2004-05-20 21:21:52 UTC
appears about twice a month either comments on specific ads or
advertising trends and conventions. One convention I was always
curious about was the use of girls and boys in advetisments aimed at
adults especially ones which aim to raise adult anxities about the
world or their financial situation. What is interesting about these
type of ads is that they rarely use boys as far as I can tell (I have
seen one that mentions the child is a boy.) Some examples from the
financial planning sector:
Ad 1: In a bright, suburban kitchen the viewer sees three young girls
meauring each other's heights and being very cute about it. The oldest
girl could not be older than 6 or 7. The camera zooms into the height
line and two computer generated marks appear. A narrator in a solemn
voice asks "Do you want to have college paid for here or here?
Financial Company X can help." Company logo flashes on the screen.
Ads 2-4: Come from a different financial company (sorry I can't
remember the companies names) They all feature a very proud and active
person who turns out to be the "financial planner" and not the parent.
The situations are a middle aged man giving a teary eyed speech in
honor of the bride at a wedding, a man in a hospital looking at a
newborn girl and claiming the world for her, and the rarest one
features a woman being overly involved in a little league soccer
Everything in advertising is carefully scripted out and planned. The
advertisersing agencies decided to use girls in these spots because
they felt the ads would create more buisness for their clients than
using boys. Quite possibly the advetisers felt that ads would be
completely unsuccessful if they used boys! The question is why do
advertisers feel that girls are more likely to generate more buisness
than boys? My theory is that on both sides of the political spectrum
people still have a lot of traditional gender conceptions about
raising boys and girls and what they should go through growing up.
(Warning: This is a favorite hobby horse of mine and going to be
Society says that girls need to be cuddled , nutured and protected
while growing up. However boys can face all sorts of slings and arrows
in the name of "character building."
I see this as an area where the left's ideals of feminism and gender
equality somehow joined together with the right's ideals of
traditional gender roles. It has invaded all outlets of publc life and
can be seen in pyschology and sociology as well (at least
pop-pyschology and pop-sociology.) There is a plethora of books about
girls in adolescence like "Raising Ophelia" that generate huge media
frenzies and end up on best-seller lists. AFAICT no one had written a
book about boys' problems during adolescence that has generated
similar media attention. Could you see Katie Couric interviewing a
person who wrote a book about helping your son survive high school
because he can't keep up with the cool boys?
Why does society tell boys that they need to sotically grin and bear
their problems in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood? I can't
think of any answer except maybe: the more things change, the more
they stay the same.