Cultural Analysis of the Subculture “Successful Young Black Women” Through Printed Advertisements
Elizabeth Anne Nelson
February 23, 2012
All three printed advertisements obtained from: http://www.tobacco.org/ads/index.php?tdo_code=pollay_ads&brand=Virginia+Slims&marketing_type=&type=&company=&date_begin=&date_end=&pattern=&records_per_page=10&sorted_by=&submit.x=60&submit.y=9
Few industries have caused such a ruckus and debate within the marketing and advertising world as much as the tobacco industry. However, despite laws and regulations to try to police the industry, tobacco has certainly impacted today’s market. The tobacco industry has taken criticism for targeting youth, as well as minorities. Parents, organizations, and many others have spoken out about the industry’s ruthless target of minorities and youth. The industry itself has maintained somewhat of poise throughout these catastrophes and backlashes against the advertising campaigns.
One tobacco brand that is noteworthy is Virginia Slims. Virginia Slims were introduced by Philip Morris in 1968 and immediately became a target for women. In the 1960’s, consumption and demand for cigarettes among men came to a cessation. Morris reenergized the industry by introducing Virginia Slims, whose advertisements and slogans were intended exclusively for women. The ads focused on how women’s lives and freedoms had changed since the 1920’s and 1930’s. The slogan of Virginia Slims was “You’ve come a long way, baby.” This campaign suggested liberation and attraction from and for smoking. In more recent decades, Morris revamped the image of Virginia Slims with the “It’s a woman thing” campaign. These ads continued to suggest empowerment and attractiveness from smoking and focused on how men were different from women. However, in 2004, Morris eliminated all magazine advertising.
Nonetheless, with the success of these marketing campaigns, the tobacco companies realized the potential demand they could receive from women and girls. Six years after the introduction of Virginia Slims and other brands targeting the female market, the smoking initiation rate of 12-year-old girls had increased by 110 percent. Increases among teenage girls of other ages were also substantial. It is obvious that there is a large market for female smokers. However, those women were marketed to via subcultures as well. The advertisements displayed in this paper will focus on the subculture “young, successful black women.” Virginia Slims has done a fantastic job of targeting this sub-culture. The key to Virginia Slims was to create an aspirational image which women associated with the brand. A few modifications and different approaches have made it more appealing to the “young, successful black women” subculture.
It appears as though the themes of liberation, success, and even thinness are apparent in these printed advertisements. This may draw some criticism, as some women use smoking as a means for weight control. There are many visual aspects to each of the three printed ads selected. In the first ad, a young, black woman is pictured resting on the side of her bathtub, filled to the brim with bubbles. She is smiling as she engages in a phone conversation. Demographically, minorities in America utilize the telephone the most. From the ad, it is obvious that this woman is engaging in a relaxation method by taking a hot bubble bath. This allures to the fact that she may work hard, and is therefore a successful black woman. Ethnically, the woman has a light skin tone. Among African Americans, those of lighter skin tone are generally considered more beautiful than those of a more native-to-Africa, dark tone. In the same category of vanity is the fact that the woman depicted has straight black hair. Racially, African Americans do not have straight black hair. Yet, straight black hair is common in today’s society for...
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