprise- pink. While we understand boys and girls can like “boy” or “girl” things, which is sexist and cissexist, advertisers don’t give a damn. They market things towards girls and boys. Gender queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, etc. kids (or adults) are not even thought of in advertising. People were outraged by the fact the J. Crew creative director painted her sons toe nails pink. We live in a world were anything deemed “masculine” or “manly” is deemed as good and anything “feminine” or “womanly” is bad. Feminist are trying to get rid of that sexist, heterosexist, and cissexist mindset but it’s going to take awhile because it’s ingrained in our culture.
I actually am going to write a review up of the book when I finish it and write up some post on advertising towards children.