Advertisers target women’s insecurities

Research suggests ways to capitalize on women’s vulnerable moments.

Sam Jasenosky

Depending on the time of day or week, advertisements are targeted at your mood. If you’re a woman, those advertisements are targeted at your insecurities, too.

Research from media planning agency PHD offers advertising strategies aimed at women when they feel the least attractive.

PHD surveyed women 18 and older across the U.S. to determine when they felt most vulnerable about their appearance in order to choose the best time to advertise beauty products.

The results show nearly half of women feel most insecure during Monday mornings. The firm suggested concentrating media during “prime vulnerability
moments.”

It’s no surprise advertisers pay attention to consumers’ emotions in order to sell products. Their job is to convince people to purchase, and they’re completely justified in seizing emotional opportunities.

However, the blatant exploitation of women’s most insecure moments in an attempt to make profit is not justified.

Only 2 percent of women described themselves as “beautiful” in a survey conducted by global polling firm StrategyOne. More than 65 percent of those same women agreed that media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that can never be achieved.

If most women hold advertising at least partially responsible for unrealistic standards of beauty, then predatory advertisements feed off the same insecurities they help produce.

Advertising targeted at vulnerable women becomes especially problematic when compared to men. The PHD study didn’t mention men as subjects whatsoever.

A YouGov survey said that only 16 percent of women don’t typically use any skin or style products to get ready in the morning, compared to more than 50 percent of men.

Beauty product advertisers target women,
and it works.

Regardless of how unethical exploiting women’s insecurities may seem, it’s perfectly legal.

In fact, many businesses take it a step further — they charge women more than men for the same product.

In a phenomenon known as gender pricing, products and services like lotion, shampoo, health insurance and car repairs are purposely more expensive when women buy them. California found that women paid $1,351 annually in extra costs and fees.

Though laws prohibit gender-based discrimination in job and house hunting, there aren’t any federal laws banning gender-based discrimination in the sale of goods and services.

Ultimately, the current advertising system perpetuates vulnerability in women and then legally exploits it to its fullest advantage.

In April, Dove ran a campaign called “Dove Real Beauty,” which demonstrated a new marketing technique. The campaign asked women to describe themselves to a sketch artist, have someone else describe them to the artist and compare
the sketches.

Most women were surprised at how harshly they judged themselves in comparison to an outside opinion.

Instead of reinforcing the stereotype of an insecure woman, advertising companies should consider campaigns that empower women to feel beautiful.