Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Genius of Marketing

During dinner last night, a Pantene commercial came on. I'm sure you've seen it; "Unwritten" plays in the background while a gorgeously silky- and raven-haired model swings her long tresses around in a display of follicular blessedness no mere mortal can ever hope to imitate. The message is that if you, too, use Pantene hair products, your hair will reach a level of radiance only matched by flawless diamonds and the sun. And handsome male-model types will be constantly reaching out to pet your head. What a bunch of baloney. Who really falls for this stuff?

"Mommy, that's the kind of shampoo you use!"

Curses. She's on to me. I guess I, too, have fallen prey to marketing. Give me some credit, though; I also use Dove products, which are advertised by "real women." With great skin and hair.

But the hold those commercials have had on me is nothing compared to the frenzy they started in Ainsley. All through dinner, she talked about Pantene shampoo (yes, she called it by name) and how she wanted to buy some so that she could have "hair like that."

Now, I am old enough and wise enough to know that no bottle of shampoo will make me have supermodel hair. It might keep my hair from looking like something out of Swamp Thing, but it's not going to perform miracles. But my 5-year-old doesn't know this. She thinks if she sees a gorgeous, perfect head of hair on TV, and the owner of that hair uses a certain shampoo, then it's all the shampoo's doing. I've never really understood the power of marketing before, and why Joe Camel was such a big deal. I'm starting to get it. Kids are gullible. Heck, I'm gullible. I bought the shampoo, too.

During her bath, Ains spotted one of my bottles of Pantene on the edge of the tub.

"Can we start using that, Mommy? I want my hair to be really straight and long."

"That shampoo is for grown-ups, Ainsley. You already have pretty hair. You don't need that shampoo."

"Well, can we at least try?"


And so it begins: the female quest for unattainable physical perfection, fueled by billions in advertising dollars and images of airbrushed, Photoshopped, surgically-enhanced female forms. I've battled low self-esteem and off-and-on bouts of the "uglies" since 4th grade; I will not just stand idly by and watch Ainsley feel the same way. It's not what's on the outside, but on the inside that counts. Beauty is only skin deep. Pretty is as pretty does. And so on and so on.

But, on the other hand, if a little Pantene makes her happy...

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