Astroturf (II)

Astroturf (II)


Unilever’s public-spirited campaign to make women feel the need to purchase their beauty products continues. The latest manoeuvre is an interview on the subject of beauty and self-esteem with a sociologist in Wysokie Obcasy, the teeth-grindingly awful ladies’ weekend supplement to the crusading Gazeta Wyborcza. This colour magazine specialises in finding women who are (or were) successful in some field or other but have not received the recognition they deserve due to the patriarchal nature of society. They then present their stories in such a way as to turn you forever against their subjects.

The interview is entitled “Kraj brzydkich kobiet?” (Land of Ugly Women?). Note that question mark well. If it were missing the newspaper could be accused of lowering women’s self-esteem in an effort to get them to compensate by buying Unilever products. And that wouldn’t be very feminist, would it? But there is a question mark so the sisters can read on, confident of finding a thoughtful, patriarchy-challenging insight into the beauty myth, the manipulation of women’s self-image by advertisers and the— oh, this is just shooting fish in a barrel. One sentence from the accompanying graphic is enough to show the bankruptcy and complete lack of understanding of the working of language in the publication:

“Prawdziwe Pi?kno. Pod takim has?em ruszy?a w Polsce kampania marki D., kt�ra ma na celu wsparcie kobiet w budowaniu poczucia akceptacji w?asnej urody i osobowo?ci.
True Beauty. This is the motto of the Polish D. campaign, whose aim is to support women in building a sense of acceptation of their own beauty and personality.

The by-line is “BOSA”* but it could have been written in Unilever GHQ: the claim that the campaign is to support women (and not to sell soap, for example) is presented as fact. How does BOSA know this? Where is the scepticism proper to journalism? Where the evidence that this is in fact the purpose of Unilever’s ad campaign?Accompanying the interview are pictures of two models from the Unilever ad campaign. Immediately after the interview is a full page advertisement for one of Unilever’s products. In the succeeding pages are two half-page ads in the “True Beauty” campaign. Unilever is playing WO like a cheap banjo. Or so I hope.

*The interviewer in the main article (which wild horses will not induce me to read) is Katarzyna Bosacka.

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