Picture it, beautiful actresses, gorgeous automobiles, and dazzling blue skies with sun rays shining down on the suburbs (BEAUTY IDEAL). Class and sophistication consume media in the United States, creating hope for new ideas and inspiring the young minds of today to make a change. What better way to encourage change than through dreams and imagination? Walt Disney, known for creating smiles for millions of kids and inspiring new creativity for the next generation, introduces a ten-minute informational animation discussing the female body, including the process of menstruation and their reproductive organs (Røstvik, Camilla Mørk).
Carrying into the 1950s, The Story of Menstruation influenced popular feminine hygiene product advertisements, especially Modess, a huge sponsor of Walt Disney’s menstruation animation (Røstvik, Camilla Mørk). Modess is a feminine hygiene corporation which became popular in the 1920s and still exists today (Røstvik, Camilla Mørk). During the 1950s, the advertisement did not have as much of an impact as it does today because today it encourages women empowerment and challenges women to value themselves beyond the surface.
“The Modess… because” advertisement of 1952 impacted the improvement of feminine hygiene products through the glorification of the female body and desire of beauty by female teenagers and young women.
It also analyzed the knowledge and experiences of menstruation of the audience, allowing to build a greater connection to the target audience. Today women have many hygienic options during their period, but one has to wonder, what did women use before Tampax or Always? How did they manage their life each month? Around the 1700s, rags were a preferred method of sanitation for a women’s monthly bleed, even sheep wool was used, but not as popular (Menstruation Advertising).
Women’s menstruation was never to be discussed, because it was beneath the femininity and ladylike nature, as contradicting as that seems. As time moves forward to the late 1800s; however, more appropriate and helpful products were created to address women’s hygienic needs. The early 1900s was all about innovation. How can we improve on what’s already built? This idealism was conveyed through cars, music, fashion, technology, and yes, even proper sanitary needs including feminine hygiene. Pads with cotton, wool, and other absorbent fibrous material were produced to accommodate women’s needs (Menstruation Advertising).
Although there was an improvement for hygiene, it wasn’t until the 1950s where women were educated about their body and had options tailored to their specific flow such as the production of tampons and different sizes shaped for the heaviness of flow (Menstruation Advertising). Today, compared to the 50s, women have a wide variety of options to meet their sanitary needs, but nevertheless, the 50s embarked a groundbreaking era for feminine education, particularly Modess, a popular feminine hygiene corporation (Menstruation Advertising). Modess products are under the company Johnson and Johnson but specify to female sanitary needs (Menstruation Advertising). During the early 50s, “Modess…because” were popular ads informing customers of their product as well as the new concept of different sizes for different flows (Menstruation Advertising). These ads were popular because of the simple, uncreative title “Modess…because”, which worked in their favor due to their target audience (teenage girls and young women) (Menstruation Advertising). One of three popular ads of the collection Modess…because, portrays a beautiful woman in her early twenties with heavy, natural-looking makeup and perfect pinned hair with no strays. There are two paragraphs, both with the header “Fabulous!” and of course the slogan “Modess…because” on the bottom (Modess…because).
The ad itself is black and white and has poor pixilation, which circulated through newspapers in the 1950s (Modess…because). The woman is thin and by societal standards has an exceptionally beautiful face and envious body structure (BEAUTY IDEAL). She has a faraway look and smiles to the distance, portraying great posture with her upper body leaning slightly forward, as if she was responding to someone calling her name (Modess…because). She is accessorized with an expensive diamond necklace and the set of earrings to match (Modess…because). Her white, satiny gloves hold onto the sides of her white tulle, strapless ballgown with a dark ribbon tightly tied around her waist (Modess…because). The ruffles of the gown cover her shoes, but even then it is obvious she is above average height for a woman (Modess…because). Her presence embodies sophistication and elegance. She is the life-size Barbie or the perfect doll-like housewife that every man would want during this time. The photograph of the woman is the focal point of the advertisement and catches the eye immediately. This tactic was used purposefully to attract the target audience and create desire and envy for her looks. With that in mind, the woman will only matter to the target audience due to her looks and her perceived wealth. Teenage girls and young women are the perfect audiences for this ad because it appeals to their insecurity of wanting to feel, look, and be perfect.
As soon as they distinguish the true societal definition of a woman’s beauty, they subconsciously aspire to be her, which attracts the audience through an emotional approach otherwise known in the rhetoric language as pathos. Although the beautiful woman entices the audience, she is only meant to grab the audiences’ attention and cause them to aspire to be like her. The content of the ad is in the words, so to speak. The first and second paragraph is captioned with the word “Fabulous!” in the font Neutraface (Tagged with ‘1950s) and colored in dark, bold ink (Modess…because). The use of exclamation points and big font creates a positive reaction within the reader, helping them associate the woman with fabulous, which coaxes the audience to continue inspecting the ad. The first paragraph emphasizes the high quality of dress that the woman is wearing. Diction like “décolleté” and “exquisitely pleated” are used to describe the dress, highlighting the overall glamour conveyed through the photograph (Modess…because). The second paragraph, however, depicts the actual product through simple and understandable diction such as “so soft” and “so trustable”, only mentioning the word “napkin” once (Modess…because).
Although the second paragraph shifts its focus to the product instead of the photograph, it never clearly states what the product is, yet instead, the brand name is used in place assuming the audience is aware of the brand (Modess…because). However bold this may seem, it actually increases the credibility of the brand and the advertisement. The ad does an impeccable job of knowing the audience, understanding their attention span, and what they deem as important. Teenage girls in the 50s were supposed to care about how they look, in fact, it was taboo not to. What primarily catches their eye is beauty, secondarily would be the function and information of the sanitary napkin. The advertisement keeps its content to a short seven sentences, two of which draw attention to what type of dress the model is wearing. Understanding the audience increases the credibility of the ad, just as well as using the brand name in place of pad/sanitary napkin. Modess had been around since the 1920s and gained popularity since then (BEAUTY IDEAL). Is right for them to assume that everyone knows the product though? This is an audacious move and tactic used in the ad, but really only targets the audience even more. Males from the 1950s would not immediately recognize the intended purpose of the ad.
After a few glances and examinations, they might be able to deduce what the advertisement is selling. Not to say that men are unintelligent, but they did not need the knowledge of these products for their everyday life. However, since females were informed of the maturity their body would go through at a young age, they would understand and recognize the product automatically. The ad, therefore, uses this knowledge, not to assume what the audience knows but appeal to females through informative recognition and experience. The advertisement’s ethos is based on the knowledge of the brand name, and the consideration of the audience and what they value. The advertisement demonstrates more than just capitalizing off of female beauty aspirations by incorporating vague and broad information about the product such as “Doesn’t cost a penny more than other napkins!” and “Available in 3 sizes: Regular, Junior and Super” (Modess…because).These facts are important because they represent the value of the ad while not outshining the main tactic used within the ad.
Of course, the producers of the ad believe their product is better, but do not overwhelm the ad with information because it would not appeal to the audience as much as an emotional approach. Teenage girls do not value the facts as much as a desire to look perfect because it is not as relatable to their culture, therefore they do not elaborate any further than squeezing in a modicum of information regarding the sanitary napkin. The advertisement has to accommodate what the audience will notice and care about. As teenagers, young girls will keep function in the back of their mind and focus on popularity, style, and looks. Absorbency rate and types of material used within the napkin are not significant enough to be mentioned because it does not captivate the audience’s attention. While the advertisement mentions varying sizes and comparable prices, it does not rely on a logical approach in consideration for its’ audience. Therefore logos is not used as a successful technique to influence the consumerism of Modess sanitary napkins due to its lack of enticement, but still a part of the ad. Although this advertisement may seem to be a dime of dozen, its’ historical significance is more valuable for today’s society than the time period itself.
Every ad intended for females during the 50s targeted their desire for beauty and improvements to obtain perfection. In addition to trying to sell a product, this ad broke down the ideology of their audience and society during the time period. In today’s female-empowering world, this ad seems misogynistic and superficial. Quite frankly it would not be effective for women and girls today, but that is what makes it so significant and effective. This ad was a stepping stone that encourages its audience to understand their bodies and what they valued (Røstvik, Camilla Mørk). Gorgeous Hollywood looks mattered at that time as well as being a sophisticated, perfect wife (BEAUTY IDEAL). This ad not only embraced and took advantage of vanity to sell a product, but manipulated societal beauty by encouraging females to embrace their body’s nature. Looking back on this ad today, many women would disagree with the tactics used to push the product, but before the 1950s there was no mention of a woman’s menstruation. This topic was a taboo and completely unladylike, women had to resort to homemade methods before anyone ever dared discuss the creation of the pad or tampon.
So yes, today this advertisement would not appeal to a wide audience, in fact, it might even plummet the sales of the product because of the approach it uses, but modern societal perception would not have improved if this and did not acknowledge and manipulate societal standards of beauty during the 1950s. The Modess… because the advertisement is an effective ad within the 1950s because it appeals to its’ audience through idolization of beauty, and knowledge of the audiences’ experience as a female. The brand name itself is a credible source for the audience to recognize and trust for their hygienic needs (Menstruation Advertising). However, the advertisement would not appeal to young females today due to the ads focus on looks and vanity. Surprisingly the lack of appeal today, makes the advertisement significant because it reveals the evolution of feminine hygienic products and answers the question, “how did women manage their lives?” Women may not have that many choices before the 20th century when it came to their period, but thankfully advertisements like Modess…because sparked an interest to improve women’s’ lives and introduce the need for women empowerment (Røstvik, Camilla Mørk). Works Cited “BEAUTY IDEAL OVER THE DECADES Part 8 : THE 50’s.”