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Ad men don't get what women want

A woman talks on her mobile phone as she passes a street ad.

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Bob Moon: How's this for the ultimate mascara remover -- as in, for good: From the makers of Botox comes a new treatment aimed at stimulating eyelash growth and the company reports this week that clinical testing of the medicine looks promising.

Allergan has its eyes on as much as $500 million dollars a year in sales provided the Food and Drug Administration approves it -- and provided the company can find just the right pitch.

Which brings us to this question: What do women want? That's what commentator and ad-watcher Andrea Gardner finds herself wondering.


Andrea Gardner: Remember that ad from a couple years back? The one where hordes of panic-stricken men scramble through grocery store aisles buying milk. The punch line was...

[Clip from Ad]: A recent study has shown that calcium reduces the effects of PMS.

Now, this is patently offensive to women, right? As if our husbands can't come home without enough milk to slay us into sanity. And traditionally, men don't buy the milk. Women do. So how does this commercial deliver?

I posed that question to an advertising consultant and women's studies professor. They told me the ad was likely targeted at younger women -- 20- and 30-somethings who weren't inclined to wave the feminism flag or picket a dairy. In other words, someone my age. But I was offended.

But then I realized something: I have the upper hand when it comes to commercials. I'm a woman, which means I'm a power-consumer in America. Women buy everything from the milk to the insurance plan to the family car. That means we're quite desirable in the eyes of Corporate America. With every ad, America's top companies woo us; they vie for our attention. It's as if the Brawny Man, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Geico lizard beckon us on bended knee. Their ads, products and coupons are like little valentines, asking us to give them a chance. That gives us leverage. We can give milk the cold shoulder and cozy up to companies like Dove whose ads charm us.

I've allowed myself to fall in love with companies that work hard to win me over, the ones that get my love create interesting ads, try to do right in the world and make products that work. At the moment, I'm quite smitten with Starbucks, Nike and Volkswagon. I'm still waiting for milk to make amends.

And I'm always open to being stolen away.


Moon: Andrea Gardner's new book is "30-Second Seduction: How Advertisers Lure Women Through Flattery, Flirtation and Manipulation."

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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