Ever since television became a common household item it has served not only the purpose of providing entertainment, but it has also existed as an effective vessel for advertisement. In order for advertisements to be effective they have to reach a target demographic that responds by buying the product being advertised. Television allows advertisers to reach out to consumers in their own homes to pitch a product. In attempting to reach these demographics at home, advertisers must project the product in a manner relatable to consumers; effective advertisements are successful because they reflect constructed views of society that are accepted by the consumers. In this regard, advertisements effectively tell us something about society simply by existing. The recent advertising campaign for Glade Scented Candles targets women as the prospective consumer demographic; in doing this Glade perpetuates the idea that femininity is represented best through the catty antics of a happy housewife.
This Glade Scented Candles commercial provides what the advertisers believe to be relatable experience for women by displaying a conversation between two women at home. The women in the commercial are dressed to display what the advertisers believe is an effective and relatable representation of femininity: one woman is wearing a dress with a pink jacket, high heels, and countless necklaces while the other is wearing a fancy patterned blouse with a white jacket, giant earrings, and high heels. The first line in the ad is one woman saying to the other, “Why haven’t you lit this candle?” The actress’s tone of voice, in addition to her follow-up line in which she states that her house always smells fresh because of Glade Scented Candles, implies that the other woman has failed as a housekeeper and a woman because her house does not smell fresh because she is not using Glade Scented Candles. The advertisement ends with the women walking out to buy some Glade Scented Candles and the first woman stating “now, about those shoes,” implying that the second woman’s sense of fashion is flawed, further projecting her as an inadequate woman. In less than thirty seconds this advertisement has made it appear normal that women should care about how “fresh” their houses smell because a house without Glade Scented Candles is as unacceptable as ugly shoes. The advertisers at Glade represent femininity as self-conscious, materialistic, and home-centric.
David Newman explains this projection of women in the media by stating that television and advertisements perpetuate gender stereotypes. (Newman 91) Newman provides the example of Jif Peanut Butter perpetuating gender stereotypes: “Commercials for a popular brand of peanut butter still contain the tag line “Choosy mothers choose Jif,” reinforcing the expectation that mothers are the primary caretakers of their children.” (Newman 91) Glade is essentially doing the same thing as Jif in this advertisement; Glade is reinforcing the expectation that women are the primary caretakers of the home by having two women discuss how essential it is for a house to smell fresh.
The Glade advertisement is projecting the idea that all women should subscribe to the way of thinking provided by the commercial and buy the product; this type of behavior is described by George Lipsitz when he discusses the evolution of television and consumerism in the United States. Lipsitz provides examples of television being used to convey societal expectations, such as Americans buying on credit in the 1950s. (Dines and Humez 44) According to Lipsitz, television projects a way of life that the standard American consumer will emulate; if this is true then it explains why Glade’s commercial tries to attract what they believe to be the lowest common denominator of female consumer, the housewife.
The examples of Newman and Lipsitz are strengthened by James Lull’s concept of hegemony in relation to the media and advertisement. Lull defines hegemony as “the power or dominance that one social group holds over others… hegemony is more than social power itself; it is a method for gaining and maintaining power.” (Dines and Humez 61) S.C. Johnson, the company that produces Glade Scented Candles, is the dominant force in this scenario. This corporation uses television to show the advertisement which projects the beliefs held within the advertisement to the consumers, who in this case represent a subordinate class. The consumers accept this commercial as a realistic representation of what life ought to be like, and the consumers buy the product. It is not through this commercial alone that hegemony is exercised to perpetuate this gender stereotype; the belief that women should be the keepers of the home has been perpetuated by books, films, plays, television shows, and other forms of media representing a dominant ideology or class within this hegemony.
While this commercial shows what a specific company feels is the broadest, most relatable representation of femininity, this concept is reinforced throughout the media as a whole. As long as consumers accept the projected stereotypes as normal, the stereotypes will not change because corporations are making money perpetuating these stereotypes. And with modern technology the stereotypes that replace the current stereotypes will be projected by other corporations in order to make money; the cycle of media hegemony seems unlikely to stop as long as there is money to be made.
Dines, Gail, and Jean M. Humez. Gender, Race and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Second ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. Print.
Glade Scented Candles Ad. Youtube. 2 Feb. 2009. Web.
Lipsitz, George. "The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class and Ethnicity in Early Network Television." Gender, Race and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M.
Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. 40-47. Print.
Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Second ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. 61-66. Print.
Newman, David M. Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006. Print.