When women of 5 ‘8 tall, slender but curvaceous, fair toned with a nice hair and bright smile dominated the television and commercials for beauty products, fashion, automobiles and electronic items for a long time, they formed a linear beauty standard for all women of all shapes. However, this advertising and marketing perception extends beyond body image to gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender violence. The result of this is the wide number of consumers battling identity issues and conforming to gender roles. From body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and dysmorphia to depression and cosmetic surgeries. The list is endless.
As early as 1914, the earliest feminists demanded rights, including the ‘right to ignore fashion and the ‘right not to have to wear makeup. (Bordo, 1993) This happened to be the first time women would be defying beauty standards. However, not much was achieved.
In 2022, Advertising Practitioners Council Of Nigeria (APCON), now Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON), directed Globacom Limited to stop the exposure of the “Glo link your NIN’’ commercial which featured Actress Osas Ighodaro as a model due to complaints for the exposure of her cleavage.
Marketing and Advertising have a significant influence on society, influencing how people see themselves and their surroundings. The topic of women’s self-esteem is one where this influence is particularly monumental. Marketers and Advertisers have been using pictures and adverts of romanticised, perfect women for years to promote their goods, creating unattainable beauty standards and stereotypical societal views that can make many women feel unattractive and anxious about their looks and how they are portrayed in public.
In 2016, a study in the journal of marketing research, investigated the impact of exposure to advertisements featuring physically attractive models on women’s self-esteem and body image. Results showed that exposure led to decreased body satisfaction and decreased self-esteem among women, particularly those who were already dissatisfied with their appearance. The researchers suggested that exposure to idealised images of women in advertising can create unrealistic standards of beauty that women feel pressure to conform to, leading to negative self-evaluations.
However, Marketing and Advertising agents still frequently use airbrushed, photoshopped, or other types of manipulation to offer idealised pictures of women that are unreachable for most women. As a result, pushing the narrative of the “thin-ideal” woman. Although the number of women working in the industry fell 24% between 2021 and 2022, women were cast 46% more often in domestic roles and 3.6% more often in family settings with a 21% decline in 2022 in the representation of women in professional settings. More on the gender report in advertising
While women attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal of beauty, these standards may also contribute to the development of stereotypical views and other mental health issues. By promoting an idealised and unrealistic body type through advertising that portray models with a noticeably smaller physique, flawless complexion, and a “perfect” body shape, marketing can have an adverse effect on women’s self-esteem. Women who are exposed to these pictures and ads on a regular basis may come to believe that their own bodies and personalities are inadequate or unacceptable.
The damage that advertising does to women’s self-esteem can be mitigated, though. Nevertheless, in 2019 a new law that prevents influencers and celebrities from publishing altered images of themselves on social media without declaring that they did so was adopted in Norway or campaigns as notable as Dove’s real beauty campaign in 2004.
Another approach is to advocate for more accurate and diverse representations of women in advertising. This entails including women of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities as well as portraying them in a greater variety of jobs and pursuits. This can aid in demolishing the constrictive idea of beauty that is frequently promoted in advertising and give women a more realistic and encouraging view of themselves.
It is important to pay attention to and take action in response to the negative effects that marketing and advertising have on women’s self-esteem. There are methods that may be taken to lessen these impacts and support a more positive and realistic picture of women in advertising, even if it may be challenging to totally eradicate the detrimental effects of advertising on women’s self-esteem. We can assist women in feeling more capable, powerful, and self-assured in all facets of their life by doing this.