Cosmetics Ads Analysis

Makeup serves as a way of self-expression. Women can change their identity using a specific type of cosmetics. Thus, bright red lipstick can make a woman a hussy while soft neutral lipstick transforms her into a lady. This paper describes two cosmetic advertisements. The first one is the advertisement of hair removal cream. The second advertisement is focused on the make-up box. These items were made in different time periods, which allows comparing the ways in which companies used to sell their products. Besides, the paper analyzes the intended audience of products. Women tend to purchase cosmetics that express their identity better, and companies try to guess female real inner self or create a new self.

The Advertisement of Neet Cream (1929)

            The advertisement tries to sell Neet cream for removing hair (see Appendix A). It contains both text and images. In particular, potential customers can see three photos of women with titles. Each image focuses on some specific part of a female body, which can be shaved using the cream. Thus, advertisers want to inform women how the product can improve their legs, arms, and underarms. As for the text, it contains an introduction and two sections that are called “What it is” and “Where to obtain.” In the introduction, customers can read about the key benefits of the product and information about its discovery. The section “What it is” provides details on the cream application. In the last section “Where to obtain,” readers can find information where the product is sold. Besides, the paragraph indicates the price. In addition, the advertisement has two phrases typed in larger letters that summarize the main benefits of the product.

            The advertisement contains few claims. First, the company states that its cream is a totally new way of removing hair. It is much better than other methods because the period for the reappearance of hair is much longer. Legs and arms do not have sharp stubble and enlarged pores. The advertisers also claim that the skin will become as soft as a child’s one. Another important claim is that true feminine attractiveness is impossible without smooth legs and arms. Apart from such a significant amount of benefits, the product is also easy to use. The company claims that customers only need to put cream on their body and then rinse off with water. Therefore, the key claims of the advertisement are that the cream is modern, easy-to-use, and necessary for each woman. The advert also creates the image of ideal female legs and arms that should be smooth like satin, and without large pores and sharp stubble.

            The intended audience is women because the advertisement contains the images of three females, as well as claims that the cream is necessary for true feminine attractiveness. These women are of older age because the advert constantly compares the cream with traditional methods of removing hair. This means that the target customers have already tried to use other hair removal methods and could experience their disadvantages. At the same time, these women are not very old because they still take care of their appearance and want to attract men. The average income of the intended audience is middle and high because only such females can afford to purchase more expensive products when cheaper alternatives are available. Besides, the target customers like comfort and follow the last trends because the advertisers underline that the cream is innovative and easy-to-use. Moreover, the cream is a discovery of a famous scientist and it has already gained a significant popularity among women.

            According to Kathy Peiss, the western culture focuses more on enhancing the beauty of a female face than other parts of the body. The face is a unique “expression of character and beauty” (Peiss, 1996, p. 313). This does not fit with the advertisement that states that smooth legs and arms make a woman attractive. At the same time, this claim from the advertisement fits with Peiss’s statement that cosmetics is an important aspect of self-realization and personal transformation (1996, p. 322). The advert directly says that the cream will transform a female into a charming woman and a fashion leader. The description of the product coincides with the findings of Peiss concerning the 1920s. Particularly, the researcher found that advertisers of that period promised social and personal transformation. However, this transformation has one weakness as it betrays the feminine nature (Peiss, 1996, p. 316). For example, Neet says that women with smooth arms will start to look like children. It is unnatural not to have any hair on legs and arms.

The Advertisement of Make-Up Box (1938)

            The advertisement tries to sell the box with cosmetics. It consists of lipstick, rouge, nail polish, eye shadow, and powder. All the products help to create a look in tawny red color. The advertisement contains the text and two images. The text describes women who can purchase the product. It also presents the components of the make-up box and shows how they “work” together. In the end, the company informs customers about the price of the product. As for the images, everyone can see a beautiful woman who is wearing all the cosmetics from the box. Another image is the photo of the make-up box. It is open, so customers can see all the products. Overall, the text and images are quite minimalist. They present only key information about the product. At the bottom of the page, readers can also see where the make-up box is available. Thus, customers can find it in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

            The main claim of the advertisement is that the new Redwood make-up box will make the woman look “natural”. Another claim is that the box from Elizabeth Arden is full of products that create a harmonious look. The advertisement claims that the cosmetics are perfect for autumn. The colors are lovely matching, so they will look good on a female face. In fact, the keywords of the advertisement are “natural look” and “harmony”. The company Elizabeth Arden states that its products provide both benefits to women. If the woman chooses and tries the new cosmetics from Elizabeth Arden, she will have a perfect, harmonious look in autumn colors.

            The intended audience of the advertisement is women who want to have harmonious and “natural” appearance. However, “natural” appearance does not mean that females do not use cosmetics. These women like when all their external signs of self match one another and create a harmonious self-representation. Besides, they want to look “natural” and attractive at the same time. They also like combining elegance with bright colors. The advertisement’s constant claims about harmony and nature prove these assumptions. Besides, target customers are Americans because the advertisement indicates only American cities as places where the product is sold. The intended audience is young but experienced women because inexperienced girls prefer more neutral colors and style. The word “natural” is taken in quotation marks in the advertisement, which allows making the assumptions about preferences and age of the target customers. Young inexperienced girls would use the word directly, without brackets. However, older women prefer making the illusion of “nature” to look more attractive and fashionable. Besides, the target customers are confident women who are not afraid of experiments with a style.

            The description of the advertisement slightly does not fit with the findings presented in Peiss’ article. The researcher concluded that, at that time, manufacturers created cosmetics for two types of women, namely ladies and hussies. Peiss used the example of lipstick from the company Volupte that introduced its product in 1938, the same year when Elizabeth Arden Redwood advertised its make-up box. This company had “soft mat finish” for ladies who preferred pale nail polish and “quiet smart clothes” (Peiss, 1996, p. 311). The bright lipstick was made for hussies who liked bright clothes and wanted to be a little shocking. However, this typology does not fit with the advertisement under consideration. The woman from the image does not look like a hussy; rather, she looks more like an elegant lady, despite wearing bright colors. On the other hand, the description fits with Peiss’ finding concerning the use of make-up for the show. The author determined that women used to play with their “natural beauty and proper female behavior” (Peiss, 1996, p. 320). The model from the advertisement also tries to create the illusion of natural beauty and makes the audience believe that she lives in harmony. Therefore, she makes the performance of identity. Besides, females living in the 1930s also used cosmetics as a way of social and personal transformation, which coincides with the advertisement where the woman looks fashionable and confident. 


            The advertisements of cosmetics are different. The advertisement from the 1920s has more images and text. It clearly states the benefits of the product and presents images of a female body after the use of the cream. The advertisement from the 1930s is much more minimalist. It contains a short text with the description of the products, as well as the images of the products and the woman wearing cosmetics. The first advertisement focuses on female legs and arms, which is not very common. According to Peiss, the face was a major expression of beauty at that time. On the other hand, the advertisement explains to customers how their body will change after using the cream, so this description proves Peiss’ idea about using cosmetics for self-realization and self-transformation. The second advertisement proves Peiss’s statement regarding the application of makeup for the performance of identity. The creators of the make-up box offer customers to make them look “natural”. Despite the use of red lipstick and nail polish, the woman from the advertisement does not look like a hussy, which does not fit with Peiss’ thought about using bright colors only by prostitutes. On the contrary, the advertisement demonstrates that cosmetic products of a red color are a perfect decision for a confident lady.

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