Therapeutic Advertising in Women’s Magazines


Therapeutic Advertising in Women’s Magazines

Place your order


Successful advertisements capture a reader’s attention by contradicting expectations. This convention of nonconformity rewards exploration and creativity. The genre of advertising always changes because innovative ads of today replace those of yesterday. Famous women’s magazines contain a full-page colour of ads. They often depict today’s culture, and current events and give a reflection of the current mindset (Bell et al., 2013). Magazine ads do more than just sell products; they are also fun to look at, they promote ideas and bolster public opinion for a particular brand. To stay ahead of others, advertisers formulate new ideas and challenge current trends in fashion and technology.

These creative ads attract attention and large revenue and promote the culture of free and uncontrolled creativity in the advertising world.  Consumers face many advertising messages every day, from different magazines and even media. Some ads attract the full attention of readers because of their organisation and creativity. While others are incomplete, however, they can still be relevant to consumers. Adding complex emotions, images, opinions, and knowledge in a magazine influences a consumer’s decision on whether to read or not. Some valuable information may be absorbed subconsciously (Beiver et al., 2015). Thus it is not always right to conclude that a customer can remember having read an advertisement for it to influence their decision to buy the product. Advertising varies from product to product, hence measuring the effectiveness of advertising should always reflect this. Magazines can be more efficient in the marketing of a product because magazines are regularly scanned, meaning they undergo a lot of decision-making with high attention to detail. And also, reading requires more attention than viewing television advertisements. Therefore, magazines are more efficient and influence a larger target audience.

Therapeutic advertising in women’s magazines is an increasingly scrutinized topic, especially in the past decade. People who support the advertising suggest that it helps spread awareness of treatment for certain diseases decreases stigmas and increases a patient’s influence on the choice of therapy. Others indicate that it is detrimental to customers because it leads to unnecessary health costs and manipulates consumers by presenting irrelevant information. Moreover, women are more susceptible to the effects of therapeutic advertising in magazines because they spend more on health care. Hence therapeutic advertising is more focused on women (Ju, 2015). The ads include tailored images and information that advertisers think will resonate with the target audience. The content in these magazines shows the target audience for the advertisers. It then influences consumers’ knowledge of health and medications. Since these ads have a large impact on women’s health decisions, research is required to evaluate therapeutic advertising and its effects on women.

The primary purpose of this essay is to assess how therapeutic advertising targets women of different ages and nationalities. Like any other type of advertising, therapeutic advertisers in magazines are trying to market their products (Len, 2014). However, it has a substantial impact on the target audience’s health decisions. These ads seek to persuade readers that they should take or use certain products. The aim of this study is also to show how various the ads are and how the content varies over different groups.

Literature Review

Advertisements bear some qualities associated with self-experience and identity, hence in the ads, we can seek evidence of the balance of values that occur in negotiations of identity every day, the conditions and nature of people in general. Advertisements mostly speak of post-modernity because this is what keeps them relevant to the target audience. The primacy of the symbolic is a dominant theme in the writings of both Jameson and Baudrillard (2013). And also the impact of advertisements on the social life of modern people. We do not follow everything written by these authors because we recognise the danger of being influenced by these ads. However, we are of the opinion that it is essential to understand contemporary experience in research on the dense environment of signs in which we are all surrounded. And advertising is a crucial part of these signs.

According to Wernick (2010), promotion and marketing of goods are as important as any other factors of profit generation; marketing and advertising have become imperative economically. Under the combination of fusion and design, “the very distinction between the symbolic and the material economies, between the regime of accumulation and the system of signification, cannot be clearly drawn.” (Wernick, 2010 p.340). He goes on to say that commodity signs have a negative impact on individuals. In contemporary society, both the audience and advertisements reproduce promotional culture. We all self-advertise by going to dates, and job interviews. Hence all of us are involved in propagating promotional culture. We build ourselves hoping it will give us a competitive edge in the world of a competitive economy, signs, and desire. Hence, given the continuing dynamism of the symbolic age, we continue to alter our lifestyle throughout our lives, because our success depends upon self-promotion. Advertising for goods and services mainly contributes to the perception we have of society and our place within it.

Advertisements have become more powerful as they continue to become richer in symbolic content and less focused on the product. According to some current sociological theories, suggest that current advertisements address key dimensions such as: –

Risk and Reflexivity

Beck (2013) “the postmodern individual is subject to a new set of responsibilities, related but not reducible to the now-familiar uncertainties consequent upon de-traditionalism. We live in a risk society characterized by the distribution of ‘bads’ where they are superimposed on goods with fateful consequences.” (p. 500).  This means that potential gains are weighed against possible hazards, meaning risking lives does not matter anymore as long as it brings profits. The whole society has become a risky group of insurers terms. Nonetheless, as the risks increase, so does responsibility, interpersonal relationships are now based on past decisions instead of a product of impersonal cultural forces. The world is now dominated by control, optimization, and planning; decisions are now based on calculations. Some attempts are being made to minimize the risks, but many hazards cannot be insured.

Beck notes that both biological and nuclear goods create risks so vast that they are un-insurable. They have overwhelmed the nation, its authority, and the army, becoming everyone’s problem. Hence they diffuse the power.  Giddens (1991), adds the aspect of globalization to this analysis. He says that distance is no longer an obstacle, and communication and travel have brought people into interconnectivity. When a change in one part of the world is experienced, it spreads like world fire to other regions of the world. Continued globalization has brought authorities to their knees, as the negative impacts haunt the industrial society, hence the society is forced to confront itself becoming reflexive. Critics have argued that more problems would be solved if increased advertisements were a product of contemporary society. Beck continues to say that ‘individualization’ releases people from social bonds of family, friends, and state, hence introducing new perils leading to heightened uncertainty and anxiety.

Identity Work

Identity work mainly revolves around the self. Unlike other forms of work which are directed to the external environment, character work is directed to us through external objects. It has much to do with ‘being’ as much as it has to do with ‘doing.’ In some sense, identity work is productive and necessary; it is worthy of the title ‘work.’ In recent years, there has been a concern about the self as one of the distinctive features of contemporary culture. Sennett (2013), defined narcissism as rapid change. A study in advertisements may yield some insight into the extent of materials available and the impact on the current society.

Advertising makes a significant contribution to the postmodern institutional system. While we are still in debate on the issue of the dominant tradition of academic study in advertising; We can claim some affinity with one crucial source of the tradition. We can call Barthe’s work on advertising the ‘rhetoric of the image,’ where he says,

“by its double message, the connoted language of advertising reintroduces the dream into the humanity of the purchases and thereby transforms the object’s simple use into and experience of the mind.” (Barthes, 2013 p.240)

If we can measure the identity work offered to readers of magazines, over a specified period, we will be able to explore two issues. One is whether the process of increasing reflexivity has been occurring as a sociological observation, and the other is whether there have been times of profound change. The best feature to approach the issue of advertising is by using the British psychoanalytical theory. We will try to show their application to advertising and how they can help us in understand contemporary culture. Psychoanalytic influences are common today in our society. The works of Kevin Robins (2014), drawn from the psychoanalytic culture of discussing visual culture are of special relevance. Kevin suggests that in a richly visual and image-based world, they may be used to defend against anxieties about the unthinkable. However, Robins does not clearly show the systemic appraisal of a body of consumers’ image-based content. This is what we aim to redress. Advertising forms a blend of reality and pleasure, hence it has been able to insert itself into everyday experiences.  Its messages include some truth and pleasure principles of permissive postmodernity. Hence the consumption of their images is a form of cultural participation and a form of social membership and individual identity. Some works from the United States and Britain have shown advertising as icons of multinational capitalism (Nava et al., 2015). It has accessed intrinsic evils of the economy bringing structural guilt into the society. Nava explains that magazine advertising is a social form beyond redemption; advertising brings mixed feelings to an individual compared to television. It has a seductive culture that most are not able to resist. Hence many people take in rubbish. There are some ways in which advertisements and guilt are linked, seen from the consumer’s perspective; it can be caused by specific products or consumption in general. Ads act as a cultural resource for guilt; it does not directly instill guilt into people but offers those already beset with guilt the ability to manage the guilt. By dealing with the guilt in a more efficient way.

There are not many advertisements like the one in (figure 1), in which a consumer’s guilt is directly appealed to about enjoying products that would otherwise pose a threat to others in other countries. The advertisement does not include an emphasis on appealing to the compassion of others or a sense of responsibility. The intended message is embedded in the text at the bottom of the page, rather than being in the headline space. The person presented looks healthy and happy; the ad’s most prominent message is the use of the Givenchy product (Figure 1).

2163 - fig 1

Figure 1: (Source: Arnold, 2015a)

The reader is halfway through the page when they realize that the instruction format is sarcasm (Ling, 2015). The classic image of the lady helps present her as an equal but has benefited from the product. The image and naming have maximized the possibility of a positive response and at the same time minimized the risk of the reader being overwhelmed with the guilt of a possibly bad situation. Regarding a study conducted on television advertising of famine, which is the most efficient visual mobilization of guilt, hence anxiety-inducing images do not attract much response from the targeted audience. In the case of this advertisement, it can be claimed that the benefit of an American consumer must not be bothered by oppression from the country where the products come from. This black opium advertisement promises relief from guilt; not by just reading it, but also purchasing the product.

2163 - fig 2

Figure 2: (Source: Arnold, 2015b)

Current ads offer guilt management, but not solutions to guilt. The advert is about black opium and has no mention of people anywhere; it is axiomatic for a psychoanalytic approach. The text reserves the guilt for the reader (Mongiovi et al., 2017). There are not many complexes in the message, as is often the case of magazines which always contain dense content. Some aspects of the message here deal with acceptance or fitting into the society brought to be a beauty.  Advertisements are often humorous, which helps in guilt management, the most common type of humour in advertising is the pun. The pun holds two meanings in a single statement and provokes a reader by preferring one before coming down to the other. It can contain both resolution and anxiety.

However, not all humorous advertisements are puns; they may involve the fusion of two contradicting messages in one statement. Comprising a combination of the image and a message, for example, in the case of Volkswagen, they employed a guilt theme by using parodic humour to manage it. In the advertisement, the car was shown in a laboratory full of scientists scrutinizing it (Natalie, 2013). The central message was accompanied by images that were obsession cosmetic ads; the further reference laboratory ads were referring to another personal care brand (Laboratories Garnier’). In this example, the humour lies between cars vs. cosmetics and scientific assessment vs. erupted contemplation.

According to Sokol (2010), advertising agencies mostly target women because they are known be to more in personal care products than men. And also because it is the female parent who makes personal and healthcare decisions in the family. To target women, advertisers use broad and socially constructed stereotypes. They use more than just factual information on diseases and medicine; they build disease and their markets. Women are often depicted in magazines as suffering from skin infections and diseases. While these experiences are entirely natural, therapeutic advertisements portray them as barring women from accomplishing their role in society. Ordinary life situations are turned into unusual occurrences by these ads, and that require immediate attention. Chananie (2015), argues that “these ads encourage women’s guilt over not living up to cultural ideals of acceptable expression of emotion, thinness, perfectionism, and domestic competence.” They emphasize that women need to keep themselves healthy to ensure the well-being of their families. Some antidepressant advertisements go ahead to show that being unattractive is a form of mental illness.

While these psychoanalytic theories are often used in ads, they contribute to the medicalization of women’s typical experiences and natural body feelings because they are depicted as stigmatized and devalued. They led women to feel inferior and trapped within their normal biology which is otherwise natural. In the social construction theory, a person develops knowledge depending on his or her social context. People learn through interaction, including the media platforms. The development of a person’s perspective depends on multiple social forces combined. No object has an inherent meaning; the meaning is concluded out of experiences through interactions. Hence to understand people’s social context, it is important to know their source of knowledge (Marine et al., 2014). Ads are an example of a source of knowledge; the reader uses the ads to construct their social reality. The content affects how they view life, medication, lifestyle, and health. It also influences their decisions in their role in the society as women.

Advertising Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the history of their suffering was advertised in TV commercials; the advertiser shaped the ad. Hence it was highly selective. The text was produced with a strong commitment to modernist ideologies of progress.  The bank also created a fisherman commercial and released it on television. The video was shot in black and white; it represented the history of Hong Kong through his eyes. This particular commercial attracted widespread attention and went on to win an award for the best TV commercial in 1995. The ad contained an aesthetic style, with gracefully crafted images showing contemplative narration (Fred, 2015). In the ad, a young, determined fisherman struggles against the hardships in the sea. Icons such as his hat, the boat, and the sail represent Hong Kong’s robust discourse about the country’s beginnings as a fishing village. The story starts with the voice-over: “my grandfather said when you earn a living from the sea, you depend on the sky. I said you could only rely on yourself.” However, the image mixes a protagonist’s life story and three other historical events that occurred after the Hong Kong War.

The first event is represented by typhoon signals, broken ships seen from the fisherman’s point of view, and roaring waves. In the commercial, the fisherman says that he was left with nothing and had to start again since the typhoon’s visit left him with nothing. The second event is represented by high winds and women lining up for water. This second image describes the shortage of water witnessed in 1963. During this time, the fisherman says he used to deliver water and made a small fortune enough to get him a small boat (Philip, 2010).  In the event of postmodernism, artistic styles in advertising contributed to the disappearance of historicity by changing styles during ads on historical events, and by using creative intertextual references.  This argument as applied in the Hong Kong case, before the upsurge of nostalgic media in the country has been defined by a strong commitment to modernity. This commitment does not prevent sentimental ideas from being ideological. The irony is that history itself is enhancing the ideological influence of nostalgic practices.

The use of black and white images, dressing props, an allusion to newsreel footage, and attention to detail cast an authentic aura (Wong et al., 2016). These styles resemble those used by the Hong Kong film unit which was headed by expatriates from the British colonial government. Some footage used in the fisherman commercial was taken directly from their documentaries. Hong Kong’s history version is highly oversimplified. The commercial not only enhances its history but also naturalizes the highly ideological treatment of Hong Kong by the British colony.  It is clear that people were able to survive harsh treatment, similar to the nostalgia in other parts of the world’s history (Ritchie et al., 2016). The rise of nostalgic advertising demonstrated by the fisherman commercial is a good example of a collective psychological response to the crisis at hand. The kind of nostalgia expressed in the ad is merely found in many commercials in the 1980s. Most previous ads were bright and built explicit images of a present Hong Kong man.


Three different lifestyle magazines were chosen each representing a particular age group. The four groups examined were 20-29, 30-39 and 40-49. Younger ages were not represented because no magazines were found to be readable for this age group. These magazines were taken based on issue availability and readership. In each magazine, twenty-one issues were represented, with six points selected randomly from the past three years (Torronen, 2013). The main topics often addressed in these magazines were analyzed, and the ads were placed in three different categories: appeals, gender presentation, and product information. Each ad was coded for both the name of the product and the kind of imperfection it intended to treat. The coding was done to measure how many particular brands were advertised.

2163 - fig 3

Figure 3: (Source: Arnold, 2015b)

The attributes used to separate the magazines were; effectiveness, safety, social-psychological enhancements, and ease of use. Each of these categories has subcategories (Bell et al., 2013).

Lastly, images were coded to represent gender presentation in each of these magazines and measure how women were depicted. If a lady appeared in the ad, her physical appearance and the actions she did were coded. The presentation variables included clothing, facial expression, race, and age. The actions of the women on the cover pages were determined by their location, clothing, and other relevant objects in the image. The presence of children and men was also coded. The part of coding was used to show how advertising agencies depicted women to consumers.


            After the data was collected, the results indicated trends in content and frequency of different products for different age groups. The results reveal how often women of certain age groups are targeted in the ads. As was expected during the research, the investigations showed that there is a direct connection between the age and target audience of certain products. In the results, the effectiveness appeals were coded based on how well the products work. The appeals were coded by counting words like ‘manages,’ ‘proven,’ and ‘powerful.’ Social-psychological statements were those about how the product will improve the consumer’s social life. This appeal was coded for by using words like ‘happiness’ and ‘confidence.’

2163 - fig 4

The table shows a direct relationship between the age of readership and the number of effectiveness appeals per ad. It also shows the younger age groups were more socially-psychologically attracted compared to older age groups (Zhou et al., 2016). The table mainly shows the proportion of these appeals and the emphasis on their effectiveness. In the older age groups, their magazines contain more emphasis on the efficiency of the drug rather than its social-psychological improvements.

A summary is made using the table. Showing that ads containing men and children appeared most frequently in magazines targeting audiences of ages between 40-49. Also, magazines containing advertisements for diet, exercise, and other alternative methods to enhance body looks were only present in older age groups.

2163 - fig 5


Data from this study shows that frequency, image content, and text content vary over different age groups. The social construction theory which states that people’s perceptions and beliefs are determined by their source of information and regular interactions with the people around them, explains why these relationships exist and how they affect the readers’’ perceptions. The older groups are more likely to be exposed to ads containing drugs while younger groups are exposed to magazines containing ads on beauty and body perfumes. This is because older people have more health issues than younger ones. The social construction theory explains how exposure to these advertisements defines how they view society and how they evaluate certain products.

Likewise, the most frequent ads in these magazines representing women above the age of 40 are for vaginal dryness, beauty concerns, and depression. However, there is underrepresentation of outstanding products like medicine and diets could distort the readers’ views on health. Another trend seen is the increase in the number of effectiveness appeals per ad as the age increases, while social-psychological appeals increase in the lower age groups. Overall, this data shows that advertising agencies show greater emphasis on social-psychological appeals when targeting women between the ages of 20 and 30. Advertisements on the effectiveness of drugs in family care and diets increased in the target audience of women between 40 and 50. Previous literature reveals that older people tend to be more critical of information on health and other products. While younger populations are less critical of information on health products but tend to concentrate more on beauty and other products that enhance their social status which is subjective in nature.


Therapeutic advertising and advertising, in general, have brought certain significant changes in society today. In the era of globalization and postmodernism, advertisements have helped increase the spread of information and awareness about certain brands of products and also insight into the current trends.  In this study, we have seen that advertisements contain artistic images and well-written texts that contain different meanings depending on what the advertisers want the target audience to understand, ads also include humour in the form of puns to pass certain information to the public. Also, advertisements in magazines, especially women’s magazines have a significant influence on the perception of people about society and life in general. People derive their opinions from the source of knowledge and interactions every day. Hence magazine plays a crucial role in building these beliefs. Ads aim to manage a reader’s guilt and increase their response probability. Hence they are creative and use different styles every time to increase the rate of reaction from the targeted audience.


Arnold (2015) Hull is the new UK City of Culture for 2017 [Photograph].

Biever, S.J., 2015. Gender and knowledge: Elements of a postmodern feminism. John Wiley & Sons.

Barthes, J.S., 2013. An Overview of Advertising Trends and Strategies in Latin America: A Colombian Case. Advertising in Developing and Emerging Countries: The Economic, Political and Social Context, p.217.

Bell, R. E. & Feldon, D.F. (2013) the direct to consumer advertisement principle. In Mayer, R. E. (ed) The Cambridge handbook of media learning. New York: Cambridge University Press, 117-134.

Beck, M.E., and Burridge, J.D., 2014. Nutrition claims in British women’s magazines from 1940 to 1955. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 27(s2), pp.117-123.

Chananie, J.H., and Showalter, M.H., 2015. The effects of direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals on adherence. Applied Economics, 47(50), pp.5432-5444.

Fred Davis, Yearning for Yesterday: Sociology of Nostalgia (New York: Free Press, 2015).

For example, in film see Natalie Chan, “Nostalgic Films,” and in chain stores see Cheung See

Giddens, C., Niederdeppe, J., Byrne, S. and Avery, R.J., 1991. Effects of exposure to direct-to-consumer television advertising for statin drugs on food and exercise guilt. Patient education and counseling, 98(9), pp.1150-1155.

Jameson, A. and Baudrillard, T., 2015. Shifts in media images of women appearance and social status from 1960 to 2010: A content analysis of beauty advertisements in two Australian magazines. Journal of aging studies, 35, pp.74-83.

Ju, I. and Park, J.S., 2015. Communication strategies in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA): Application of the six segment message strategy wheel. Journal of health communication, 20(5), pp.546-554.

Kevin, H. and Weaver, H., 2014. Creating an educational home: Mothering for Schooling in the Australian Women’s Weekly, 1943–1960. Paedagogica Historica, 53(1-2), pp.49-70.

Len-Ríos, M.E., and Hinnant, A., 2014. Health literacy and numeracy: A comparison of magazine health messages. Howard Journal of Communications, 25(3), pp.235-256.

Ling, (2015), “Back to the Future: Herbal Tea Shops in Hong Kong,” in Evans and Tam, eds., Hong Kong, 51–76.

Mongiovi, J., Hillyer, G.C., Basch, C.H., Ethan, D., and Hammond, R., 2017. Characteristics of medication advertisements found in US women’s fashion magazines. Health Promotion Perspectives, 7(1), p.28.

Marin, E.R., Pizzinatto, N.K. and Giuliani, A.C., 2014. Rational and Emotional Communication in Advertising in Women’s Magazines in Brazil. Brazilian Business Review, 11(6), p.22.

Nava, M.T., Hiller, J.E., Willis, C.D., Laurence, C.O. and Mundy, M.L., 2015. Consultation Regulation Impact Statement: Regulating the Advertising of Therapeutic Goods to the General Public July 2013.

Natalie Chan, “Nostalgic Films in Hong Kong,” in Today Literary Magazine 28, no. 1 (spring

2013): 161–171.

Philip Robertson, “Of Mimicry and Mermaids: Hong Kong and the Documentary Film

Legacy,” in Hong Kong: The Anthropology of a Chinese Metropolis, ed. Grant Evans and Maria Tam (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2010): 77–101.

Ritchie, R., Hawkins, S., Phillips, N. and Kleinberg, S.J. eds., 2016. Women in magazines: research, representation, production and consumption. Routledge.

Sokol, J.D. and Barker, M., 2013. Nutrition claims in British women’s magazines from 1940 to 1955. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics, 27(s2), pp.117-123.

Sennett, J., 2013. Pampering, well-being and women’s bodies in the therapeutic spaces of the spa. Social & Cultural Geography, 14(1), pp.41-58.

Törrönen, J., and Justin, I., 2013. From Genius of the Home to Party Princess: Drinking in Finnish women’s magazine advertisements from the 1960s to the 2000s. Feminist Media Studies, 13(3), pp.463-489.

Wong Wang-chi, Li Siu-leung, and Chan Ching-kiu, (2016) Hong Kong Un-Imagined: History,

Culture, and the Future (Taiwan: Rye Field Pub. Co., 1997).

Wernick, N., 2010. The beauty myth: How images of beauty are used against women. Random House.

Zhou, Y., Wang, J., Gu, Z., Wang, S., Zhu, W., Aceña, J.L., Soloshonok, V.A., Izawa, K. and Liu, H., 2016. Next generation of fluorine-containing pharmaceuticals, compounds currently in phase II–III clinical trials of the large pharmaceutical companies: new structural trends and therapeutic areas. Chem. Rev, 116(2), pp.422-518.

Write My Essay Now
$ 0 .00


Be Awesome - Share Awesome