The view from the mirror.
We are very conscious now of the prevalence of advertising in our lives and we think we are not affected by it. But we are. That’s why the advertising industry is so huge. It is an industry based on the dissatisfaction with ourselves which it sells back to us so we go and buy more product. And we do, all of us. We all subscribe to parts of the consumerist promise of perfection even whilst we know it doesn’t exist and never will. That’s why advertising moguls love the human race. We live with conflicting ideas all the time, because we have an inbuilt drive to hope for better. In advertising terms that can only be good. We hate ourselves at the same time that we idealise a version of ourselves that could be. I remember being teenage and the massive disconnect between my face and the version of what ‘pretty’ meant. I was miserable in my narcissistic attempt to rub the image in the mirror away and repaint a flawless, gorgeous me. All that time spent in unhappiness! And I know I can’t have been the only girl to feel like that then, and I can imagine the feeelings are no better now, even though we understand that all the images are airburushed to perfection. Now I like my face better than I have ever liked it, though I paint it less and consider it rarely. So we have another paradox of being human. The ability of advertising to lure us in and to create a possibility we may not have imagined for ourselves, promising satisfaction and fulfilment but delivering none. Advertising creates desire for a product that doesn’t exist. We believe in miracles because we are programmed to delude ourselves into thinking the image projected is going to materialise. It isn’t so far away from religion. We want illusion because humankind can only bear so much reality. I don’t remember who first said that, but whoever did wrote the first advertising manifesto.
Despite my cynicism about the industry and its effects on us all, there’s no doubt about it, advertising entertains. It makes lots of money and so it can spend lots of money and employ great copywriters and artists to produce good looking adverts. So there is some recompense when you’re crying into the wind because deep down you have seen the chasm between the dream and the reality. On a lighter note, I was trawling the archives for some material, and found what I was looking for. These cosmetics ads are from the 1920’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. I loved the illustration work in the earlier sets, and its interesting to see how the imagery changes throughout the decades, reflecting a change in womens lifestyles, and aspirations. I’m glad I got over the size of my nose and grew out of hormonal spots, but nothing could ever entice me to go to the cosmetic surgeon . I am growing old with my lines and however many chins decide to join my exquisite profile. The truth is as told in the adage, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. And I am beheld!
Thanks go to John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Last laugh goes to the brilliant duo Mitchell and Webb, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5E8_FobuOE&feature=player_embedded