Mixed Messages: Olay Total Effects


Upon viewing this series of print advertisements, a viewer might think that Olay is encouraging positive self-image. The advertisements feature three women with drawings over their faces in black marker. At the bottom of the advertisement, a line of text states, “Surgical markers can do prettier things.” This message would seem to indicate that Olay does not advocate cosmetic surgery that many women in the United States and other countries feel they must go through with to maintain youth or other ideals of beauty.

However, if the viewer looks at what this print advertisement is actually selling, one may realize that Olay is sending quite the hypocritical message. The focus product of this advertisement is Olay Total Effects, a “color and correction (CC) cream” with “anti-aging ingredients” (Olay Total Effects). Olay’s website touts, “Now, maintain the 7 signs of youthful skin over time for a flawlessly beautiful complexion” (Olay Total Effects).

While this advertisement may seem at first to be encouraging self-acceptance, its product makes it clear that Olay is actually feeding into the beauty industry’s ideals, simply without purporting cosmetic surgery. Beauty ideals are one way that Lorber’s idea of gendered expectations is implemented in society (Lorber). Ultimately, these advertisements encourage the idea that women must be young and “flawlessly beautiful” to be considered desirable or acceptable in society.

Lorber “The Social Construction of Gender” (1990)
Olay Total Effects
Olay print advertisements


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