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‘The Science of Looking Awesome’

This section explores the themes of technology, science, and - conflictingly although also expectedly - nature/tbe natural. As Ringrow (2016: 81) has found, “the use of ‘scientific’ claims, lexis, and imagery” is prevalent in contemporary beauty advertising. However, whether the ‘science’ and ‘technology’ of the advertised products is authentic or merely scientific- or technological-sounding is often unclear; for this reason, I will use the terms ‘scientised’ and ‘technologised’ “to mean using a register associated with science [and/or technology], regardless of whether it is merited or not” (Ringrow 2016: 85; cf. Coupland 2003; and Haiken 1997). In advertising for anti-ageing products in particular, science is used to invest the product with a sense of seriousness, authenticity, and a “guarantee of effectiveness” (Ringrow 2016: 82).

Previous literature on the theme of technology and science in advertising suggests that the theme is more frequently found in men’s magazines than in women’s magazines; Griffiths (2006: 59), for example, has argued that

technology is ... even more important as a marketing tool for men’s [products] than it is for women’s products, with ‘scientific’ explanations of a product’s functionality serving the dual role of reassuring the consumer that it will work and reinforcing the impression that this is a ‘no nonsense’, masculine product.

However, as Harrison (2008: 61) found in her analysis of adverts targeted at men, too much emphasis on science and technology in adverts for men’s grooming products may make them unintelligible and sometimes even laughable.

Several beauty brands have discussed the importance of investing in research and development; moreover, this focus on research is accentuated in marketing materials. In a World Advertising Research Center (WARC) (2015: 45) report on Procter & Gamble’s advertising strategy, for example, the authors recommend using ‘scientific overtones’ as skincare products are “[taking] on a more advanced scientific form” and therefore “Procter & Gamble would benefit from using ... short and catchy, but scientific terms as part of its marketing strategy”. Similarly, the same WARC report (2015: 7) focused on the healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson and recognised the brand’s potential to “build on its health- oriented positioning to develop [and market] technologically innovative products ...”.

Considering previous academic and industry-led literature, it is no surprise that the theme of technology and science is widespread in both adverts for cosmetic procedures and those for (other) beauty products/ services (see Tables 5.1 and 5.2). However, unlike what may have been expected from the literature, the theme has mostly increased in popularity

Advertising - General 93

Table 5.1 Prevalence of Technology And Science theme between 2001-2015 as coded in the adverts for cosmetic procedures







21% (N=15)

17% (N=11)

35% (N=6)

75% (N=3)

22% (N=35)


13% (N=3)

30% (N=3)

33% (N=1)


19% (N=7)

Gay Times

67% (N=4)

21% (N=6)

25% (N=1)

56% (N=5)

33% (N=16)



26% (N=19)

9% (N=5)

50% (N=7)


22% (N=31)


23% (N=41)

16% (N=25)

40% (N=15)

50% (N=8)

23% (N=89)

Table 5.2 Prevalence of Technology And Science theme between 2001-2015 as coded in adverts for (other) beauty products/services







75% (N=41)

82% (N=55)

95% (N=57)

74% (N=20)

83% (N=173)


75% (N=9)

60% (N=9)

100% (N=3)

80% (N=4)

71% (N=25)

Gay Times

57% (N=4)

38% (N=3)

75% (N=3)

100% (N=3)

59% (N=13)



84% (N=52)

98% (N=63)

80% (N=43)

83% (N=45)

87% (N=203)


78% (N=106)

84% (N=130)

88% (N=106)

81% (N=72)

83% (N=414)

in the adverts for cosmetic procedures; only a small difference can be detected for the (other) beauty adverts (although this varies across the subthemes). This smaller change is perhaps not surprising as the starting point for the (other) beauty adverts was much higher than that of the adverts for cosmetic procedures. Interestingly, references to technology and science do not appear to occur more frequently in men’s magazines; on the contrary, (other) beauty adverts in the women’s magazines comprise more references to the theme than those in the men’s magazines. Also interesting to note here is that (other) beauty adverts are far more likely to include a science/technology reference than the adverts for cosmetic procedures.

Several subcategories were distinguished within the overarching technology and science theme. References to innovation and newness were particularly popular; 87% (N=77) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures referring to the overall theme related to this subcategory11. Especially advertising in the women’s magazines referred to the novelty or up-to- dateness of providers and, more importantly, the treatments on offer (my emphases)12: III. IV.

Our latest laser treatment removes unwanted facial and body hair gently... (Harley Medical Group in Cosmo February 2001: 201)

Discover a ‘new you’ with proven, innovative treatments. (Private Clinic in Cosmo june 2001: 292)

V. Latest techniques include ‘The Model’s Face Lift’. (Donatella in Marie Claire October 2001: 389)

VI. The latest sedation techniques. (Hurlingham Clinic in Cosmo February 2006: 176 and Marie Claire February 2006: 206)

VII. Qualified medical specialists, trained in the latest techniques. (BUPA in Cosmo June 2006: 298)

VIII. Leaders in their field, with their own innovative, newly developed techniques. (Hospital Group in Marie Claire February 2010: 201)

IX. Our revolutionary treatments are walk-in walk-out, same day procedures and a far cry from traditional invasive surgery, (Private Clinic in Marie Claire June 2010: 281)

X. Restylane Vital™ is the latest treatment from the tried and trusted Restylane® range of dermal fillers. (Marie Claire October 2010: 29)

XI. Our Harley Street clinic [utilises] cutting edge treatments ... (Laser Treatment Clinic in Cosmo February 2015: 157)

As can be seen in the above examples, some adverts may include additional references to the technology and science theme alongside those related to innovation/newness. The Restylane advert, for instance, employs symbols for (registered) trademarks - i.e. ® or ™ - which, alongside signifying the legal status of the company, may be a different way for marketers to apply the technology and science theme (cf. Ringrow 2016). Far less frequently employed than references to innovation, 9% (N=8) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures within the technology and science theme include either a direct reference to patents or trademarks or feature a trademark symbol. The use of and reference to trademarks and patents is more common in adverts for (other) beauty products/services; approximately 20% (N=82) of the adverts within the technology and science theme include a patent/ trademark. Moreover, this figure has increased over time from only 13% (N=14) in 2001 to 36% (N=26) in 2015, reflecting the popularity of an emphasis on science/technology discussed in recent marketing reports.

In addition to the themes of innovation/newness and patents, a number of adverts for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty products also refer to technology and science explicitly. Approximately 30% (N=27) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures within the technology and science theme include explicit references to technology. Whereas this number is slightly lower for (other) beauty adverts (23%, N=95), an overall relative increase over the years can be observed13. An example of the theme can be found in an advert for Estee Lauder’s ‘Advanced Night Repair formula’, which comprises its “exclusive Chronolux™ Technology” and is claimed to be “tomorrow’s technology today” (my emphasis, Cosmo February 2010: inside cover). Further references to the science and technology theme can be detected in this advert; by mentioning “Estee Lauder scientists” and “25 years of groundbreaking [sic] DNA research”, which is echoed in a visual representation of a double helix, the product is firmly embedded in a scientised discourse. This ‘scientificness’ is also reinforced by the shape

Still from L’Oreal collagen filler lip by Linda Evangelista (0:16)

Figure 5.3 Still from L’Oreal collagen filler lip by Linda Evangelista (0:16).

of the product applicator; as Ringrow (2016: 93) has noted, this shape is reminiscent of a “pipette, similar to that found in a laboratory, therefore suggesting precision of the required dosage”.

The Estee Lauder advert is not the only one to include a visual allusion to the technology and science theme; several (other) beauty adverts include a diagram of product functionality - reminiscent of Ringrow’s (2016: 89) finding that “figures and statistics are often associated with a scientific or technical register” - or a (seemingly microscopic) picture of, the ingredients of, a product (see Figure 5.3).

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