All about the butt: The trouble with fitness advertising

SHIT. SORRY. I was meant to write this post ages ago. I know you’ve been trembling with anticipation for this so we’ll get started now.

Now the first time I ever wrote about adverts was in my second year of university as part of an English language module. It isn’t particularly relevant to me now since it wasn’t about the creative process of making ads. But I did learn about the rhetoric of advertising and its effect on audiences.  

Since I wanted to pick an important topic that I felt strongly about for my final essay, I chose an advert for a butt workout video:

Now you’ll probably agree it’s pretty cheesy and although I could talk about some of its ridiculous imagery, we’re going to deal with a question bigger than Leandro:

How responsible are adverts for their effects?

Advertising is often seen as a pretty negative force in the world. We tend to vilify adverts as being a sign of rampant consumerism (rather than looking at our own behaviour). Adverts interrupt the content we’re choosing to watch, read or listen to and they influence us to spend our money.

Books on copywriting, understandably, emphasise the importance selling. If the advert doesn’t lead to a sale, it’s useless.  But the problem with this is that it ignores how prevalent adverts have become in our media.  An advert isn’t simply a sales description of a single product. Rather, it is a way for a company to communicate with their audience and build toward their overall impression.

Adverts that are enjoyable or informative end up having long-term benefits, going far beyond an immediate sale. When advertising limits itself to the sole goal of selling, like in direct response adverts, it closes its eyes to all the unwanted side effects it may cause.

When I first wrote about that advert I criticised it for equating physical well-being with an unattainable body type, since the models in the video obviously will have much stricter diets and exercise regimens than most people.

But, if the only task of an advert is to sell, then really the Brazil Butt Lift advert isn’t a bad advert at all. It’s actually sold huge numbers of the program and the company behind it, Beach Body, have sold millions of programs, including Insanity and P90x. But this is where negative perceptions of advertising (and the fitness industry in this case) come from: a lot of the claims the advert makes are simply wrong. It’s difficult for consumers to trust brands that aren’t accurate in their adverts. While it may get an immediate sale based on the results it promises, it tarnishes the company’s reputation in the long term.

Of course, this particular advert is just for a fairly mild workout DVD, not something potentially dangerous. I can’t fault it. If the Brazil Butt Lift gives beginners a reason to enjoy exercise, then really that outweighs its unintentional messages. It would definitely be a stretch to suggest the advert is responsible for the objectification of women’s bodies. Instead, the advert is a symptom of negligence from the advertisers and fitness industry.

When comparing it to advertising from brands like Nike, the negligence of the Butt Lift commercial is much more obvious.

absnike

Nike is arguably more superficial in what they sell, but by using their adverts as an opportunity to communicate with and empower their audience, they have secured their place as a company that actually cares about their customers in the long term.

To create a genuine interest in health there needs to be less of a focus on the superficial benefits of exercise. Instead, by promoting the drive and motivation needed to exercise regularly, it becomes more attainable and a lifelong practice.

No, advertisements can’t be fully responsible for what society already thinks. But by choosing to take responsibility for all of their potential effects, they not only create stronger brands, but also can reverse the damage of messages already ingrained in society.

That’s all for now guys. I’m a terrible person for not posting sooner, I know. My next post is definitely not going to be in 3 months, but if you still can’t wait, click here for the last post I wrote about Spotify. 

-Gagan

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