There have been so many messages from brands aiming to empower women lately that you might have thought that the old ‘whatever you do, don’t get old’ ads were a thing of the past. But nope, here’s Garnier with a two minute-long film that serves to remind women that whatever else they may do with their lives, the most important thing is to keep young and beautiful…
The film opens with (poorly spelt) text introducing a scientific experiment that aims to examine the way that a woman’s skin ages as the day goes along. A ‘volunteer’ is photographed at 7am. Her picture is then shown to an apparently random group of passers-by who are asked to judge her age. Our gal is then launched into a busy day: a working mum of two, she is shown tending to her children, busy in the office, and working out at the gym. At 9pm, when her day is done, she is subjected to the same process as the morning, but this time the panel of commentators deem her to be between 5-10 years older. And she hasn’t even started on the wine or crisps yet.
You’d be forgiven for expecting the grim reaper to rock up cackling at this point, but instead, after some doom-laden copy about how quickly fatigue can age us, we are directed to a site that hawks Garnier’s ‘Miracle’ cream. Phew, thanks Garnier, I thought I was fucked.
This ad is suprising in its awfulness only because we have become used to the softly-softly approach of Dove, which is going to increasingly patronising lengths in its marketing to tell us that we are all beautiful underneath (so long as we keep using their products, natch). The Garnier ad borrows much from Dove: the length of the film, the faux-science, the documentary style approach. But instead of the reveal being a tear-jerker, it’s a sucker punch: rather than rewarding the woman for everything she has achieved that day, even in the most superficial and shallow way, she is bluntly reminded that her looks are all that matter.
It would be easy to disregard the spot as another crappy beauty ad but we know that this kind of bullying approach works on women: fashion and beauty brands have traded in women’s insecurities for decades. If anything, it potentially shows the lie in the brands that have jumped on the feminism bandwagon lately: if scare tactics ultimately lead to sales, perhaps we’ll start seeing those brands reverting back to this style of ad once more. Let’s hope not. And, actually, let’s hope that beauty brands generally think of some new ideas of how to talk to women, in ways that address us as people with lives outside of our looks. Is that too much to ask?