Sweating: it’s a problem. We all do it. It happens when we get nervous, when we’re doing physical activity, or even sometimes just because it’s hot outside. When you’re a woman, sweating is especially cumbersome. You can’t be pretty all the time if you’ve got sweat stains under your arms.
Luckily for women, there’s a solution to this awful problem: Secret deodorant. With Secret, you can shed your insecurities and finally be free! The message here is abundantly clear: female empowerment. After all, the slogan does read “Fearlessness. Apply Daily.”
Thank goodness! Here I was thinking I had to go about my life with my arms pinned to my sides for fear that someone might know I sweat. Now I know no fear. I am a fierce female and I am in charge of my life. Nothing says confidence like “Truth or Pear” scented antiperspirant.
Now, all sardonic comments aside, let me say that I thoroughly appreciate Secret’s sweet scents and efforts to make my sweat less noticeable. It saves me laundry time and allows me to mask any unwanted signs of nervousness or overexposure to heat. In this day and age, deodorant is not a luxury, but a necessity.
The object of discussion here is not whether or not this deodorant works or not, but rather how it is advertised. Foremost in the ads is the visual appeal: it is most important when it comes to their ads in magazines and on television. There are all different types of “scent expressions”, and they are illustrated as fabulously bedazzled women with vivid colors and sparkling smiles. Each woman is a different color; you can line them up like Disney Princesses. There’s a pink one, a red one, a white one, a purple one, and the list goes on.
These ads are found online, on television and in magazines. They pop up at me while I’m on Facebook or YouTube, coaxing me into slapping on some “Ooh La La Lavender” or “Cocoa Butter Kiss” so that I’ll feel relaxed and/or cute. Maybe if I wore some of each under both arms I could be both? I’m not sure. The online ads run at any time of the day, and the television ads run freely mostly during the daytime hours. The magazine ads are placed alongside the rest of the high fashion in Elle, a magazine I receive monthly.
The Secret ads seem almost silly in the pages of Elle. Ads featuring works from esteemed photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Juergen Teller are displayed on the glossy pages, pictures taken from expensive runway shows are printed alongside eloquent reviews, and then there’s an advertisement for deodorant. Suddenly we’ve gone from the posh studios of uptown New York to the local Rite Aid and we are not sure exactly what to do about this. But wait! This product gives us reasons to love our armpits. Thank goodness, because before using this deodorant, things were really tense between us.
The audience Secret is targeting is women, mostly younger women. They target women with their visuals, voice-overs, and language. Visually, it is always a female who is either using the product or being told to use the product, never a male. The voice-overs are also always female, as though to give the targeted female audience a sense of ease, like they’re having a girl-to-girl talk with their television screen. The language is also very deliberately chosen: there are 11 “fabulous ways to sparkle” and each with a name more fabulous than the last: “pretty n’ peach”, “va va vanilla”, “diva la daisy”. I could go on but the idea seems to be quite painfully clear.
With each method, they play upon insecurities that are very typically played upon, the most important of which being insecurities of beauty. Be it looking good by hiding a sweat stain or smelling good with a manufactured scent, Secret calls upon women to adhere to the vast importance of being beautiful. In today’s world, the pressure to look good is ceaseless, and Secret makes no exceptions for this. The product is a double-edged sword in terms of aesthetic beauty: looking good and smelling good. If you are not pleasing to everyone’s senses you are a failure as a woman! However, if you buy this deodorant you will be a great success as a woman! There are no other options.
In terms of effectiveness, this strategy seems to work well. I cannot speak for every person who has ever viewed this ad campaign, but I can say that I do know several females who use these products. Whether or not they believe the things the ads are telling them about themselves and about the importance of beauty is not clear, but I’m sure that most of the messages the ads put out are indeed sinking in. With the constant perpetuation of gender stereotypes and superficial beauty, I would not be surprised if the women Secret is targeting buy the products out of insecurity and the desire to look good. I cannot say I’m above the influence either, as I also care about my appearance. However, I do have a certain amount of skepticism when it comes to this method of advertising, and it is certainly eye-opening to pick apart the messages these ads are trying to convey.