From magazines, to the television, to the internet, to the billboards; there is almost no limit to the ways in which teenagers are exposed to fashion advertisements. They see it from the celebrities, who they adore so much, and soon they also want to have the same type of lifestyle portrayed by the celebrities, who are currently considered as fashion icons.
What teenagers may however fail to understand is the adverse effects such trends, especially fashion advertising, has on them be it psychologically, socially, physically or even emotionally. This paper will provide a brief review of fashion advertising, how the teenagers should come to the knowledge of the effects it is having on them and the role the marketers and parents can play to curb this menace.
There are definitely different sources of advertisement with various targets put into consideration. Surprisingly enough, there are plenty of magazines that have been devoted to the teenagers. The top ten magazines as analyzed by some websites include: American Cheerleader, Girls’ Life, J-14, M magazine, Popstar, Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Teens Voices and Twist.
In these magazines, teenagers model out the outfits and the various beauty products. They change the styles with every season and every event. Currently, the “prom” is the event on the waiting list and the advertisers have done a good job in making available the dresses and the looks the teenagers should achieve before they attend it.
On the Teen Vogue website, for instance, there are trendy topics which are accompanied by very catchy phrases, that not only get you hooked on it, but also it brings the urge to read some more.
Examples include: while advertising for Prom Lipstick the catchy phrase used is- “let your lips do the talking” (Media Awareness, 2010, p. 1); for the White menswear- “head-to-toe white looks right” (Media Awareness, 2010, p. 1); and for a Retro daywear- “…foxy platforms will have you feeling groovy” (Media Awareness, 2010, p. 1).
On J-14, while advertising a pair of Pajama Jeans; introduce it by saying you can wear pajamas to school! The story is the same for all the magazines; catchy statements with the aim of enticing the readers.
Teenagers of course are at the development stage where they are creating an identity for themselves, learning to be independent and learning responsibility. The marketers and advertisers know this and they do not hesitate to reach out to them.
Statistics have also indicated that marketers invest about $15 billion on advertising in a year, and the returns are overwhelming since about $600 billion will be directly as a result of the spending caused by advertisement (APA, 2004).
With such a good profit margin, it would be unimaginable why some marketers would not want to venture into that market. Truth is there are many adverse effects that are directly as a result of these advertisements especially to teenagers.
The models who are used in the advertising media are the ones of a ‘perfect nature’ i.e. they have the right waistline, the right skin tone, the right weight, good hair etc. In short, no magazine will have an ‘ugly, overweight’ model. In an article by Media Awareness (2010), different fashion designers like Calvin Klein are purported to selling “adult sexuality” in addition to the clothes.
This is simply because the advertisements are normally very provocative. Elsewhere in an article which appeared in The Telegraph, a website highlighted in which girls are asked to dress up, and then send their photos which will then be entered in a competition dubbed “How Sexy Am I?” (Nikkhah, 2009, p.1). This type of exposure will definitely catapult their involvement with sexual activities and as a result, teenage pregnancies will be the consequence.
There is a high likelihood that after teenagers have gone through these magazines; they will want to attain the looks and trends portrayed by the models at all costs. Thus, if they are not able to achieve this look they will consider themselves “not good enough” (Waltz, 2004, p.7).
The teenagers will be driven to want to wear designer perfumes, sun glasses, shoes, suits etc. forgetting that in many cases, the models themselves are just hired and do not even own the same things they are advertising (Waltz, 2004).
It is also very unfortunate that teenagers associate these fashion products to their identity (APA, 2004). It has even gone to the extent of creating social divides between those who own the designer items and those who do not (APA, 2004). This is also another contributor to plunging self-esteems among teenagers. The ones who do not wear a particular trend are seen as old-fashioned and treated as outcasts among their peers.
To be obese or even just slightly overweight is considered a ‘crime’ among the ‘cool’ teenagers. This is simply because they are busy emulating the examples depicted in the magazines which are thin models consequently resulting in health issues (Waltz, 2004). The picture created by the fashion advertisements clearly indicate that one cannot look as good in a certain outfit without being of a specific size.
In the websites for example the one by Teen Vogue, one even has the ability to dress up mannequins in order to see how you would look. Something to note however, these mannequins are all lean/thin/slim. So for a teenager, who is not of such stature, he/she will lose weight with the hope of achieving the “unobtainable thinness” (Waltz, 2004, p.10).
There are many other effects fashion advertisements may have other than the three highlighted above. Stereotyping is the other effect. Waltz (2004, p.7) summarizes stereotyping as: “all women are thin, scantily clad sex fiends, all men are rich, muscular, drive exotic cars…”. This of course cannot be further from the truth. All is not lost though. There are things parents and marketers can do with the hope of salvaging the teenagers.
This initiative will require a joint effort from the parents, community, schools and co-operations (APA, 2004). Teenagers first of all need to accept that the influence advertisements have does have a negative impact on them as a whole.
Parents are advised by psychologists to tell teenagers “why and how ads are produced” (APA, 2004, p.1) and this may go a long way in helping them to distinguish who they are and not who they should strive to be (APA, 2004, p.1). Once they are able to distinguish between the two, they are on the right path. The marketers on the other hand are urged to exercise restrictions as they practice their marketing (APA, 2004).
It has clearly been established that the teenagers are a vulnerable group mainly because they seek personal identity and marketers provide these brands with which they can identify with. The teenagers need to not derive their identity from the fashion statements they make with the designer clothes or accessories they possess.
Though celebrities can be of positive influence, they should not necessarily be considered as the fashion ‘gods’ to be worshipped. With this in mind, the teenagers are bound to develop in a health manner.
APA. (2004). Driving teen egos—and buying—through ‘branding’. Retrieved on May 10, 2011 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun04/driving.aspx
Media Awareness. (2010). Special Issues for Tweens and Teens. Retrieve on May 10, 2011 from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/issues_teens_marketing.cfm
Nikkhah, R. (2009). Teen magazines are sexualizing readers. Retrieved on May 10, 2011 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/4990907/Teen-magazines-are-sexualising-readers-says-watchdog.html
Waltz, Thomas. (2004). The Effects of Magazines on the Self-Esteem and Portrayal of Stereotypes in Teenagers. Retrieved on May 10, 2011 from http://www.csl.mtu.edu/~tgwaltz/worksamples/Documents/SeniorCompResearchPaper.pdf
Wharton, G. (2006). From Teen Fashion to Hershey Kisses: New ways to sell the Brand. Retrieved on May 10, 2011 from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1344