Rosie Glow Wellness

Mind body health for the deeply fabulous

2:13 Female-targeted Marketing


Saint Barbie by Mark Ryden

Saint Barbie by Mark Ryden

Alternate title: Special K Can Suck It.

Oh hey, presumably intelligent humans who dislike being manipulated and pandered to. I watched Amy and Tina OWN the Golden Globes last night, and prior to tuning in, I mentally prepared myself for what would be (and very much was) a hugely girl-centric evening. Ripping on George Clooney’s man-child tendencies, repeatedly cutting to my homegirl (um, and sorority sister), Julia Louis-Dreyfus chowing down processed meats and refusing to schmooze with Reese Witherspoon… all this girlpower following the recent Meryl/Emma sister act — coupled with Annie Hall, herself, accepting a lifetime achievement award on behalf of Woody Allen with what may have been the most nonsensical speech to ever be uttered by a woman wearing a tuxedo — made for a ladies’ night, indeed.

To be clear, I am down with all of the above. What are boys, even? What I am less down with is subtle brainwashing via the well-paid marketing teams of supposedly feminist corporations. Look: I’m in marketing. I love marketing. But here is everything I find deplorable about this particular brand of marketing:

Their business model depends on our thinking we’re fat. Special K tells you that you’re more than a number, employing montages of timid feet gaining courage on friendly looking scales; relatable (re: not quite super model-sized) actresses dancing around their kitchens and coquettishly spoon-warring with their foxy faux-husbands; racks of designer jeans sized radiant to glowing instead of 00 to 12.

So listen: Special K can’t sell you their product because it tastes like balsa wood and it’s full of chemicals, preservatives and common inflammatories. Furthermore, special K contains no magical waist-widdling properties… eat some kale, G. Thereby, Special K has to sell you something else: a support system. A society of boss-ass bitches who seem joyful in their own skin… but, like, they’re only joyful because they lost 10 pounds eating bowlfuls of wheat gluten, sugar, ascorbic acid and calcium caseinate? They couldn’t attain that joy by, say, learning Japanese? Joining a roller derby league? Falling in love? Any discerning lady who’s not entirely ruled by her immediate emotional responses (let’s be real… that rules some of us out) knows that this campaign is bullsh*t. But that’s where Special K gets you: they’re not just playing on your emotions; they’re cashing in on your insecurities.

There’s a difference between ad campaigns like Special K’s and male-targeted campaigns. Certainly, ads wherein a hot chick eats Doritos while lounging on the hood of a bitchin’ Camaro; a James Bond lookalike tries to sell you gin, Shaquille O’neal implores you to buy Gold Bond foot powder… those perpetuate gender stereotypes , too. No wonder there are so many man haters among us, when men are painted as orange-“cheese” dusted nymphos with smelly feet. But that’s another point for another day. The difference I was referring to, Friends, is shame. There is so much (too much!) shame surrounding womens’ bodies. We talk about it around here all the time. And Special K knows that 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from eating disorders. Special K knows that you’re embarrassed about your holiday weight or your baby weight or the weight you’ve carried around since high school. Special K knows that you want to hear that you are more than a number… but meanwhile, you should probably lose some poundage by regularly consuming Chocolate Delight. I mean… what?

What I want to know is… what do you all think about the Heroic Women Bing ad? I want to love it. I want to imagine little girls looking up at their moms with eyes full of hope, asking “Who is Margaret Thatcher, Mommy?” or “I want to be like Malala Yosafzai when I’m 16!” So why did I suffer a whole-body flinch when it aired? Is it because Bing — who will argue that, as a search engine, they have as much reason as anyone to randomly call out a bunch of lady-ballers for being awesome — managed to attach their name to the inspiring accomplishments of these women? Is it because true equality would entail celebrating the successes of both genders?

Bully for Bing, I guess, and bully for advertisers that they finally realized that ladies make up more than half of the world’s population and about 85% of consumers. But you all know how I feel about being talked down to

That’s all for now. I’d love to hear all of your thoughts on this, so feed me comments and emails! And if you all could boycott Special K the same way we boycotted Robin Thicke, that’d be swell.


Author: twitchysister

Hey you! is largely devoted to musings on what balance means to an urbane, artsy-fartsy twenty-something. It’s tough out here for us post-grad women: if you’re not homeless, you’re doing something right. But do you, too, worry that you spend too much time furrowing your brows over your future when you should be unwrapping and relishing your present? Do you, like me, sometimes feel like everyone expects you to be the type of person who spends the majority of her entry-level “arts” paycheck on fifteen dollar old-timey cocktails, four a.m. cab rides home and everything sequined on the Urban Outfitters sale rack when, perhaps, you are really the type of person who would rather drink cucumber mint kale juice while wearing yoga pants and Googling reiki techniques? Is it possible that such a person is one and the same, and she is fabulous in her own, very confused right? Sister girl, I hear you. I know you. I accept you. I also know in my happy gut, full heart and coffee-addled brain that you and I are gorgeous glow worms, just as we are! We are sparkle ponies of light and love and we are still in the process of teasing out our true, authentic selves with all of this… living. So if you don’t have it figured out, if you acknowledge that you never will and that is tremendously exciting, if you want to connect with other smart chicks and tap into that charming inner-self of yours, then come back real soon, ya hear? We’re family now!

20 thoughts on “2:13 Female-targeted Marketing

  1. Great post!

    I agree with pretty much everything you posted except for the BING ad. I understand what you’re saying, but I think we need to stop trying to find fault in everything, especially when companies really are trying to include women. The name “bing” didn’t come in until the very end, after all the cool name drops and all the great photos. I really believe that that was an honest attempt to highlight extraordinary women, and we need not fault them for that. By no means am I saying “we gotta take what we can”, but we do need to applaud their efforts of trying to reach us. Especially because that could have just as easily been an ad full of extraordinary men and their achievements, and we would be up in even more arms.

    Great thoughts, though, and I am looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • Aw, thanks for finding me Kelsey! To be honest, I’m still iffy on the Bing ad. I liked it while it was happening… I think? And I think you’re right in that we’re all so full of lady-rage that it’s hard to see the good in attempts at kindness like Bing’s. I think I would be more on board if there had been some explanation… just “these women’s stories are worth searching for”… or something. I’d be more inclined to trust them if I knew exactly what they were up to.

      Regardless – love your thoughts! Hang out more often!

  2. PREACH. Well, up until the Margaret Thatcher thing. It doesn’t shock me that any corporation would attach their name to Maggie Thatcher because she loved the shit out of the free-market, and didn’t care at whose expense. If I ever have any little girl ask me who Margaret Thatcher is, I will dutifully explain that she let the poor of the UK suffer immeasurably and contributed to the project of Western imperialism and global capitalism. And that she should find better role models.

    But, everything else…Word. <3

    • Grrrrl, such a rebel. :) Totally checking out a M.T. biography tomorrow because, while I know all of this, I’ve mostly heard her lauded for her successes at a time when women couldn’t gain that kind of success. But… you know I’m with you. If your success entails the suffering of others, you’re doing it wrong!

      • Extreme sidenote: Dr. Raechel, I cannot get down with chia pudding. I’m trying. It is weird and squishy and not delicious. Help!

      • yes her success definitely relied on the suffering of others. re: chia pudding, i hear you, it’s a little icky…honestly, i have trouble with straight-up chia pudding (just chia and almond milk), and tend to include either buckwheat groats or oats. it makes the whole thing much more palatable. are you open to grains?

    • Ooooh, I should try buckwheat! I’m trying to be a little more experimental… I’m in a smoothie/oatmeal slathered in 1/2 cup of nut butter rut.

  3. Oh man, I hate those Special K commercials. “What will you gain when you lose?” As though weight loss was some kind of magical solution to all of life’s problems, as though you can’t find out what life holds in store for you until you’ve lost those last few pounds. If you wait around to live your life until you’re at your “perfect weight,” whatever that even means, you’ll never have a life.

    (Also, I can tell you from experience that nobody who’s trying to lose weight eats cereal for breakfast–if you eat enough of it to hold you until lunch, you’ve pretty much ruined your day because what they don’t tell you is that a serving is not even a full bowl. I pretty much stopped eating cereal when I joined Weight Watchers after high school because it just wasn’t worth it. I used to eat Special K bars as snacks but they kept me full for about fifteen minutes.)

    • Anne, I hate them, too! Ugh, and while I grew up gangly as sh*t, I used to be really reliant on cereal and bars like that. I actually bought their shtick, as a young, skinny female who wanted to be even skinnier. Naivete, eh?

  4. Coincidentally, just after reading your post, their ad popped up on telly and I wanted to throw my laptop at their smug, silly faces (the woman, wearing red (obv), talked about the wonders of special K whilst doing yoga. Because we all know you can only do yoga if you’re super slim. And all yogis know that toxic sawdust is the best for our bodies. *grumble grumble*) Also: yesterday I watched this video on upworthy, which similarly mocks female-marketed advertising, only in the music industry: – something I haven’t thought about as much.

  5. I’m about to watch! I love stuff like this! I feel like female popstars in the U.S. are in our faces all the time… not so in New Zealand?

    • I have been to the US, but probably did not spend enough time there to really notice how this differed.. I can say that kiwi culture is very Americanised though – I noticed this big time when I went back to the UK for 18months, where everything is comparatively “dialled down.” One thing I always find quite amusing is when the pop industry makes 2 different music videos, one for the UK audience, and one for the USA (NZ tends to get shown the USA version). There ain’t no hiding that sexy laydees become the focus in the US versions (eg see: Cher Lloyd’s I want you back).

      • I read recently that Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears were considered too racy for French daytime TV… but aren’t the French the RACIEST? I saw so many straight up bras as shirts when I was there. The disparity is suuuuper weird.

  6. Love this post! “when men are painted as orange-”cheese” dusted nymphos with smelly feet” had me LOL’ing at work.

  7. Great post!!!
    Maybe there’s a disparity, because French ladies feel comfortable with sexuality for realsies, but not the air-brushed, god-I-love-flexing-my-abs- in-bed-while-wearing-lace-and-nibbling-on-my-fingertip kinda sexiness that Britney has. Just like Germans, they love getting their boobs out at every occasion, but sometimes don’t bother shaving their legs. I could see why people find it strange and uncomfortable to have sex presented in that artificial way, but still storm theaters as soon as they hear that somebody’s having grunting sex on stage…

    • i LOVE this comment. that’s so true… the artifice of it all is what makes it icky. i would never fault someone for enjoying actual sex… but licking inanimate objects seems unnecessary.

  8. I am still nodding my head – priceless commentary here! Yes, I refuse to engage in the Special K challenge or succumb to advertising that plays off my perceived insecurities. Yes, I boycotted Robin Thicke, too. In fact, my tween daughter was caught singing the song in her room and did not realize it was negative toward women. My son pointed it out to her – I was quite proud of him at that moment, realizing I had taught him well. Now I just have to make sure they don’t get into my daughter’s head.

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