A few months ago, I posted about advertising here in Stockholm, in the subway and elsewhere. I tried to wax poetic about self-confidence, sexuality, and other issues, including the chest hair of David Beckham.
I left out a few ads. For example, I was a little shocked by a Björn Borg ad where two skinny young people (I hope they were of age) were about to have sex in their glow-in-the-dark underwear, posted in the bus shelters. And now, as summer approaches, I’m feeling bombarded by H&M and other outlets’ bikini-clad young women (H&M’s ads set off a different kind of kerfuffle with the press because their main model’s skin is so dark — for fear of triggering skin cancer in young women. Or is it racism? But I digress).
I have seen one ad campaign with a normal looking woman in a bikini — that was a relief. She had curves, and looked to be older than her teens, which means she was way too plump and aged for an H&M ad.
She looks to be only a few years younger than me. My birthday is coming up, and let’s just say that this is going to be a big one. I’ve been feeling this underlying irritation over how young these models look: their youth hints that my age means I’m supposedly about to become irrelevant to fashion, commerce and other important societal roles.
But another campaign Matt and I saw this weekend, at a new, upscale (and extremely expensive) mall downtown called MOOD made me realize there’s a twist to this. The mall’s magazine had a spread that made me realize that these ads that put youth and beauty on a pedestal ignore who has the spending power.
I wonder if the imagery of age may be a bigger problem for advertising than people might realize — particularly with the current state of the economy and the wave of wealthy Boomers with unemployed children (at least in the US). Here in Sweden, I am guessing that most young folks can afford to buy stuff at H&M. Granted, that’s a lot of stuff, so even tiny amounts of money spent adds up. But it’s their parents and grandparents who have the real cash.