Noisy Water Review

Analysis of Schick-Wilkinson Sword Commercial:
Did They Just Say What I Think They Did?

Melisa Nelson and Brent Maier

Abstract

This study seeks to investigate the contrast in European and U.S. markets for the Schick-Wilkinson Sword Company, which influenced the production of the JWT New York Agency’s “Mow the Lawn” commercial. It will also, through the use of mass communication theories, seek to uncover societal reinforcement of cultural norms that the commercial and ad campaign utilizes. It will analyze the historical aspects influencing the media angle, including the use of symbols, towards the targeted market. The theories used are Semiotics, Objectification, Dismemberment, and the Cultivation theory.

In order to fully understand the message being sent from this commercial the historical and feminist perspectives of hair removal were investigated, along with the deeper meaning of colors, shapes, and colloquial language used to discuss personal grooming habits and body parts.

Introduction

Television is rife with stereotypical images of women. Historically, the stereotypes were “the saint and the sinner” archetypes. In modern media these types are now the “housewife and the sex object.” In her article “Beauty…and the Beast of Advertising”, Kilbourne (2002) states that “The aspect of advertising most in need of analysis and change is the portrayal of women. Scientific studies and the most casual viewing yield the same conclusion: women are shown almost exclusively as housewives or sex objects.” In analyzing the Quattro for Women Bikini commercial, the background of the company, the historical and modern ideology of hair removal, and the repercussions to women as a whole from the continued portrayal of these stereotypes were the main focus of investigation.

Product Description

The Wilkinson Sword Quattro for Women Bikini is one of the newest disposable shaving systems released by Wilkinson Sword. It features not only a four bladed razor (where the name Quattro came from) but also at the opposite end is a water proof trimmer powered by a single AAA energizer battery. The razor itself is thicker than an average disposable razor and it is featured in a two tone white and “funky teal” color. The “funky teal” is used for rubber grips on the razor.

The razor sells for €9.99 which equals out to $13.32 in American currency.

History of Company

The combination of Schick and the Wilkinson Sword Company reaches back in history to draw together two companies from opposite global corners in the health and beauty product market. Forged together in 1992 by Warner Lambert, the company was sold to Energizer Holdings, a transaction worth $930 million in 2003. This new partnership placed Schick-Wilkinson Sword in the number two spot in the world razor market, with over $620 million sales by 2001 (Fundinguniverse.com).

The Schick-Wilkinson Sword title actually represents two separately directed brands. Schick is a U.S. manufacturer with origins that trace back to U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick. Schick invented a new type of safety razor in 1921. His career after this focused on additional razor development and innovation.  Schick, with the merger of the two names, became the exclusive North American and Japan marketing branch of the company (Shaving.com).

Wilkinson Sword, the forger of ceremonial swords for the British royal family as well as the world’s largest bayonet manufacturer through World War II, has been developing and refining blades since 1824. The 1950’s and 60’s brought the company into a highly successful global market, thereby attracting international attention. Wilkinson Sword blades began selling in over 50 countries, which instigated a process of packaging the company itself as a personal care accessories manufacturer (Fundinguniverse.com)

For a short span of about twenty years, 1920 - 1940, the company engaged in the production of pruning shears and gardening equipment, growing into a leading manufacturer for this market. Eventually the division was sold to Finland Fiskars, who continues to manufacturer shears and scissors. Fiskars has now become one of four main competitors, another crucial one being Gillette, a personal care company from the U.S. (Fundinguniverse.com).

Schick-Wilkinson’s most recent addition to the family, the Quattro for both men and women, made its debut in 2003.  Quattro maintains the standard of production and design Wilkinson Sword has held proudly for over a hundred years (Fundinguniverse.com). Possessing a four-blade construction the women’s Quattro razor is specifically designed for a smooth close cut in the bikini area (Shaving.com).

With the branding of their “Free Your Skin” slogan, Schick “focuses on providing a truly liberating shave... a more pleasurable, effortless skincare experience” (Schick.com) This statement, with its attempt to guarantee personal satisfaction, seems also to give the consumer hope of inner freedom as they undergo more bodily freedom without. Product quality is not left unaddressed. Schick proclaims they go beyond mainly removal of hair to a deeper care for the individual’s skin, which literally encompasses the whole person (Schick.com).

Description of Commercial

The “Mow Your Lawn” commercial has a running time of 1:09. It was developed to run as a web campaign, in addition to the 30 second commercials shown on television. The commercial can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvFSgXpyhoM.

The commercial follows a woman from being inside her house in a robe to joining her neighbors outside mowing their lawns and trimming their bushes and hedges. In the opening shot, the colors are muted beige and brown tones. A woman is sitting on a chaise lounge in front of a window with an orange tabby cat on her lap. In this scene, and throughout the commercial, she is singing.

The commercial then moves outside and shows this same woman, along with various other women, engaged in gardening activities. The predominant colors are teal, white and pink, emphasized by the muted tones of brown, beige or green houses and drab green trees and grass. All of the women are in vibrant colors, mainly teal, white and pink, with some red and yellow included. Clothing styles are short: sleeves, shorts, and/or skirts. Necklines are low. Many are wearing high-heeled shoes.

While doing their various activities, lawnmowers and garden tools are being used. All of these implements are pink or have pink handles. During the action the women are all singing a song pertaining to the activities they are doing. At certain times the women’s actions act out the song’s lyrics. The lyrics are as follows:

Sometimes a girl can’t help
Feeling a little blue.
When everything’s a mess,
My favorite thing to do…

Is mow the lawn
Mow my lawn
Mow it
Do it
Cut it
Trim it

Some bushes are really big (wink!)
Some gardens are mightly small (giggle!)
What ever shape your topiary
It’s easy to trim them all

Whenever I see a weed
I mow that rascal down
So all that’s left for me to see
Are tulips on a mound

So mow the lawn
(uh-oh uh-oh)
Mow the lawn
(uh-oh uh-oh)

Toolshed’s equipped
My forest clipped
Never feel untidy
Just spruce up your Aphrodite
And mow the lawn

Feeling a little rough around the edges?
(And mow the lawn)
Feels great to trim the hedges
(And mow the lawn)

At the end of the commercial the women are all waving at the camera as it pans away. The main actress is again holding a cat, which is now a hairless variety. The Quattro razor swoops across the screen mimicking the motion of a lawn being mowed. The brand name and a website appear at the very end.

Theory Review

Objectification and Dismemberment Theories

The theories of Objectification and Dismemberment are relatively new theories addressing concerns that have been around for many years. The theory of Objectification suggests that women are conditioned to view their bodies as objects and their faces as masks. (Kilbourne 2002) Women are also taught to internalize an outsider’s perspective of their bodies. According to Frederickson and Roberts (1997) this phenomenon is called objectification. Dismemberment focuses on one part of the body, such as a woman’s breasts or pelvic area, creating a sum of parts instead of the body and person as a whole. This leaves women feeling as if their entire body is less than ideal because one part does not measure up to some “ideal”. Kilbourne (2002) believes that the use of dismemberment in advertising has become a monstrous problem that needs to be addressed.

Semiotics

One of the broadest definitions of semiotics is that of Umberto Eco, who states that “semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign” (Eco 1976). Semiotics involves the study of what is referred to as “signs” in general terms, along with anything that “stands for” something else. In semiotics signifiers take the form of words, images, sounds, gestures and objects. They do not become signs until they are interpreted by the observer. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, widely acknowledged as the founder of linguistics and semiotics:

It is…possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon, 'sign'). It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Since it does not yet exist, one cannot say for certain that it will exist. But it has a right to exist, a place ready for it in advance. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge. (Saussure 1983)

The primary theoretical orientations in analyzing mass media have been semiotics and rhetoric (Images in Advertising).  When analyzing a text the individual needs to make it imperative that all possible meaning is derived from said text. A signifier can have untold connotations of meaning. It all rests upon the interpretation of the viewer, the context in which the signifier is observed, and the depth of meaning the observer is willing to explore.

Cultivation Theory

The cultivation theory was first developed by Professor George Gerbner, who introduced this theory due to the decline in support of the hypodermic needle theory. The theory was first developed by studying groups of people and seeing how watching TV influenced or affected people’s beliefs. The study resulted in the findings that heavy TV viewers were more likely to believe the real world around them was like the fictional world they watch on TV.

Cultivation theory states that television is responsible for shaping viewer perceptions of social reality, which in turn eventually shapes our culture by blurring the lines between real and make believe. (Quick, B. 2009) This shaping of reality is amplified when a person has little firsthand experience with the topic being portrayed. This is due to the fact that a light viewer of TV would have more sources to pull information from rather than relying on the media as their only source. A widely used example of the cultivation theory is the use of violence in media, the portrayal of which leads heavy TV viewers to think the real world has more violent acts occur than what actually happen (Nabi, R 2008). This being said, cultivation theory argues that the increase of violence in the media effects people’s attitudes about the idea of violence, not that the viewers act more violent themselves. As well as being used to study violence, cultivation theory has been used to study “other mass media from this perspective, and has dealt with topics such as gender roles, age groups, ethnic groups and political attitudes.” (Chandler, 1995)

Theory Application

Cultivation Theory

In the Wilkinson Sword commercial, which advertises the Quattro for Women Bikini razor system, the main focus has little to do with the razor being sold. In fact the product itself is not shown until 43 seconds into the 1 min 9 second commercial. Also, the brand and product names are not seen until the last eight seconds of the commercial. It is clear that the commercial’s main focus is selling the idea of shaving your pubic area, not the razor itself, and this fits into the cultivation theory perfectly. The idea is to make it seem as if everyone shaves, showing the whole neighborhood out “mowing their lawns,” finally followed by a product that can help you do this. To a heavy viewer of television, the idea of shaving your pubic area because it is fun and everyone is doing it would seem more and more as fact. Even the neighborhood that is depicted in this commercial gives support to this idea.

The neighborhood used as the backdrop for the commercial is an excellent representation of the middle class. The muted colors used on the two-story homes are done intentionally in order to represent any middle-class neighborhood, anywhere. In this way, the advertisers are cultivating a sense of familiarity with the viewer.

In the early 1900s the increased use of shorter sleeves in women’s apparel introduced the idea of underarm hair removal and a new market for those in the razor industry. Shortly after this the first ad campaign for shaving women's underarms was launched. It featured:

…a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read 'Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair. (Cecil, 1991)

The idea of shaving under the arms is no longer sold by the media, mainly because it has become part of our culture. As stated by Cecil, “The underarm battle was largely won. Advertisers no longer felt compelled to explain the need for their products but could concentrate simply on distinguishing themselves from their competitors.” (Cecil, 1991). This is because the idea that you need to shave under your arms, formed by the media, is now rooted in our culture and no longer needs as much focus from the media to maintain it. This is one of the main points stated by the cultivation theory. As Hargreaves and Tiggeman (2003) found in their study on the effect of viewing ultra-thin models in ads by adolescent females:

There is a feasible link between individual reactive “episodes” of dissatisfaction in response to specific media images and the development of body image in that enduring attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about bodies and appearance accumulate over time through repeated exposure to ideals of attractiveness in the media.

 Continuing the cultural norm started by the ad targeting underarm hair in the early 1900’s, Nair targeted leg hair in their “Dare to wear short shorts” ad campaigns that started in the 1970’s. In the commercials, women wearing short-shorts hold bottles of Nair and sing lyrics such as, “We wear short-shorts, if you dare wear short-shorts, Nair for short-shorts.” This idea relates strongly with the fact that women's underarms were not targeted until their clothing exposed it, in this case short-shorts exposing more of a woman's hair, resulting in products to remove said hair.

A naysayer to this idea would state that the media has little to do with the actual progression of hair removal that we have seen in our culture in the last decade. It is actually just the recurrence of what has been going on for thousands of years. It has been stated that, “glabrousness has also held cultural significance for several millennia—affording a distinguishable physicality to notions of class, youth, femininity, and beauty.” (Prescott-Steed, 2008). This idea of glabrousness, or hairlessness, was widely adopted by the ancient Egyptians who related the removal of hair to personal hygiene, mainly due to lice.

Along with the hygiene aspect of hair removal, it was seen as, “...an expression of high social status, with ruling class women’s esteem for glabrousness seeing them practicing the removal of all body hair except for the hair on top of their heads.” (Prescott-Steed, 2008) The cultural norms of the ancient Egyptians seeped their way into the higher echelon of ancient Greek and Roman society as well. Statues such as the Venus de Milo, which is used in the Schick commercial, depict a woman who has little to no body hair and even statues of men tend to show minimal body hair. So the idea of hair removal is not a new idea in terms of what is aesthetically pleasing to many cultures.

All that being said, it still does not take away from the idea that the modern media encourages cultivating the idea of hair removal in order to sell a product. The topic of grooming your pubic area is a sensitive one, at least in the United States, where a more conservative view is taken on what is appropriate to be shown on television. A commercial such as this would never make it past a censorship committee, even if the topic is one discussed by women all over the country when in the midst of intimate peers. In fact, there is a 30 second version shown in the U.S. that features women walking by shrubs that form the heart, triangle and rectangle shapes of the shrubs in the U.K. version as the women pass by. There are no visual or verbal puns used in the U.S. version.

Up until the last 30 years or so the idea of shaving you pubic area would be an anomaly despite the fact that pubic and body hair in general have been removed for thousands of years. The history of hair removal does not take away from the fact that hair has been a normal part of modern western culture until the media began portraying it as negative. As shown in the previous examples of print ads, the more skin that is shown by clothing styles, the more hair there is that needs to be removed. Although the commercial could be seen as a cheeky and innocent advertisement for a razor, if one looks at the images of women that have been perpetuated by mass media for the last fifty years as the “ideal” in attractiveness and desirability, the advertisement seems to be more insidious than fun. This perception of the dark side of this type of advertisement will be further analyzed in the application of the theories of Objectification and Dismemberment.  

Objectification and Dismemberment Analysis

The commercial from Schick-Wilkinson Sword for the Quattro razor is a prime example of the use of women’s bodies as objects, along with the use of gardening implements and other objects to dismember those objectified bodies into parts. The women in the commercial are not portrayed as whole human beings, but as sums of their parts. This is not a new phenomenon, nor does the fault lay solely with the advertising world, but advertisements do contribute to the manifestation of body image issues in women. Studies have suggested that women are targeted more for sexually objectifying treatment than are men (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997).

Frederickson and Roberts (1997) originated the term “objectification theory”, which suggests that our culture socializes girls and women to internalize an observer’s perspective on their own bodies (Greening, 2004). In doing this, women and girls become more concerned with their outer attributes instead of their unseen inner qualities. They in effect self-objectify themselves because of what they observe to be the feminine ideal in television, movies and ad campaigns. This self-objectification can lead to the development of severe mental health issues, such as eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction (Frederickson and Roberts, 1997).

In a study conducted at the Flinders University of South Australia, Kuring and Tiggemann (2004) administered a questionnaire to 286 undergraduate students (115 men, 171 women). The questionnaire contained measures of self-objectification and self-surveillance, measures of proposed consequences of self-objectification, and outcome variables of disordered eating and depression. The study found that self-objectification leads to body shame, appearance anxiety, depressive mood, and disordered eating. These findings were almost exclusively reported by the women of the study.  The men reported much lower levels of self-objectification and self-surveillance. However, those that did show evidence of these behaviors also experienced higher levels of body shame and appearance anxiety.

The “Mow the Lawn” ad campaign portrays women in an objectified manner. Their apparel consists of very short skirts and pants with low-cut shirts. The eye is drawn to their legs and to their breasts.  In addition to the clothing, the props in the commercial further “chop” the women into body parts. This is an example of the dismemberment theory in practice. The lawnmowers are positioned to highlight the pelvic area of the women pushing them. The garden shears are held in a way that cuts the woman off at the neck, implying that the head is an un-necessary part of her. The razor, the one time it is featured in the commercial, is also held across the neck. The shrubs in the shape of a triangle, rectangle, and a heart are enlarged as if to say that all that matters about the women standing behind them are their “bushes”. The entire commercial reduces women to breasts, vaginas, and legs. This type of dismemberment encourages women to view their bodies as many different pieces and leave women feeling that their entire body is spoiled on the account of one “less-than-perfect” feature (Kilbourne 2002).

Semiotic Analysis

Every visual that is used in a television ad campaign is there to serve a purpose. Shapes, colors, buildings, everything is placed to promote the agenda and values of the company whose product is being advertised. This commercial is no exception. From the shapes, sizes and verdant greens of the lawn and topiary to the naked cat at the end, every audio and visual aspect of the commercial is a deliberate text. The variable element in this is the viewer, and his/her interpretation of the semiological connotation of the text.

There are three prominent colors used throughout the Wilkinson Sword Quattro for Women commercial. In addition to these bright and focus-grabbing colors, two of which happen to be the colors of the actual razor/trimmer itself, the entire color palette of the commercial lends an air of nostalgia and conveys the feel of a by-gone era. The browns, beiges and greens of the houses, fences and lawns bring to mind the colors that were popular in the 1960’s and 70’s. In addition, these colors provide a neutral background to accentuate the focus of the frame. The first highly visible color is a bubble-gum pink. Pink is associated with feminine qualities, passivity, love and friendship (color-wheel-pro.com). The lawnmowers that the women are using are a matte pink. The handles of the garden shears and scissors are pink, along with the tool box that is hanging on the side of the house. In addition to the meanings attributed to the color pink, this bubble-gum pink is also part of the packaging colors of the product. Using pink helps bring the focus to that packaging when the consumer goes to the store to buy.

The other two pervasive colors are white and teal. The Quattro razor/trimmer for women is white and “funky teal,” the company name for the color. In the commercial the sky is shades of teal with white clouds. Many of the actresses’ outfits are teal and white. The use of these two colors breeds a familiarity with the colors of the product, so that again, when a consumer is purchasing a razor, they will remember the colors.

A subtler use of color is used in the beginning moments of the commercial. The woman in the scene is dressed in a brown robe-style garment. She is surrounded by very muted shades of beige, cream, green, and orange. Her hair is a toned-down blonde shade and matches the fur of the cat in her lap. Brown can connote masculinity (color-wheel-pro.com), which a woman could be considered if she is remiss in shaving and trimming “excess” body hair. Brown can also be used to convey quiet, mousy, and unpopular. The closed in, shut-off-from-the-world feel that is perceived in this beginning scene seems to give the viewer the idea that because this woman has not trimmed her body hair, she is sad, alone, and stuck in the house. This idea was verified by a post from the blog The Hathor Legacy that read, “Horribly racist stereotypes aside, the ad also suggests that women need to shave to feel “tidy” and not “rough around the edges” (implying that if you don’t shave, you’re dirty, untidy, messy).” (2009) The rest of the commercial exhibits what will happen once she uses the product.

For the rest of the commercial the actress from the first scene is portrayed as exuberant, happy, carefree, and popular. She has changed into a bright colored pink and white ensemble, her hair is styled and lighter looking, and she is out in the world with her neighbors and friends. Her entire life seems to have changed, because she used the product to free herself from her dreary, masculine world.

Throughout the commercial, the fences, rock walls, and shrubbery are positioned to be at the same height as the pelvic area of the actresses. Those that are in the background are colored in lackluster tones of beige and green. The idea is to draw the focus to the actress in the middle of the screen, so that along with the colorful outfits of the women popping against these flat colors, they are often used to create a frame for the cynosure, or focal point, of the scene. The bushes that are placed in front of the women are a brighter, albeit still muted, green. It would seem the purpose for this is to allow the dominant colors of pink, teal and white to stay foremost in the viewers’ minds. These background objects are not the only tools used for framing the focal points of the commercial.

When the actresses are pushing the lawnmowers, the handles of the mowers are placed so that the pelvic areas of the women are framed. The garden shears are placed in a way that the head and neck of the women are framed by the open V of the shears. The razor, the one time it is shown in the commercial, is held at neck height and creates a frame of the actress’s head. Yet this is not the only reason these implements are placed like this. As was discussed earlier, this is an example of dismemberment, as well as homage to the company’s past.

The regal image of the crossing scabbards is one which brings one back to the historical contexts of the Schick company when it joined with Wilkinson Sword.  This image is repeated using the garden tools unobtrusively advertised in the commercial, such as in the multiple scenes of females navigating their pink mowers in crossing patterns on the lawn. The scabbards themselves speak of a class association observable in the foundations of the company with the production of royal ceremonial swords. Every pruner, mower, lopper, and set of shears is a stamp commenting on historical quality and expertise. No actual swords are necessary to display until the commercials close, branding the neighborhood as the logo jumps into the corner of the scene, which has turned into lush emerald turf as background.

As described above, many of the objects that are used in the commercial have more than one meaning. Another example of this is the cat. In the opening sequence, the cat is sitting on the lap of the actress in the brown robe. The cat’s fur is the same shade of blonde as the actress’s hair. The cat is the only company she has while she is sitting in her house in an untrimmed state. Once she has tidied up her “topiary,” she is able to join her friends and neighbors outside. The other meaning for the cat is a colloquial slang word for a woman’s vagina. This is brought to the viewer’s attention towards the end of the commercial, when the same woman is shown outside, pushing a lawnmower and holding a hairless pink cat in her arms. The naked cat is a metaphor for her naked pubic area. The fact that the hairless cat is pink also serves as a visual metaphor for another slang term for a woman’s vagina. This is a blatant play on words using objects instead of the actual word. Another play on words is the visual use of two tulips potted on a green, bushy mound. The main actress is seen trimming this bush while seated with the pot containing the tulips situated in between her spread legs. She sings the words “tulips on the mound” while performing this action. This phrase is also slang for the vaginal area. One more use of these audio/visual puns is in the scene where the same actress blows away a leaf covering from the pelvic area of a statue of Aphrodite, also known as the Venus de Milo, while singing “just spruce up your Aphrodite.” The Venus scene is additionally a subtle dig at Schick’s main competition in the women’s grooming market, Gillette. The Gillette razor line for women is the Venus, and this scene implies that Schick is “blowing away” the competition.

In addition to the use of colors and objects, the physical appearance of the actresses used in the commercial is also deliberate and multi-dimensional. One of the reasons they were chosen is to show that the razor/trimmer combo can be used by any woman with any type of hair. The dominant ethnicity in the commercial is Caucasian as shown by the main actress. The advertisers also use a woman who appears to be of African descent, one who appears to be of Asian descent and one that appears to be of Latina or possibly East Indian descent. As Shreffler said in a marketing industry newsletter, “Marketers aren't turning out multicultural ads for the good of society. They recognize there is money involved. If you skip out on a [a racial and/or ethnic] group…who are you marketing to?" (msnbc.com, 2009) Ultimately, the reason advertisers use multiracial representations in advertisement is to increase profits, not to increase harmony.

The ad clearly illustrates what Williams (msnbc.com, 2009) was articulating when he said, "Every now and then you see something that bucks the trend. But when you do content analyses of ads, you are astounded by how much stereotypes are still part of the advertising we all digest." The woman who appears to be of African descent is seen “attacking” an unruly shrub with an electric hedge-trimmer. She is the only one to use a power tool to trim her hedge. Her hair is also the only hair to be blown around wildly by a “wind” as she is singing the line, “Some bushes are really big.” This is reminiscent of Balkaran’s (1999) assertion “As a result of the overwhelming media focus on crime, drug use, gang violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior among African-Americans, the media have fostered a distorted and pernicious public perception of African-Americans”. The aggressive nature of her portrayal continues to reinforce the perception the public has of the women of this ethnicity.

In contrast, the woman who looks to be of Asian heritage is shown with a small pair of garden clippers while trimming a very tidy looking bonsai-style bush and singing, “Some gardens are mighty small.” Her hair is neat and pulled back, and she is portrayed in a shy and retiring manner. She is also the only woman dressed mainly in white, which could suggest purity or virginity (color-wheel-pro.com).  In a study, Wu (2010) “finds that both Asian/Asian American women and women from other racial-ethnic groups confirm belief in the model minority media stereotype in prime-time television”. This statement perfectly expresses the myriad reasons why the stereotypes are used and perpetuated in mass media. The original post on The Hathor Legacy blog contained this sentiment, which was echoed by many of the respondents’ comments:

I still can’t decide what’s the worst thing about this ad. The message that every woman must remove every single hair from her body to be a socially acceptable person, or that the Asian and white women go daintily about their business and the black woman goes at her bush with a frigging chainsaw. I get they are going for tongue-in-cheek, but I am left vaguely horrified by this, not amused. (S.B.G. 2009)

 

Conclusion

In analyzing the “Mow the Lawn” commercial from Wilkinson Sword, there are many different paths one could take. The message the company seems to be sending is one of cheeky fun, almost as if it is intending there to be an inside joke between women viewers and the company. The company is not introducing anything new, as the ideal in many cultures has leaned towards as little body hair as possible for thousands of years. If anything it is offering an innovative product for the consumer to use to remove their unwanted body hair and showcasing it in a fun and humorous way. Some viewing the commercial take the message in a completely different way. As Sherrett (2009) said on his blog AdHack:

At first blush, it seems charming. A smattering of spunky cuties singing and dancing. A distinct 1960’s sunshine-and-lollipops, rainbows-and-puppy-dogs feel reminiscent of good times, fashionable TV shows (ahem: Mad Men) and an idealized era. So why was it bugging me? Why did it seem tasty but feel wrong, like candy floss: sweet on the tongue, rotting the teeth? And then it came to me on the bus this morning. They’re not selling a razor/trimmer. They’re selling shame to women.

It is possible to see the racial and feminine stereotypes used in the commercial and take offense to the portrayal of women as sex objects who are unworthy of attention unless they dress, act and shave or trim a certain way. The use of blades to frame the actresses’ heads could be seen as a way of dismembering them and turning the women into just torso and legs because their heads and, therefore, their minds are insignificant and unwanted. As was stated previously, it is up to the viewer to interpret the commercial and its meaning for themselves and to come to their own informed conclusion.

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