"Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need." – Will Rogers

The Evolution of Beauty Commercials: Once Upon a Time…

Posted: December 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: advertising, feminism, media, television, TV commercials | 5 Comments »

Media messages directed at women and advertisements for beauty products have changed significantly in the past 20 years.

In the early 1990s many TV commercials for beauty products portrayed assertive businesswomen:

1990 Italian commercial for L’Oreal Elseve Shampoo, starring Cindy Crawford

1990 L’Oreal Plenitude Anti-Wrinkle Cream:

And these days, nearly 20 years later, we can notice a shift in the subtext of ad messages. The focus is solely on seduction and leisure time:

Italian commercial for L’Oreal Elseve Shampoo, starring Laetitia Casta

Side note – in case you do not speak Italian, I must point out that the language used in this ad is deliciously ridiculous:

“Il primo balsamo alla proteina di perla” = “The first ever conditioner with pearl proteins” ??????

“Trasforma i capelli lunghi in luce scintillante” = “Transforms long hair into sparkling light” ??????

“Lucentezza a specchio” = “Mirror shine” ???????

“Tocco cashmere” = “Cashmere touch”

And a commercial for L’Oreal Plenitude, from the 2000s starring Virginie Ledoyen… at the beach:

Bring back the strong businesswomen!

5 Comments on “The Evolution of Beauty Commercials: Once Upon a Time…”

  1. #1 Tweets that mention The Illusionists » Blog Archive » The Evolution of Beauty Commercials: Once Upon a Time… -- Topsy.com said at 6:26 pm on December 3rd, 2009:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Illusionists, NoCountry4YoungWomen. NoCountry4YoungWomen said: The Evolution of Beauty Commercials: Once Upon a Time… there were strong businesswomen http://ow.ly/I896 #feminism (via @illusionists) [...]

  2. #2 Cynthia at PsyShrink said at 12:22 pm on December 4th, 2009:

    I believe these messages are reflection of burnout, particularly for women in their 30s and 40s who were exposed to the ‘business/career woman’ ads. While I prefer the business woman ads, they impose the message that to be successful, to have men listen to you and respect you, you must be and remain ‘beautiful’. There are many women who felt/feel overwhelmed by the ‘superwoman’ ideal (i.e., be a the awesome career woman, maintain your beauty, and take care of a family), and thus, ads emphasising seduction/luxury might be quite appealing (regardless of how utterly backwards and dis-empowering).

    They also might be a reflection of masculine angst and the desire to maintain gender roles. If beauty can be linked to seduction/luxury creating desire for women to take up these practices, rather than go for the high profile careers, then who benefits? Women then are returned to the position of being maintained/contained as dependent, subservient, and powerless.

  3. #3 Betsy Stone Mazzoleni said at 3:05 am on December 23rd, 2009:

    I completely agree with the above blog post. The “businesswoman” ads of the past focus on the woman being the object of the gaze of others (and hyper-aware and quite admiring of herself). They feel false to us today as many women work and women, I believe, do not feel especially adored or glamorous or powerful in a suit these days. They feel tired and common!

    BUT (ahhhh) to be a woman who doesn’t HAVE to work, who is idle and who finds pleasure running her hands through shiny, soft hair . . . that’s a message hitting “home” now. We want to be beautiful in our personal lives. We want to have personal lives!

    I look forward to future posts.

  4. #4 elena said at 11:18 am on January 8th, 2010:

    Hi Betsy,

    Thank you for your comment! And great to find you here :)

    Hope all is well,

    take care,


  5. #5 Alisa said at 8:16 am on January 11th, 2010:

    Glad to have found your site!! Advertising is especially disturbing now that I have children. I have to tell them how ridiculous many ads are, and that they do not depict real women.

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