Cindy Brugge

A Public Relations Student

Personal Public Relations: Using PR to Help Promote Yourself

The natural reaction to graduation is job hunting. Therefore, for the past month I’ve been perfecting my resume, filling out job applications, sending cover letters and meeting for interviews.


It’s a restless experience that is, not only nerve-racking but, overwhelming. There are so many options for young job seekers.

Do I invest time in an online CV or should I stick to a print portfolio?

How design savvy should my resume be?

What exactly should I include in my resume?

These are all valid questions and every professional is going to say, “Well, it depends on the job.” This got me to thinking – a job-hunt parallels perfectly with a communications campaign.  When broken down into one, it’s incredibly easy to assess the best steps for a career search.

Like any great communications plan, it’s best to evaluate the client first. Take a stab at a SWOT analysis for yourself. This will help you understand, which qualities to highlight in interviews and areas that a future employer might point out for growth.

Here are a few items on my SWOT analysis:


  1. Critical thinker that takes big projects and breaks them into digestible steps
  2. Friendly and outgoing, while also professional 


  1. Recent graduate with no full-time experience
  2. Deep need to please authority figures can put a lot of stress on me in a professional environment


  1. The public relations market is growing and expanding.
  2. Companies are recognizing the need for PR.
  3. Young students are associated with prowess in digital media.


  1. There are hundreds of other students searching for the same jobs and looking to work in this industry.
  2. There are many people transitioning from other backgrounds into this industry.

The next step is to decide on your target publics and key messages. Which companies are you reaching out to and what is the message you want to send to them? This should be slightly different in each industry.

For example, I’ve applied to a PR agency, a corporation and a non-profit. Each company is searching for a slight variation of my skills. I must pinpoint what I want to display to these future employers, to determine which direction I should take my cover letters and interviews.

Finally, it’s important to put together a list of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics, which can be very simply put into practice.

Goal: Acquire a public relations position in the Dallas area that pays $X+ and will provide opportunities to operate in my strengths.

Objective: Find 10 jobs that fit my description and apply to each with materials created for each position.

Strategy: Appeal to general hiring manager by displaying skills that match the job description and promote my strengths

Tactics: Cover letter, Resume, Practice interview questions, Professional outfit and Portfolio

These communication plan components seem obvious, but laying out this groundwork can make the final steps much easier. When you know where you need growth, you can better prepare for an interview. When you know your strengths and opportunities, you will be able to recognize when you’re right for a position. When you recognize a company as a target public, you can prepare the message that you hope to send to them.

However, it’s still ultimately important that the tactics are completed with excellence. We cannot overlook the importance of the final product, but this preparation makes the process much simpler. 


A Shift in Focus


My “Ethics, Law & Diversity in Mass Communication” ended today. It was my last course of my college career. 

Today, I finished my last course of my college career. It was surprisingly sad to say goodbye (not officially, because I don’t graduate for a week and a half.) But I still had that twinge of sadness to leave it all behind. Of course, it was hiding under gallons of the excitement associated with an end to all-night study sessions and brain-bending, soul-crushing group projects. However, it got me thinking about what I have gotten out of my public relations degree at the University of North Texas.

Full disclosure: Lately, I have wondered if I should have pursued a more extensive and difficult degree, such as engineering or math. I question if I should have chosen a path that didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve pondered if should have spent the same amount of money on a college education that taught me something completely out of my comfort zone, knowing that I earned every moment I was there with the blood, sweat and tears of learning something new.

It’s a good question. Was a communications degree worth it?

Communication has always come very easily for me. I am the oldest of three girls, so I’m a natural leader (which is just the code word for bossy.) However, with two sisters, you quickly learn to be a mediator and a counselor, as well. We have talked our feelings and thoughts to death. We’ve discussed schoolwork and professional issues. We have fought. And when girls disagree, we have no use for fists. Nasty words are much sharper and do far more damage. Plus, most of my family is very extroverted. Like I said, communication is instinct for me.

So, entering into a journalism degree with a focus in public relations was just up my alley and in high school they encourage you to pursue what you’re passionate about. Therefore, I fell into the loving arms of PR.

But the question remains, was it worth it? Did I learn anything new. 

This question haunted me this afternoon, as I left my final ethics course. Were this course and my time worth the money? Immediately, my answer was a resounding yes. 

In “Ethics, Law and Diversity in Mass Communication” alone, I have learned more than I expected. I think it’s one thing to understand the daily tasks and skills of a profession, but what I’ve seen in this course is that the ethical dilemmas bring in the nitty-gritty situations that separate individuals within an industry.

My actions and their resonant implications define who I am as a professional. Choosing ethical actions highlights me and sets my eyes to higher standard. This is imperative for the public relations industry, which is so commonly deemed unworthy of ethical distinction. We are seen as the greasy guys doing the dirty work to make a bad person look good.

I don’t want that for my life or my career. I choose a life in the light. I want to help people – good people – share their talents with the world. I want to associate with worthwhile causes and meaningful organizations. I want to do good and bring positivity to this world.

All of this starts with ethics. It begins where we draw the lines of right and wrong. Yet, it can come crashing down just as fast, when ethics is overlooked to pursue another goal. Case studies have shown me that, in reality, it’s not always quite so simple. Sometimes there is no right answer and no right way of doing it. These studies have given me grace for others in sticky situations and patience for stupidity.

However, they are also a reminder of where the prize remains. I’m in this for the long haul, but to stay in the game, I must engage in ethical decisions on a regular basis. I must be a reminder to my clients of not just what they want, but what is right. I mustn’t lose my heart in the pursuit of money or fame or anything else.

I know this all sounds very idealistic and somewhat childish. But I must ask people thinking that I’m just a silly girl, why does this have to be unrealistic? It is our actions and our thought processes that bring about our reality.

We can choose a new reality for this profession and rearrange the negative image of public relations. We don’t change this image through a PR campaign. No. We change our daily work. We change our incentives. We change our focus.



NYPD Uses Twitter: Good Intentions, Poor Results

In an attempt to garner public support, the New York Police Department encouraged New Yorkers to tweet about police officers serving the city; however, the public relations strategy unsurprisingly backfired, with thousand of posts bashing the NYPD and many other police departments across the country.

The NYPD announced Tuesday that they wanted people to tweet their experiences with cops using the hashtag, #MyNYPD. It was a nice idea and in an ideal world the NYPD would awake on Wednesday to thousands of photos showing smiling cops helping little old ladies cross the street.

However, the unfortunate thing about the Internet is that it’s a fairly safe place for people to be unapologetically critical. Furthermore, people generally cannot stand cops. They just don’t like them and take every opportunity to give cops a hard time for their mistakes.

That’s what happened here.

Within 24 hours, 110,000 Twitter users posted comments/pictures using the hashtag. And you guessed right, the majority of the posts were negative, showing photos of officers pulling hair and engaging in police violence.

Quickly, similar hashtags, such as #MyLAPD and #MyCPD, littered Twitter with police brutality in other cities.

Although many of the negative pictures are just old incidents reposted with the new hashtag, these negative images are just as effective in creating a disturbing image of police work today.

Police commissioner Bill Bratton isn’t worried about the negative attention and has bought into the old standby that any press is good press.

Another police spokesperson stands by the decision as well. Deputy Chief Kim Y. Royster defended the open forum Twitter allows to the public. She said that the “open dialogue [is] good for our city.”

However, other professionals are not as convinced.  The general consensus is that the NYPD should have avoided the negative social media attention by not instating a strategy bound to implode.


Television Turns to Public Relations: Old Advertising Methods May Not Work for Some TV Shows Today

In today’s media market, it seems a mystery what makes a successful show. For years, many networks relied upon commercial promos to alert the audience of a new upcoming show. However, that isn’t the case anymore. Some of TV’s most successful shows aren’t on major networks and aren’t best promoted during the commercial break. Many shows are having to turn to the creativity of public relations to broadcast their message.

For example, during my weekly dose of Grey’s Anatomy, I’ve been catching glimpses of the new show Black Box coming to ABC next Thursday. They’re lucky that I’ve caught those shots though. With the option to fast-forward through commercials, it’s not likely that I’m going to see much in between the Seattle Grace Hospital’s drama.


However, networks have gotten creative and put their series previews as the first or last commercial of the break with especially catching images at the beginning and end. Let me tell you, the first time I saw the last few seconds of the Black Box promo, I had to rewind and watch the whole thing. And I watch the commercial every time it comes on now. So, as you might have predicted, I will be starting the new show next week. However, this tactic doesn’t work with every show on every station. Plus, not everyone is a television addict like I am. (I really should be on some sort of 12-step program.)

Furthermore, commercial breaks don’t budget enough time to repeatedly promote TV shows, during new series peaks. Many networks release 8-10 new shows in the fall. In fact, next fall we are looking at 75 new shows coming out. It’s difficult to sufficiently promote all of these shows whenever few great shows hold the audiences attention during the summer months. With no one, sitting down to catch the latest Grey’s, ABC is strapped for time and without a steady audience. They’re left simply shit out of luck.

Most networks recognize this problem, which is likely why they are premiering Black Box now. My best guess is that the show will run through August before the fall shows pick back up. This could be smart. But, let’s face it: summer shows are uncommon because they usually don’t do as well, especially for major networks.

While AMC and HBO have been known to ruin our hopes and dreams with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones summer seasons, Pretty Little Liars and other ABC Family shows step up to steal our hearts and discard our minds for a little trashy stupid teenage drama. It’s these smaller networks turn out quality shows for their intended audiences. Their following is devoted to these summer dramas, while for some reason the major networks turn to competitive reality shows for the summer. These hot months have traditionally been home to So You Think You Can Dance and Master Chef. When viewership is scattered and inconsistent during summer months, stations have to turn to other methods to promote new and returning shows.

One show that scares me every year is Parenthood. A highly rated show by critics and viewers alike, this show is always on the chopping block for cancellation. Most people that have seen the show agree that it’s fabulous. The acting is incredible. The storyline is believable and relatable. Plus, the family lives the life that you have/want to have. Personally, I feel that watching this show is like coming home to my other family.


However, despite its dedicated fan base is, Parenthood’s storyline simply doesn’t acquire enough traction with people unfamiliar with the show. It’s hard to convince people that everyday problems, such as your child receiving a bad grade, is going to make good TV. However, it’s hard to argue whether it does, once you’ve watched an episode. For this reason, the show is rarely promoted during commercial breaks and the network has turned to other methods of promotion. Parenthood draws off of a social media base by reaching out to viewers through Facebook and Twitter.

Pretty Little Liars has found success with this tactic, as well. The teen drama is known for dropping spoilers on social media as soon as it happens, which usually sucks but also draws in new viewers.

Networks have also used other interactive methods. In Lifetime’s new show last fall, the Lottery, viewers entered a contest online before the premiere and found out if they won by seeing their number on a ball in the bottom of the screen during the premiere. Other shows have tried a more physical attempt at interaction. For example, Fox premiered an early showing of the new show Sleep Hollow at L.A.’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery. 

These creative attempts to gain viewership remind me that public relations is an ever-growing industry. As the traditional media landscape shifts, it’s important to stay creative an utilize new methods to get your message out. It’s this creative thinking that highlights successful public relations professionals.

Chick-fil-A Tries to Move Forward and Expand Outward after Gay Marriage Crisis

After last week’s post about a Christian organization making a PR mistake regarding homosexuality, another Christian company is trying to regain ground from their previous failings.

Chick-fil-A announced this week that it would begin an effort to bring the chicken franchise to the Big Apple.

As a born and raised Texan, I am quite familiar with the fast food chain and it’s ideology. It’s hard not to be. The store is closed on Sundays and includes its Christian-based ideals on the walls of its dining rooms.

These ideals clashed with popular opinion in July 2012, when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy tweeted his conservative views about gay marriage. His tweet led to outrage by the American LGBT community. Many LGBT supporters arranged boycotts and “kiss-ins” to openly fight the statement.

Kim Harrell, Paula Tyer

The company worked to reverse this negative opinion about the brand, but unfortunately, Cathy tweeted a similarly controversial statement a year later, after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and granted more rights to gay couples.

New York City has traditionally been a gay-friendly city. It has been home to the Stonewall Riots, which was one of the first major events of the American gay rights movement.

Therefore, it’s expected that the NYC LGBT community may not be so quick to forgive and forget. There has been speculation that the chain may not find success in New York City, as it has in the traditionally more conservative South.

“We don’t need bigots coming to New York City,” said openly gay councilman, Daniel Dromm (Huffington Post). “They are not welcome here unless they can embrace all of New York’s diverse community, including the LGBT community.”

Obviously, this is the answer of one extreme opinion. However, it might be the general consensus, unless Chick-fil-A calms down on its social issue commentary.

Likely guided by Chick-fil-A’s public relations counsel, Cathy has made a commitment not to speak out about his personal opinions publicly.

This is absolutely necessary, unless the chain would like to limit itself to the Bible Belt. With a growing percentage of the American population in favor of same-sex marriage, Chick-fil-A is going to face more and more scrutiny for its decision.

While support of same-sex marriage may not sway many customers away from eating at Chick-fil-A (as it certainly has not for me), it also shouldn’t be an issue that Chick-fil-A should focus on.

World Vision’s Decision Flip Leads to Public Relations Flop

An international Christian charity made a controversial public statement this week and, after receiving public outrage, made an unfortunate public relations mistake.

World Vision is a Christian organization that raises $1 billion per year to support international missions and economic relief to third world countries. One of the most popular Christian ministries in the US, the organization is commonly seen with booths at major Christian conferences, concerts and gatherings. They are most well known for their “Sponsor a Child” program, in which you can pay a monthly sponsorship fee to provide food, water, healthcare, education and other necessities for a child in need. World Vision is commonly associated with a positive mission.


However, the organization ran into some public relations difficulties this week, when World Vision announced that it would be changing its hiring standards. The statement said that the company would not discriminate against hiring individuals in same-sex marriages, as long as the individual claimed to be a Christian.

World Vision received a much-expected outcry from the Christian community, who tends to stand against “sinful” gay marriages. Within a two-day period, World Vision reversed its previous statement and said:

“The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman… We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

Huge mistake.

First of all, World Vision’s first announcement was a public statement. The executives thought through their decision to instate this new policy and thought to themselves, “Hmm. I guess it’s time to take this to the public.” But did they consider how the public might receive the news?

I guess not because, obviously, if they had, they might have recognized that they would undoubtedly receive negative backlash. It was going to happen. Their primary stakeholders and supporters are Christian. Their target audience is Christian. Where do Christian beliefs tend to align? Not usually in favor of same-sex marriage.

What I must interject here is that I have no prejudice at all here. I am a Christian female that fully supports same-sex marriage. I am somewhat of an anomaly in certain circles, but I understand their intention to reach out to both groups simultaneously. Unfortunately, most of the Christian community is not on that same page. Most of the community honors the biblical stance of homosexuality as sin and has aligned their social views against gay marriage.

For this reason, I am very surprised that World Vision made the decision to change their policy in the first place. However, once they did, I am mostly astounded that they didn’t foresee this backlash and plan to stand firm in the face of public outcry. By wavering in this decision, no party is happy.

Same-sex marriage supporters will shy away from an organization that has shunned the issue and individuals who do not support same-sex marriage will be relieved to know that World Vision has changed its decision. However, they may feel reluctant to donate to an organization that faltered on this stronghold.

No faith-filled supporter wants give to an organization that seems unstable in its beliefs. World Vision should have been more prepared for the reaction it received and not flipped so quickly. 

Public Relations at the NSA

At his March 11th Senate confirmation, new NSA Chief Michael Rogers said that the biggest problem that the National Security Agency faces this year is not its controversial issues with personal data storage. Rather, his only intended reform is to better incorporate public relations. 

The NSA has begun operating in those promises, by working to promote positive public relations during the past weeks. Already the organization has dispersed press kits to promote positive media coverage


Other than what I’ve heard on the news, I’m not all that emotionally involved in the actions of the NSA. I tend to be pretty unaware or simply not affected by fears of the NSA. I definitely should be more concerned, but I don’t suffer from anxiety from the government’s actions. Therefore, I had a conversation with my dad on his thoughts about the NSA and quickly I understood. His voice and blood pressure quickly rose, as he spiraled into a rant about their recent actions. 

His speech included phrases like “the NSA is in a delusionary state” and “their actions prove that anybody can abuse the system. He showed deep distress for the constitutional rights of Americans and how the NSA has violated them.

“They need to get a grip,” he continued, as he discussed the need for an oversight committee. “If they could have oversight that isn’t controlled by a puppet master, then maybe there would be some change.”

What I found is that my father knows much more about the NSA than I do, while I no much more about public relations. Yet, our opinions on the NSA’s new communication attempts were completely aligned.

“It shows that they’ve been caught with their pants down and they are trying to minimize the damage,” he said.

I could not have agreed more fully. I think that it is an obvious attempt to simply redirect the conversation away from their failures, rather than actually making the changes America wants. 

These actions give a bad name to public relations. Corrupt organizations use public relations to cover up bad decisions, instead of correcting their mistakes. The NSA doesn’t plan to make any changes, other than public relations. I will be interested to see if the media focus shifts, during the next few months. If so, we will know that public relations does really work.


White House PR: Obama Appears on “Between Two Ferns”

As we approach the end of March 2014, the time has come where insurance will no longer be a luxury – but a requirement. For many Americans, especially young ones,  this option seems somewhat unattainable. However, after March 31st, it will become illegal to live without health insurance.  While quite a few will knowingly fly against the rules and continue onward, insurance free, many others are not aware of the realities of this law or the resources that the government has created for their use. For this reason, President Barack Obama made an appearance on Funny or Die’s show, “Between Two Ferns” hosted by Zach Galifinackis.


This talk show regularly interviews major celebrities; however, this was, fortunately, the first time that the leader of the free world made an appearance. The pair made an uncomfortable team, as they both played the straight face with cynical comments intended to be comical. Instead of reading as funny, the effect was discomforting and awkward. Then, Obama went on his spiel about healthcare, but almost seemed to be drilling his points down as fast as possible. Personally, I found the entire thing a tad off-putting.

Most of the time that we see a celebrity on a talk show, they have been sent there by a public relations representative to promote a product. Musicians laugh and chat about their new album, while talking about funny experiences they’ve had in the DMV or pet strore. That’s why Brad Pitt even makes time for talk show hosts. He’s there because he agreed to promote his new movie when he signed the contract. Apparently, the White House had the same intentions.

Obama can talk all day about the new healthcare bill on C-SPAN, but if he wants anyone under the age of 55 to hear about it, then he needs to try a different approach. average American in a medium that they will actually receive it. By sending him to Funny or Die, the White House was more likely to reach the average young adult male in a medium that they will actually receive it.

In fact a poll by YouGov showed that 25 percent of people ages 18-29 have seen Obama’s “Between Two Ferns” video. There were mixed reactions about whether or not he should have appeared on the video. 26 percent of that age range said in the poll that it was a waste of the government’s time that they should devote elsewhere, while about one third said that it an “effective way to promote the healthcare website to young Americans. 

Again, I didn’t find it entirely enjoyable, but it did make me curious about the website and the healthcare realities I will be facing once I graduate college and I can no longer depend on my parent’s healthcare. (Yay! Can’t wait for that day…. ) I visited the website, looked at my options and, if I needed to purchase insurance, I feel more comfortable making a educated decision.

All in all, I’d say that “Between Two Ferns” was a win for healthcare but not for Obama. I’d like to see him a little more friendly and funny, more like the way he acted on Ellen this week – still promoting a White House agenda, but smiling while he went about it.

A New PR Firm to Bring Ukraine’s Perspective to the World

A spectator to the crisis overwhelming Ukraine, America has seen the bare minimum of the reality many Ukrainians are facing. In the midst of the fallout from anti-government protests and tremendous pressure to submit to Russian forces, Ukraine is in desperate need of a voice to share its point of view with the world. In comparison with Russia, a major country with extensive communication resources, Ukraine sits at an extreme disadvantage. Aware of this issue, a group of public relations professionals from at least ten different Ukrainian communications firms joined forces Wednesday to open the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in the Hotel Ukraine. 

Public relations help like this is crucial for a country undergoing this much turmoil. It is especially difficult when going up against a hegemonic power, like Russia. With excessive public attention from the Sochi Olympics and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s activity on the international affairs stage, Russia encounters little difficulty reaching the media

Ukraine on the other hand is not properly equipped to deliver their perspective to the world. For this reason, Ukrainian public relations experts have volunteered to “help Ukraine amplify its voice in the global dialogue around the recent developments,” the Center said in its May 5th release

Only open for two days, the Center has been successful in distributing information to the public, regarding the current status of the crisis. Through the combined resources of the experts on their team, the group has been able to offer news releases through their website and up to date news coverage via Twitter and YouTube.


While many public relations professionals are expected to take action during a business crisis, sometimes their involvement in public affairs is unexpected. However, public relations is a major part of forming public opinion. For that reason, it’s entirely important for every member of a crisis to have a voice, if they have any hope of shifting the outcome in their favor. This is the task set before Ukraine.

Although the Center was formed to offset the strong Russian narrative overwhelming the international view, it is not sponsored by the Ukrainian government. In fact, all professional services have been donated; many of the involved professionals agree that participation is their means of serving during a difficult time for their country.

The Center’s primary expense is rent, which is covered by the International Renaissance Foundation, an organization created to foster democratic ideals in Ukraine. The IRC has financed this project to bolster investigative journalism and the open information to the public.


With this support, the public will hopefully see an influx of news information from Ukrainian sources and a shift in the understanding of the Ukrainian perspective.


Companies Violate Ethics and Fail Publicly through Sexist Ads

sexist spanking ad

Would an ad like this be successful today? Hopefully, not. We’ve come pretty far, since the 1950’s when most advertisements remained highly sexist. However, after browsing the Internet today, I am reminded that we have been fooled. Although the world touts equality for both sexes, sexism heavily infiltrates advertising today. It’s scattered across television, computers and print. Everywhere we turn, men and women are simplified to the simplest stereotypes and used to sell products. Although both sexes have had their share of sexist advertisements, I’ve focused on female misrepresentation and divided this year’s advertising sexism into three categories:

1. Advertisements that blatantly use sexual situations to sell a product to men.

In these ads, breast-bouncing, skin-baring babes help sell sex, more than the product that they are advertising. Some of 2014’s classless contenders are the Axe advertisement that reduced women to helpless creatures completely controlled by their sexual desires and the Carl’s Jr. ad that revealed a half-naked model biting into a large, juicy sandwich (which likely contains more calories than she eats in a week).


These companies are known for their tendency to go overboard with inappropriate sexual content. In fact, Carl’s Jr. had an advertisement banned this year, in which a scantily clad model eats a large hotdog (or rather, licks it.) Watch at your own risk.

These commercials represent an entire genre of current-day advertising that uses women to sexualize a product and sell it to men in an almost parody-like fashion; a perfect example is this Perrier commercial. What on earth does this woman pouring sparkling water on herself have to do with Perrier? It’s ridiculous.

2. Advertisements that sell products to women, by placing women in stereotypical female roles.

True Car is a website that helps users decide on the right price for a vehicle. Its 2013 advertisement showed a series of women being interviewed about the website and was heavily criticized for feeding the stereotype that women aren’t knowledgeable about cars and need a man to help them with their car-buying purchase. One direct quote about purchasing a car was, “Now, I don’t need to bring a dude with me.” This reliance on past perceptions of female roles has penetrated advertisements for decades and continues to show up today.

Another culprit of this mistake is D.C. Metro, which displayed large posters of two women talking. In the photo, one woman acknowledges some safety fact about the trains and the other woman asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?” These two women are in business attire and could easily be in an office setting, but (obviously) their natural inclination is to chat about accessories. This breaks down the quality of female conversation from intellectual material to superficial chitchat. It hardly painted the company in a positive light and received some negative backlash.


As a major supporter of Google, it broke my heart to see the Gmail ad Google released this year, which explained the benefits of Gmail’s new sorting system that divides mail into categories, such as “Promotions” and “Social.” In this ad, the female account owner received emails in each of her categories and every single message represented a different stereotype. From emails about knitting club to e-receipts from shoe shopping to comments about going on a date, the message sent from this advertisement gave no hint that this female might have a job, have any original hobbies or even live in the 21st century. From such a forward-thinking company, I would expect more from Google to promote female empowerment.

3. The rest of advertisements – in which companies use Photoshop to create sub-human, perfected creatures to sell products.

The frustration with computer-edited photographs has been a long-standing problem for many within the feminist community. We all know that even the most beautiful models are retouched to look “flawless” for the camera. However, in many ways it plays up an unreachable perception for many people.

Sorry Julia, but no one looks like this naturally.


This was the exact point of the Body Evolution video released last year. Many advertisements are simply the art of a computer touch-up brush and no reflection of actual reality. In fact, the picture above might have been further edited, if the editors weren’t instructed to keep the structural integrity of Julia Roberts’ face to keep her recognizable to the public.

When computers change the look of a person to such an extreme measure, we have to ask – is this even ethical? Furthermore, is it ethical to use women as walking sex billboards? What about promoting a stereotypical role that inaccurately presents a present-day female lifestyle? Is advertising today ethical?

On a sexist scale, probably not. Multiple traditional ethical theories stand in the way of supporting the treatment of women in today’s advertising industry. This post will refer to three theories: feminism, utilitarianism and distributive justice.

Feminism is an obvious supporter of ending sexism in advertising. Ultimately, this framework calls for “justice for women” in all areas of society. Feminists have, for many years, fought the media for their portrayal of women and sexism, in general.

Likewise, utilitarianism would likely support the absolution of sexist advertising. This ethical theory encourages companies to consider the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Females make up 51% of the U.S. population. Additionally, many men disagree with sexist advertising. For this reason, if companies are considering utilitarianism, they should think twice before releasing a sexist ad. In reality, this is also valid because sometimes the repercussions of unethical advertisements lead to the ad being taken down and a decline in public opinion. If a majority of the public will be offended, then it’s probably best not to release it.

Distributive justice further supports this opinion, as this framework looks out for the needs of every member of society and protects the minority. Through the lens of distributive justice, a fair member should consider everyone and if ANYONE would be bothered then, again, it’s probably best not to release it.

Well in the real world we know that we can’t always keep everyone happy. Yet, that is no reason to abandon ethics all together. Some advertising executives would say that ethics doesn’t matter, that we should focus on sales. However, this simply isn’t logical. Why? Women make up 85 percent of consumer purchases. Representing women effectively could lead to higher sales and better public opinion of company.

Dove has found a way to respectfully represent women, by being a longtime supporter of making normal woman feel beautiful. Dove has used this attitude as their primary ad campaign for many years. This year, they released a new commercial that brought tears to my eyes. They brought women in to a portrait artist, without either party seeing the other. Both facing in opposite directions, the artist drew the woman only by asking her questions about her features and drawing the details that she told him. Next, the same situation was repeated, except someone else told the artist what the woman looked like. When comparing the two portraits, it was obvious. Many women see themselves much less attractive than they actually are. “We spend a lot of time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right and we should spend more time appreciating the things we do like,” one woman in the ad said. Dove aims to bring in normal women and use them to remind the general public that beauty is in all of us – not just the size 0 models. The commercial ends with these words – “You are more beautiful than you think.

This attitude does so much more for a company than just slapping an attractive woman up on an advertisement, with a bottle of Dove moisturizer in the bottom corner. It turns Dove into a trusty friend, whom you can trust to open up to and be honest with.

We need more of this type of advertising. Ads should empower both sexes and not isolate one group negatively to increase sales quotas. 80% of Americans have said that they feel better when they purchase from companies that align themselves with a good cause, according to an advertising ethics speech by Chris Moore, of advertising company Oglivy & Mather. Companies, such as Dove, are seeing the truth in that statement. By staying true to ethical advertising, it can boost sales and might help employees sleep better at night.