Nivea will make that cellulite disappear!

Nearly a year ago, Jenn posted about a Nivea commercial for men’s body wash as an example of decent marketing. And it was – I still enjoy that commercial. Lest we give Nivea a free pass, though, I have to say that their marketing for women’s product is slightly problematic for me.

Case in point:

Sigh. It took me a while to pinpoint what bothered me most about the commercial – the (imo) ridiculous claim that some “bio-slim complex” is actually going to make my skin firmer and enable me to fit into my skinny jeans (which I don’t own – I don’t find it particularly healthy to keep clothes that no longer fit in some quest to shrink back into them), the grating song, that I find it highly doubtful the actress has ever really had to worry much about fitting into those jeans, or the tag line which sort of implies that without the use of this product no one’s gonna want to touch you.

It’s none of those things. It’s the woman launching herself into that approving-male’s arms at the end, as if the only reason for her slim-down is to please the man in her life.

1) Uh, why’s it about making him happy?
2) Heteronormative, much?

It’s not the only Nivea ad that bothers me. There’s this one too. Look how happy those women are now that they’re cellulite-free! Now I’ll admit I’m not overly fond of my cellulite, but it’s there. No amount of cream I slather on my ass is going to make it go away. Love me, love my lumps and bumps.

Bottom line: Nivea seems okay telling men they’re fine pretty much as they are – that they don’t need overwhelming fragrance to be attractive to women, but what they’re telling women is that they should seriously consider fixing themselves if they want to make the menz happy. Or, y’know, dance on the street in short-shorts without injuring someone with that unsightly, jiggly cellulite.

Comments

  1. Pocket Nerd says

    And don’t forget the subtle admonishment to female monogamy. “Rediscover your favorite jeans… and how they still get his attention!”

    His. Singular. One guy. One specific guy.

    Ever notice ads for men’s products suggest you’ll attract women, while women’s products suggest you’ll attract a man?

  2. sbg says

    That is a good point, Pocket Nerd. I always forget that a woman who wants to attract/please more than one man well on her way to being a slut.

  3. Pocket Nerd says

    Thanks. That sort of thing jumps out at me, as I feel the presumption of immutable monogamy for women is a vestige of the women-are-property philosophy. I’m not against monogamy in relationships where both partners discuss the matter as equals and agree to a monogamous commitment. But I loathe the way society assumes a “good” woman wouldn’t ever be interested in more than one romantic partner at once, or without a socially-acceptable interval between consecutive relationships.

  4. Anemone Cerridwen says

    Even if she is monogamous, it doesn’t hurt to look good to other men. It can make her look more discriminating and give him higher status, if she grabs all sorts of men’s attention, then chooses just one. Plus flirting can be fun. I guess they didn’t think of that.

  5. Erin says

    A lot of excellent points. Just to play devil’s advocate, the ending of the ad could be interpreted trying to convey that after using their product the woman is happier and more comfortable with her body and her sexuality, giving her the confidence to ‘launch’ herself at the guy she’s interested in (basically: do this so you feel better about you, which makes you more attractive and more active, rather than do this so he feels better about you). Do I think it likely that the ad is trying to put across this message? Not really, but people earn the benefit of the doubt just often enough to be worth it to me to keep doing.

    (Of course, in that case the ad would still be highly problematic, especially compared to the ad directed at men, but right now I’ll settle for small steps if they actually manifest.)

  6. Pocket Nerd says

    Erin, I admire your ability to give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I wish I weren’t quite so bitterly cynical. I don’t think that man’s a stranger; he’s in her bedroom watching her dress. And she’s not smiling because she feels more attractive to men in general, she’s smiling because she has pleased her master and kept him from losing interest in her (for now). To me, the subtext of that commercial says “If you don’t stay slender, your man will ditch you for somebody younger, slimmer, and more attractive. And it serves you right, fatty.”

  7. sbg says

    Never mind that cellulite =/= fat. There are plenty of thin people who have it, and plenty of fat people who do not.

    It all boils down to trying to “fix” what’s wrong with us, when what is wrong with us is that we’re all made different. I swear – you can get Lumineers, you can get plastic surgery, one pill makes you largerand one pill makes you small. FCOL, you can now grow your eyelashes longer and thicker.

    All of this for the sake of what? Perfection? There’s a huge industry relying very heavily on people’s self-doubt and shitty self-image, and I find it all so very frustrating. If it makes you feel good, then so what? Well, my pie-in-the-sky dream is that none of us should need much by way of modification to feel good about ourselves

    Perfection is a myth that needs to be dispelled.

  8. Dan says

    “2) Heteronormative, much?”

    Look, by current estimates, less than 5 percent of American women are homosexual or bisexual. In other words, the ENORMOUS majority of Nivea’s market is heteronormative. Who do you expect them to direct their ads toward? Now, asking why she happens to be blue-eyed and blonde, a relatively small (but historically favored) demographic, is another question.

    Re Pocket Nerd: I dunno, I’ve seen an awful lot of ads where a woman walks down the street turning the head of every man she passes. True, it’s not the same as men getting their hair lathered by a bunch of supermodels, but it does promote a female interest in various partners.

  9. Pocket Nerd says

    “Look, by current estimates, less than 5 percent of American women are homosexual or bisexual.”

    Citation needed.

  10. sbg says

    Word.

    (Though I have to admit I was ready to knee-jerk dismiss based solely on the “Look,” opening, which never sits well with me. Also, since when is being a (presumably) small portion of the demographic base a good reason to be ignored entirely? Y’all are lucky I didn’t gripe about the obvious couplehood of the scenario – we single and not dating folk won’t use this product to “touch and be touched”.)

  11. says

    Dan, as we’ve discussed many times, it is possible to target an audience without marginalizing all other audiences. The commercial could have achieved a similar effect by just letting us see her leave for a date with who-knows-who. They chose to define it as heterosexual, thereby making it MORE heteronormative than is necessary. So SBG has a valid point and you do not.

    Pocket Nerd also has a valid point. I’ve heard nothing to refute the 10% estimate. And in any case, so what?

    I dunno, I’ve seen an awful lot of ads where a woman walks down the street turning the head of every man she passes. True, it’s not the same as men getting their hair lathered by a bunch of supermodels, but it does promote a female interest in various partners.

    No, that’s promoting all the men being interested in her, not her being interested in all of them. They’re checking her out, not the other way around. She’s pleased to have so many men to choose from, but she will ultimately choose just ONE.

  12. sbg says

    No, that’s promoting all the men being interested in her, not her being interested in all of them. They’re checking her out, not the other way around. She’s pleased to have so many men to choose from, but she will ultimately choose just ONE.

    Thank you – I meant to point this out and forgot. Also, he claimed less than 5% of the female population is lesbian or bi.

  13. ACW says

    Dan’s comment piqued my curiosity, though I knew before looking that the information on sexuality is limited. I did find:
    SIECUS’ numbers on sexuality.

    I think more telling than how individuals label themselves is the research on to whom they are attracted. Sure, less than 5% of the women polled claim to be homosexual or bisexual, but 14.2% claimed not to be attracted to “men and only men”.

    My point is (to reiterate what other posters have said, in a way): if only 85% of women are attracted to men and only men, and assuming at least some portion of them have some sort of backbone and don’t spend every waking hour trying to attract said men, why does it seem like 99.9% of the ads are created for this idealized kind of woman? You know, the size 2, blonde haired, blue eyed, six foot, childless hetero woman with the perfect smile who has no greater ambition than to please the senses of her ho-hum man?

    Advertising disgusts me, in that it targets a small population and if you’re not part of that demographic, the underlying questions are “well, why aren’t you?” and “wouldn’t you like to be?”… This is why my daughters aren’t allowed to watch commercials.

  14. Pocket Nerd says

    @ACW: Frankly, those numbers don’t line up with my experience. Admittedly, there’s probably some selection bias—I’m a weirdo pervert, so I naturally tend to hang out with weirdo perverts—but I think you’re right when you describe the labels as “telling.”

    The numbers suggest that there are people who categorize themselves as exclusively heterosexual, but who have had homosexual encounters. That does line up with my experiences; I’ve met at least half a dozen women who have sex with other women on occasion, but don’t think of themselves as bisexual. I think there’s some internal storytelling going on in these cases: Given the sexual stereotypes projected on females, women have strong incentives not to describe themselves as homosexual or bisexual, which in turn leads to rationalizing oneself as “not really gay” or “not really bi.”

    I suspect similar pressures apply to men who exhibit varying degrees of homosexual behavior, but reject being classified as homosexual or bisexual.

  15. says

    Oh look – yet another poll/study where asexuals and natural celibates don’t exist! ;)

    Thanks for tracking it down, ACW. Polling and statistics that rely on self-reporting always carry a margin of error, which is why it’s just silly to cite their findings as if they’re absolute fact. In this case, there are the problems you and PocketNerd pointed out, plus the failure of the study to discover there are people who aren’t attracted to anybody, or are but aren’t interested in having sex with them, etc.

    The whole thing with the sexuality labels we have now is, they’re for society, not individuals. We are labeled according to which “team” we’re perceived as playing for so that those who feel the need to beat up the other guys know who to aim for.

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