Over Thanksgiving break, I went shopping on Black Friday, though only for a couple of hours, in a smaller city. There was no rush, but there was lots of advertising, and lots of sales. I ended up at Ulta, the makeup store. I generally do not have heavy objections to their marketing, but as my cousin and I were in line at the checkout, an advertisement taller than I am had a photo of a woman with obviously accentuated cleavage, big eyelashes, and a mascara wand. What the viewers eyes are first drawn to is the woman’s chest, and then to the slogan: “They’re real, we promise!” referring to the big eyelashes, though the more sexual association is clear. Now, to a female viewer, to whom the company is presumably trying to sell the product, what does it matter whether the woman’s chest and eyelashes are conflated?
This got me thinking about who the audience for marketing strategies really is. Around the holidays, people are buying gifts for loved ones, and more men, usually, can be found in makeup stores buying gifts for the women in their lives. This marketing strategy of sexualization very clearly appeals to the men caught at the register, who may or may not know a single thing about makeup. If one mascara is the same as any other, why wouldn’t men buy the one that had clever advertising?
Similar to the way that advertising was placed in the context of Dickens’ stories in the advertisers that preceded them, advertisers today are also contextualizing their marketing, and though it may be frustrating to those who are critical of marketing, it’s a smart move on the part of the companies trying to sell. The ways in which Dickens revolutionized advertising seem to be alive and well today, not the least at the holidays!