Research Report ± HDS Exemplar The Language of Covergirl Cosmetic Advertisements

How are words used in Covergirl ads and what are their effects? Across Covergirl ads the reader finds a number of coined terms, or words made up by the advertiser. This can be seen in the construction of the words ³Wetslicks´, ³Naturluxe´ and ³Eyelights´. The intended effect seems to be to make the product seem more innovative by connecting it to a new noun. This also suggests that the advertiser is looking to play on the reader¶s desire for innovation. New, or coined, terms suggest uniqueness and innovation. I think the reason this is seen over and over again is because there is a need within this particular industry to stand out from the rest of the market. This is particularly important in an industry where the product is being sold as something that will make the buyer stand out. By using coined terms, the advertiser is able to effectively stand out from the crowd by using a term no other company can, while also embodying the concept of uniqueness that the intended buyer desires. The manipulation of the reader¶s desire for uniqueness or individuality can also be seen in the frequent use of direct address. Every ad makes use of the personal pronoun ³you´ or ³your´ in order to directly address the reader. The effect here is to create a relationship between the speaker and the reader. By using the personal pronoun, the distance between the speaker and the reader is reduced and the sensation of a one-to-one relationship is produced.I feel as though the advertiser is using this language in order to make the intended reader feel special by creating this more intimate connection with them. The effectively makes the product seem less a part of a large corporate machine and instead gives it some humanity, almost personifying the product as it speaks intimately with the reader. This idea is further reinforced through the use of cliché and emotive language. Cliché can be seen when one ad makes use of the term ³one of a kind´ combined with the emotive verb ³individualise´. Both of these examples suggest that the product will allow the intended buyer to become more unique and will allow them to stand out from the rest of society.I think the advertiser is using this language in order to play on the insecurities of the intended reader. The focus on individuality suggests a concern with being ordinary or commonplace and so this conscious use of language allows the advertiser to manipulate this underlying fear by attempting to infuse their product with the connotations of uniqueness that are present in both ³one of a kind´ and ³individualise´. Across all of these ads there is a focus on developing a sense of uniqueness for the product and for the target audience. By making use of coinage, personal pronoun, direct address, cliché and emotive language the company successfully emphasises a desire to stand out amongst one¶s peers. What this suggests is that there is paranoia within the target market of young women around their ability to stand out. Covergirl seem to be extending this stereotype and furthering this concern amongst young women that success and individuality are linked. What similarities and differences can be seen across Covergirl ads and what might the implications of this be? The most striking similarity across all of the ads is the focus on and repetition of concrete nouns. ³Lips´, ³lashes´ and ³eyes´ are repeated over and again, to the point that the word ³eyes´ is repeated seven times within a single 30 second mascara ad. What this suggests is an emphasis on outer appearances. This is not surprising for a make-up ad. However, it does seem to suggest that the exterior is being privileged over the interior and that beauty as a concept is explicitly linked with exterior appearance over and above traits such as emotional integrity or intellectual ability.The repetition of these concrete nouns and the associated emphasis on external beauty implies that the target market needs to be primarily concerned about their exterior beauty. While this

might be connected to giving young women confidence, I think the fact that it is something seen across all the ads means that the stereotype of women as appearance minded is being seen as more important than other elements of beauty such as intellect and emotional maturity within our society. Another similarity that can be seen across the ads is the frequent use of imperative statements. The ³Lipperfection´ lipstick ad demands readers to ³get beautiful colour now´. The statement implies that the reader doesn¶t already have lips that are a beautiful colour. This demands the reader question their own concept of what is beautiful by comparing it to what Covergirl are suggesting and making decisions about how they compare. This type of imperative can be seen again in the ³Naturluxe´ TV ad where the audience is told to ³join the beauty movement´. This imperative again suggests that the intended audience is inferior, this time because they are not actively advocating for beauty.I think the advertisers use this technique to play on the audience¶s sense of sisterhood, but making them feel guilty that they are not doing all they can for womankind. Across the ads, imperatives are used to make young women feel inferior. They work to suggest that the target audience lacks something important that they need and that Covergirl can meet that need. The use of language here seems to play into the traditional attitude that women are inferior in society. By using their imperatives to draw on this stereotype, the advertisers are able to appear to be helping women improve or find themselves, whereas they simply furthering the stereotype. A significant difference across the collections of ads is that some of the ads make a concerted effort to connect themselves to natural and naturally occurring products. This can be seen through the use of simile in the NaturluxeTV ad¶s use of ³light as air feel´ and through a number of vocabulary choices such as the adjective choice inLipperfection¶s ³silk therapy´ and the noun choice in Naturluxe¶s print ad where they say³light touch of cucumber´. Each usage connects the product to the natural world either by saying the product directly incorporates something from the natural world or by suggesting that the use of the product will give you a µnatural world¶ sensation.I believe the desire to connect to nature, as seen in these language choices, comes from the advertiser wanting to challenge the idea that make-up products are synthetic or unnatural by offering them as naturally occurring and therefore natural to be worn. These ads stand out as different because they are more concerned with connecting to the healthy connotations of these elements in nature. By doing this, these particular ads seem to target society¶s growing scepticism of the necessity of make-up, challenging this by trying to illustrate that it is indeed a natural process ± as natural as the ingredients used to create the product. To what extent are these ads successful and why might that be? The ads do a great job of expressing inferiority in the natural appearance of women. This is initially seen in the Naturluxe ad where the advertiser explains to the reader that ³Naturluxe ups your beautiful´. This makes a direct connection between physical modification and true beauty. The way the phrase is constructed implies that the level of beauty that the reader has is inferior and that the product will allow them to exist with more adequate amounts of beauty. This style of phrasing simply seems to reinforce the social stereotype that a µmade up¶ face is of superior value to a natural face when it comes to women. This idea is reinforced in the 2010 ad that suggestsby buying Covergirl products the consumer is ³taking beautiful back´. Once again, the phrasing here implies that the reader does not already have access to beauty ± indeed, the idea of taking back suggests that the reader somehow lost their beauty and that Covergirl can return it to them.These examplessuggests asocial belief that a natural woman is an inferior woman and that their natural appearance demands improvement. By constructing phrases that play on this social stereotype that flawless equals beautiful, the advertisers are able to effectively withhold beauty from the target audience and then sell it back to them. Further to this, the ads are very effective in turning beauty into a commodity. This further reinforces the idea that women cannot have beauty because the advertisers are suggesting that it is something that must be purchased. The ³Lipperfection´ ad suggests ³that there is such a thing as perfection´, a phrase which draws heavily on the connotations of perfection as being the ultimate end point in the quest for beauty. This style of phrasing again suggests though that perfection is something that only Covergirl owns and understands and

which must be purchased off them, particularly well expressed in the Naturluxe phrase ³Covergirl introduces the next generation of beautiful´. This really plays into the modern idea that beauty is a commodity that can be bought and sold.The language used across the ads connects the physical object with an abstract concept and suggests that through the purchase of the product the buyer will receive perfection.This suggests that modern societyis very a material based culture that finds spiritual fulfilment in material objects. The language implies that we seem to believe that the objects we buy determine our identities. The Covergirl advertisers understand this use their language to play upon this modern notion in order to withhold beauty from women. Finally, these ads are successful because they make judgement about the body seem natural. Exact Eyelights says ³Green eyes, here¶s a look for you´, the 2010 campaign ad tells the reader to ³get extreme lashes´, while the Naturluxe print ad tells the reader to ³discover the flawless finish´. In a similar way to what¶s been seen above, each of these examples naturalises a concern with physical appearance. By combining specific concrete nouns with imperative statements the advertisers are successfully able to make the reader consider what they don¶t have. It draws the reader¶s attention their own eyelashes, skin, etc. and gets them to compare them to the adjectives chosen.This is an unnatural sense of judgement because ideas like ³extreme´ and ³flawless´ are unrealistic; however, the repetition of these kinds of adjectives naturalises this kind of judgement and begins to affect the values and attitudes society has towards beauty. By following this same pattern over and again, as is seen throughout the collection of ads I¶ve compiled, the advertisers are able make self-judgement on physical appearance a value of our society and their continued use of this style of advertising simply reinforces this value within our society.

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