Thursday, January 13, 2011

One of the most offensive ads I've ever seen

Click ad to enlarge image
Shape Liquid & Powder ad from 1970
Thanks to Vintage Ads for posting this

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that advertising is one of my niche areas of interest within feminism. I spend a lot of time looking at advertisements - both vintage and current - trying to dissect the meaning of ads and figure out what the company is trying to tell us and sell us. I've seen some pretty horrific ads in my time - but this one is right up there with the worst. When an ad is this offensive, I've gotta get my rant on! Below are the three worst sentences/paragraphs from this ad, and why they piss me off.

“Beneath that floppy sweatshirt she’s a little overweight. You knew that. Because right now, you’re a little over weight, too. That’s bad. This year’s bathing suits hide nothing. Unless you start losing some, you may spend your summer in a sweatshirt, too. Face it, you’ve got to stop eating.”

  • The girl in the shirt IS NOT OVERWEIGHT. Not even close. By stating that she is, the advertisers are planting a seed of doubt in every reader's mind that she too is overweight. If a young, slim girl like that is “a little over weight,” then almost every woman is.
  • Being overweight is “bad”? And they've already implied that almost every woman is overweight… so now they’ve got 95% of the female readership feeling like bad people. This is a common advertising technique; advertisers make you feel insecure about something, then offer their product to fix your problem. In most cases, the “problem” is something completely natural, like grey hair, cellulite or winkles, but we’re made to feel so ugly/guilty/old/fat that we are desperate to fix it… and we’ll try any product that “guarantees” results.
  • “Face it, you’ve got to stop eating.” Wow. Really? That's a pretty blatant promotion of eating disorders.

“… you can substitute Shape for one or two meals a day. Or, if you’re really serious, four Shape meals a day for a while. And no other food.”

  • Are you fucking kidding me? This promotes unhealthy eating habits and essentially tells women who are “serious” about losing weight (and who wouldn’t be serious about it after you’ve already called us fat and told us that's bad?) that they shouldn’t eat.
  • What the hell does "four Shape meals a day for a while" mean? That's a pretty unspecific amount of time. If I consumed Shape four times a day and ate nothing else, how long do you think it would take before I'd collapse from lack of energy or some other ailment? Not to mention it would fuck with my digestive system.

“If we made Shape taste any better, you might start sneaking it now and then, and you would get fat on it.”
  • WTF. Terrible copywriting, just terrible. If you’re advertising a product that’s supposed to make women slim, why would you then state that having too much of it will make you fat? This sentence is just bizarre to me, and confirms the fact that the people who developed this ad were complete fucking idiots.


  1. Oh, the 70's. Back when there was no need for decency and no feeling of responsibility held by advertisers. This is a really bad example. I can see the jerk who was sitting there writing this ad copy thinking, "Heh Heh. This is awesome."


  2. This doesn't seem offensive at all. How does helping women look and feel great come off as offensive? Feminists don't really need to look great anyway because they usually end up hooking up with other fat lesbian bitches. ;p(|)