The portrait of Dorian Gray has be photoshopped.

by Jeanne Chinard

"How sad it is!" murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. "How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young ... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! ... I would give my soul for that!" (“The Picture Of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde)

How could Oscar Wilde have dreamed that his words, written more than a century ago, would still resonate? But today, he wouldn’t need a painter to work his dark magic, he would only need Photoshop®. When you see digital avatars looking more realistic than real women, you know you’re in trouble.

It is no secret that there is an epidemic of retouching in all still media. You see a plethora of oddly smooth faces, arms without muscles and anatomically impossible attachments of limbs to bodies. Faces for cosmetic products don’t have an expression line in them. Or any expression for that matter. It even makes the most recognizable celebrity, unrecognizable. Isn’t that why you pay so much to use them?

The tired mantra that marketers always use is that “women don’t want to see older women in advertising.” Baloney. Show me the research. What were the questions? And who were the women? You can get anything out of a focus group you want. Women want women to look good when they are representing a product. That doesn’t mean they want them to look flawless or like soulless mannequins.

I will never forget a very senior executive art director who argued nastily with me because I thought he was over retouching a celebrity model. “Well,” he insisted, you have to. If you are over fifteen you look like a f*#!! hag.” The model was 22.

So the question is, is the lack of reality in the absurd way women are portrayed and retouched actually driving women away from products that reduce the signs of aging? How many times and how many ways can marketers tell women they are just not good enough? How do you think that makes us feel?

Perhaps more important, what are the ethical implications of the drive to look inappropriately young? What is it doing to our young girls? Have marketers looked in the mirror themselves, lately? They may wish they had Photoshop® handy.


Gray matters

by Jeanne Chinard

A recent New York Times article reported that judging from latest trend among young fashionistas - gray is the new black. No, not clothing, hair. Whether it’s just streaks or the whole head, edgy young hipsters are flashing gray. Having just made an appointment to cover my roots, I was surprised, but pleased. How wonderful to see a generation disregard the inviolate rule that you should never, ever show your roots.

However, as the article also points out, Nielsen reports that in 2009, U.S. women spent $1.3 billion to cover gray. It is wonderfully outrageous for hip twenty-somethings to streak or silver up their hair. It is anti-fashion in the most seriously fashion obsessed way. Not every twenty-six year old in New York or London will be able to pull it off, or even want to. Unfortunately, not will every sixty-six year old will either.

I don’t think the problem is that society isn’t ready for a generation of boomers to go gray, or even that deep down, neither are the boomers themselves. Think of the women of my generation and a little older who have gone grey and look smashing for it - silver foxes like Helen Mirren, Joan Baez, or Emmylou Harris.

These are just a few of the women who look just as vital, if not more so, with gray hair. They are all beautiful women who project sexiness and confidence.

Older women who wear silver hair well are usually in good shape and look younger than they really are. They seem to have great bone structure, good skin, an innate sense of style, and an attraction to bold jewelry and rich colors. Georgia O’Keeffe certainly comes to mind. These GenModern™ women are truly aspirational .

Our culture needs to start recognizing that gray hair isn’t just for depressed or financially worried older women (as it is usually shown in the media) – nor is it just for hipsters only a few years out of school.

The hair color industry aside, advertisers would win the appreciation of a lot of potential customers if they started to embrace sexy older women who are aging naturally and with style – and who are not afraid to break the rules.


What's going on. Look at what they did to Marvin Gaye.

by Jeanne Chinard

Look, I would like to see colon cancer wiped out as much as anyone, and I appreciate the value and importance of a boomer icon like Peter Yarrow using his talents to prevent it. BUT… did he have to write a folk song about having a colonoscopy? I may never remember him for anything else.

Really, does every product or service have to be sold by corrupting the sweet memories of every song we grew up with? Does any twenty-something marketer ever pause to think that maybe members of our generation are not all as easy as politicians in a brothel? Or that we may take offense at seeing our cherished music shill for pedestrian products? Slap a 60’s song on a brand and see how high we jump? That we’ll all come running to your product with our tongues hanging out like a bunch of puppies?

Well, not only won’t these boomer anthems make us want to buy something, but they can turn us off these product completely. After Swiffer sullied the edgy legacy of ”One Way Or Another” by Blondie, or the eighties synthpop angst of "Don't You Want Me" by Human League, I now think twice before I buy any of their products. Even worse is “Instant Karma” by John Lennon for Chase or “Tuesday Afternoon” by the Moody Blues for Visa Check Cards. And I almost cried when I heard “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye on a Budweiser beer commercial. Remember, you are talking about beer, banks and bankcards – and you're trying to sell them by appropriating the creative legacy of a cultural, spiritual, and human rights revolution? Shame on you.

Using “Instant Karma” for Chase, or Dylan’s “Forever Young” for Pepsi or the Sixties anthem “All You Need is Love” for ”Procter & Gamble’s Luvs diapers, is a little like using “There Will Always Be an England” from WW II for British cookies, or “When The Lights Go On Again in England” for light bulbs.

There was a reason that the creative directors of my generation created original songs to brand a product. Jingles were written to reflect the products they represented - they weren’t just slapped on as gratuitous borrowed interest. And although they may not all have been good or artful, they never ran the risk of treading on the emotional touchstones of a generation.

So please, don’t use the music I grew up with to pander to me or try to

manipulate me. I don’t live in the past. If you cheapen the music I love,

you cheapen the products you want me to buy.

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