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Cosmetic Procedures and Beauty Products/Services in Advertising - Medical and Commercial Aspects

Drawing on examples from both the core and broad corpora, this chapter continues the exploration of themes found in my data as it discusses the various medical aspects that are presented in both the adverts for cosmetic procedures and the adverts for (other) beauty products/services (see Section 6.1). In addition, Section 6.2 considers how and to what extent medical professionals are introduced in the advertising discourse. Particularly interesting here is the representation of cosmetic surgeons as artists and the wider association of cosmetic surgery with the arts. Related to the discussion of medical professionals, I will also look at the various realisations of the wider theme of professionalism, experience, and expertise in the adverts.

As the aim of the adverts for cosmetic procedures and beauty products/ services is to sell, it is hardly surprising that various themes generally associated with marketing emerged in the data - these are discussed in Section 6.3. Finally, I consider several examples of adverts unrelated to beauty products/services which parody the concept and discourse of cosmetic surgery (see Section 6.4).

Medical Aspects

To get an insight into the medical aspects presented in the adverts, Figures 6.1 and 6.2 illustrate the prevalence of the various coding categories related to ‘the medical’. Unsurprisingly, references to ‘aspects of care’ and ‘consultation’ are more frequently found in advertising for cosmetic procedures than in (other) beauty adverts. However, despite promoting a medical procedure, there were fewer references (2%, N= 9) to ‘health(y)’ in adverts for cosmetic procedures than in (other) beauty advertising (9%, N=43); in particular, advertising for skincare products favours claims relating to (skin’s) health. In addition to direct references to ‘health(y)’, a small proportion (4%, N=21) of the (other) beauty adverts promote products through a reference to appearing healthy. As Benwell and Stokoe (2006) and Ringrow (2016) have argued, this emphasis on a healthy ‘look’, rather than promising actual health benefits, most

Coding categories related to the medical as found in advertising for cosmetic procedures

Figure 6.1 Coding categories related to the medical as found in advertising for cosmetic procedures.

Note: The frequencies given for the various Sub-nodes under the Aspects of care theme denote the relative and absolute proportions within the mother node; for example, 3% (N=4) of the aspects of care theme refer to ‘diagnosis’.

probably relates to advertising regulations and guidelines, which restrict misleading and/or unsubstantiated claims.

Alongside references to health and/or a healthy look, several other aspects of care are included in the - predominantly cosmetic surgery - adverts. Firstly, 38% (N=148) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures promote a (free) consultation which is often obligation-free and provides ‘honest advice’. Of all adverts for cosmetic procedures, 32% (N=122) refer to aspects of care associated with a medical environment; this relative number is slightly higher for the women’s magazines (34%, N=102) than for the men’s magazines (24%, N=20). Overall, the proportion of

Coding categorie s related to the medical as found in advertising for (other) beauty products/services

Figure 6.2 Coding categorie s related to the medical as found in advertising for (other) beauty products/services.

Note: The frequencies given for the various Sub-nodes under the Aspects of care theme denote the relative and absolute proportions within the mother node; for example, 40% (N=4) of the aspects of care theme refer to ‘diagnosis’.

adverts for cosmetic procedures referring to the aspects of care theme has decreased between 2001 (33%, N=58) and 2015 (19%, N=3), which is unsurprising in light of the increased promotion of non-surgical, non- invasive procedures.

Explicit references to ‘hospital’ (N=59) or the ‘medical/healthcare’ side of cosmetic procedures (N=59) constitute the most popular manifestation of the aspects of care category1 (see Figure 6.1). The adverts for cosmetic procedures in women’s magazines in particular commonly point to the hospitals in which the procedures take place2. Private, luxurious, and specialist hospitals are part of the marketing message, and the prestige that the name of certain hospitals carries is used as consumer bait. Cosmetic surgery provider Mclndoe, for example, mentions how it is associated with the Queen Victoria Hospital, which is “an NHS Trust recognised ... International Centre of clincal [sic] excellence in plastic surgery” (Cosmo June 2001:296). Moreover, the location of the hospital may also aid sales, particularly in adverts that sell both a cosmetic procedure and a holiday. The Mills & Mills Medical Group, for example, advertised “Cosmetic surgery in Spain... Come back with more than just holiday memories” (in Cosmo February 2006: 178). Emphasising the holiday element, the advert showed a model lounging on the beach in a bikini, which of course showcased her newly acquired breasts.

Further subcategories within the aspects of care category that relate to cosmetic surgery’s medical aspects relate to ‘diagnosis’; ‘surgery/operation and/or anaesthetics’; ‘(possible) side effects and/or risks’; and ‘recovery and/or aftercare’. The relative frequency of references to the surgical nature of the procedures (i.e. through mentions of ‘surgery’, ‘operation’, and/or ‘anaesthetics’) has declined over the years. Whereas 10% (N=18) of all adverts for cosmetic procedures published in 2001 referred to the surgical side of the procedures, this figure dropped to 8% (N=3) in 2010. What is more, the majority (67%, N=2) of the 2010 references emphasised that the procedures advertised do not require (general) anaesthetics. The adverts for cosmetic procedures published in 2015 did not include any references to ‘surgery/operation and/or anaesthetics’. The decrease in emphasis on the medical aspects of procedures is not surprising in light of the shift to marketing less invasive procedures which carry fewer side effects and/or risks and may not require (general) anaesthetics.

Comparable to references to ‘surgery/operation and/or anaesthetics’, mentions of ‘recovery and/or aftercare’, which account for 39% (N=48) of the aspects of care theme, have also declined over the years3. Interestingly, references to ‘recovery and/or aftercare’ largely occur in the women’s magazines4. Similarly, references to ‘(possible) side effects and/or risks’ within the adverts for cosmetic procedures are exclusively found in the 2001 and 2006 issues of the women’s magazines. In addition to these references in the adverts themselves, Cosmo included a caution which was published alongside the adverts for cosmetic procedures in the classified sections of its 2001, 2006, and February and June 2010 issues, stating: “In the interest of general healthcare, Cosmopolitan readers are advised to consult their General Practitioner before undertaking any form of cosmetic surgery”. However, these cautions were small and may have been lost among the advertising clutter surrounding them (cf. Belch & Belch 2015: 215). Moreover, the cautions were only published on one page of the classified section of the magazine, which did not have to be the first page containing adverts for cosmetic procedures. What is more, the caution could only be published on pages that included several adverts; cosmetic providers buying an entire page spread would not have to worry about the warning being published next to their marketing message.

Whereas references to ‘recovery and/or aftercare’ and ‘side effects and/or risks’ occur more frequently in women’s magazines, men’s magazines and women’s magazines include a comparable number of textual references to ‘patients’5 rather than ‘clients’ or even ‘customers’. Moreover, when exploring the visual portrayals of patients - for example in before/after pictures - there is only a minimal difference in the number of references across the magazines; only the Gay Times includes a relatively greater share of visual representations of patients, which are all shown to promote (scalp) hair-related procedures6. Furthermore, the visual portrayal of patients in advertising for cosmetic procedures has become increasingly popular over the years - particularly in the Gay Times and Marie Claire7 - as people increasingly want to see ‘real’ models who have undergone the procedure that is marketed.

In addition to the above manifestations of the aspects of care category in the adverts for cosmetic procedures, it is useful to explore the terms used to introduce the (surgical) procedures in the adverts. A sharp decrease in the number of adverts denoting procedures through a name that highlights their medical nature8 can be observed across FHM, Marie Claire, and Cosmo between 2001 (21%, N=37) and 2015 (6%, N=1). As with the fall in references to aspects of care, this decrease is hardly surprising in light of the overall shift to marketing non-surgical/non- invasive procedures. Furthermore, the Advertising Standards Authority - although they do not have an official stance on the avoidance of technical jargon (Mustapha 2017, personal communication, 24 July) - discourages “[confusing] consumers by using unfamiliar scientific words for common conditions [or procedures]” (CAP Code 2010: 12.4).

Because not all procedures are denoted by their medical name, a discussion of alternative references to procedures may be valuable. Various forms of ‘reshaping’ - i.e. ‘breast-’, ‘nose-’, ‘ear-’, ‘lip-’, and ‘chin’ reshaping, or ‘the reshaping of (female) genitalia’ - occur in 28% (N=108) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures. Moreover, several types of ‘corrections’ and ‘improvements and/or enhancements’ are also frequently marketed; 7% (N=27) of all adverts for cosmetic procedures promote some form of ‘correction’ and 6% (N=23) refer to ‘improvements and/or enhancements’. Moreover, facial ‘rejuvenation’ - or, in some instances, ‘eye-’ or ‘skin rejuvenation’ - procedures are marketed in 8% (N=31) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures. Lastly, 19% (N=73) of the adverts promote different types of procedures to remove certain physical ‘undesirabilities’ (such as fat, eye bags, varicose/thread veins, and lines/wrinkles).

Particularly valuable in a discussion of the names of cosmetic procedures is an exploration of the procedures that are referred to by both their medical name (e.g. ‘abdominoplasty’) and a lay term (e.g. ‘tummy tuck’). In the case of abdominoplasty/tummy tuck, the former term is used far less frequently than the latter; only 1% (N=3) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures - all of which occur in the women’s magazines - refer

106 Advertising - Medical!Commercial Aspects

to abdominoplasty, whereas 21% (N=81) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures refer to the far more accessible term tummy tuck. Perhaps related to the (endearing) association of ‘tummy’ with a mother-and-child register, the women’s magazines refer to tummy tucks more frequently (31%, N=94) than the men’s magazines (4%, N=3). Interestingly, an advert by The Pountney Clinic, published in the 2001 issues of Cosmo and Marie Claire, includes a reference to tummy tucks in scare quotes (‘tummy tucks’), which could suggest a certain awareness of - or perhaps even an opposition to - the informal nature of the term (cf. Kierzek et al. 1977; Predelli 2003). A similar distinction between the use of the terms ‘liposuction’ (which occurs in 16% (N=62) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures) and ‘liposculpture’ (occurring in 12% (N=46) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures) will be discussed when the notion of the surgeon as artist is explored in a later section.

 
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