Advertising, Psychology, and Identity

“We must challenge these images. Advertisers will never voluntarily change, because the truth is, it is profitable to the advertisers for women to feel terrible about themselves”.

Jean Kilbourne – ‘Slim Hopes: Advertising and the Obsession with Thinness.

Advertising Psychology uses powerful identity manipulation to make the public associate with a product or idea and so buy it. 

Branding defines us

 When this manipulation occurs within the context of a sexist culture, making a strong connection with female identity, the results can increasingly be used to support the ideology that a women’s role is primarily to meet the needs of men, particularly sexually.

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A myriad of messages are given to women and girls about gaining empowerment, social relevance and achievement: Be Sexy (on our terms) or Be Invisible (unsuccessful). The more this is done through successful identifying with this type of role of women, the more it can be classed as a ‘choice’ and as such, argued to be ‘liberation’. This conditioning occurs, most often, subconsciously.

“Advertising is widespread, powerful, and sophisticated. Babies at the age of six months are able to recognise corporate logos and this is the age that marketeers are now starting to target our children. At the same time just about everyone feels personally exempt from the influence of advertising so wherever I go, this thing that I hear more than anything else is “oh, I don’t pay any attention to ads, I just kind of tune them out, they have no effect on me” I hear this most often from people wearing Abercrombie T-shirts.
The influence of advertising is quick, accumulative, and for the most part, subconscious. Ads sell more than products”.

– Jean Kilbourne, The Naked Truth.


Everyday, both subtly and overtly this conditioning shapes our identity more and more, influencing our choices about who we are, what we need, and what we want to do in our lives and perpetuating harmful, oppressive stereotypes. 

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