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Advertising Campaign Analysis: Pregnancy Ads Through Time

Essay by   •  September 28, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,535 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,865 Views

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Pregnancy, a condition once considered embarrassing and unacceptable to be or even view, is now celebrated and in some cases deemed sexy. This shift in perception and acceptance can be traced back to the famous 1991 Vanity Fair magazine cover with a very painted, very pregnant, very exposed Demi Moore. The furor over that cover reflected the patriarchal values of U.S. society held until and through the era of Ronald Reagan and the Cold War. Today, in contrast, the image of a pregnant woman is present in all forms of media with very little fanfare about its appropriateness.

Broadly, there are two ways pregnant women used to be depicted in advertising. One was where pregnancy depicted a crisis situation and the product or service came to the rescue. And the other way was, showing a gentler, caring face of the advertised organization through the pregnant woman. Another way to look at it is that brands identify pregnancy with purity or health. There are many brands around us that are positioned around these theories.

Pregnancy in advertising started in the early 1950's when a group of photographers did a photoshoot for a maternity line. It was more of instructional photographs than a pure form of advertising meant for expectant females. For the first time this female demography was addressed as consumers. Advertisements for maternity clothing took out immense interest from expectant parents. Post war, the small brands started to become big and the adverts of those days broke many grounds in the public perception of pregnancy. There were efforts to place those ads in places where pregnant or soon to be pregnant women or their close family members could see them. There were also direct mailers, catalogues and brochures sent out to the interested individuals. My grandmother once told me that when she was young and having babies , it was considered taboo to even mention that a woman was expecting a child. If you ordered anything through the mail that outwardly advertised you were pregnant, it was entirely likely your mailman would blush handing you the package. Perhaps this practice stemmed from the old Victorian taboo that pregnancy was too personal a condition to openly discuss in the mainstream.

Pregnancy without a doubt is an interesting stage of a women's body that is associated with social and emotional expectations. Like mentioned in class last week in the Arnofini wedding portrait form 1434 the bride appears to be pregnant but is not. Her appearance is fulfilling a social expectation since in Europe during that time a huge emphasis was placed on replenishing the society since so many lives were lost during the black plague. We see the same trend happening after World War II with the baby boom generation. Postwar fashions for women were often noted for emphasizing a women's reproductive capacities (storm 1987) a great example being the ''new look'' from Dior. This fact amazes me because even though they wanted to portray this look a women pregnant during this time was still forbidden to show or talk about. In the 1950s pregnant teachers had to resign as soon as they started showing. It was a time when a teacher could expect to be legally fired once her pregnancy was visible.

Along with teachers were nurses who fell into this category. Like teachers nurses were at the forefront and were seen by the community just as much. This era sparked maternity wear that targeted women especially in the work force. Look at this advertisement from Lane Bryant back in the 50's.

If you notice the wording it says that it helps ''conceal your CONDITION, help keep you SMART throughout your pregnancy. First of all I didn't know pregnancy was a condition like alcoholism or schizophrenia secondly I was unaware that maternity wear helps keep you smart throughout your pregnancy. Thirdly I was shocked to see all the sizes they provided in this, but I had to remember women were having children during their teens. And last but not least a corset for pregnant women!!!! What is going on here? Can you imagine wearing a corset while pregnant? I can't imagine what that did to the baby. I looked up this maternity corset issue and was shocked to find out that this was a popular practice of women during this era. I learned that the corsets were designed to mask, even minimize, the size of the pregnant body.

This made me realize that showing your pregnancy was really something that was frowned upon like women wearing pants, or voting. This was even more confirmed when I came across the talk of Lucille Ball our beloved comedian with her famous ''I love Lucy'' Show. From this article it as evident that Lucy was always "expecting" and never, ever "pregnant''. ''I Love Lucy'' was a national phenomenon, so when Lucille Ball became



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