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Tide: Short Skirts?

by in Culture, Features, Sliding Gallery

Anywhere from 247 to over 3,000—that’s how many advertisements the average North American is exposed to per day (according to a variety of sources, from Consumer Reports to the Newspaper Association of America). And in our current culture, advertisements are no longer mere product descriptions — often times, advertisements give absolutely no information about the product, except its name and logo. Instead, advertisers are doing everything they can to hold our attention and convince us to invest in their products. Because you are bombarded with such a multitude of advertisements on a daily basis, it’s good to take a step back and understand what these advertisers are communicating and what values they are reflecting. This 3-D process of reflection is encouraged by Walt Mueller and CPYU. Perhaps through the mirror of your television and computer you can further understand the values of our world, and then determine how your own value-reflections compare.

To promote the new Acti-Lift Formula, Tide has released a new commercial entitled “Tide with Acti-Lift Detergent “Too Short” Commercial” (vid | website). In this thirty-two second advertisement, you are not only pitched a sale from the marketers of Tide, but you’re also given a snap-shot at what may become (and perhaps already is) North American family culture.

What is the message/worldview?

The commercial begins with a father working outside and oiling a rusty fence. He sees his teenage daughter’s white miniskirt hanging on the clothesline and, in unspoken disapproval, wipes his hands on it and throws it back into the laundry basket. The teenager finds the skirt and shows her mom. The mother knowingly turns to Tide with Acti-Lift. The commercial ends with the teen girl showing off her barely-there skirt to her mom, and condescendingly patting her father on the head as she runs for the door.

By the end of the commercial, it becomes clear that the father is wrong for wanting to spoil his daughter’s “style,” and the mother is right for helping her daughter dress as she pleases. The father is left helpless and dumbfounded as the mother and daughter rejoice over their Tide-assisted, stain-removed, and style-restored victory.

Choice is the value that is seen as virtuous. The commercial closes with the catchphrase, “Style is an option. Clean is not.” The commercial reflects the individualistic values of free choice and independence, encouraging the daughter’s choice of “style” while making ridiculous the father’s attempted influence over his daughter’s life.

This commercial seems to be marketing broadly to women, specifically to mothers and teenage daughters. Being as women spend the majority of money in the household, especially when it comes to laundry detergent, this is to be expected. But what is interesting is how the commercial emphasizes:

  1. mothers’ desire to be close to their daughters. The ad claims that by letting your daughter dress the way she wants, you and your daughter will be drawn closer together.
  2. teenagers’ desire to be independent and unique, particularly through what they wear.
  3. women’s desire to be independent and powerful in their own right. This commercial paints a picture of fathers who are powerless fuddy-duddies. It suggests that the father’s disapproval has nothing to do with his concern for how his daughter presents herself, or his concern for how his daughter may be disrespected: he is simply taking away her “style.” Thus, the father is the villain, the taker-away of fun, and the mom is the savior, for she enables her daughter (with the help of Tide, don’t forget) to dress as she wants.

How does it stand in light of the biblical message/worldview?

While mother-daughter bonding is certainly good, and while bonding can become anxiety-ridden when one’s child reaches adolescence, the choice to unite against “the man” in the house, namely the father, is not healthy or godly. The bible calls children/youth to honor both their mothers and fathers (Exodus 20:12) and also calls wives to honor their husbands (and vise versa, Ephesians 5). In an attempt to swing away from society’s past picture of the authoritarian father ruling with an iron fist, it seems we have gone too far in the other direction, taking the father’s power away and dishonoring him in the process.

Also, while this commercial does not directly address any spiritual issues, it speaks to your own innate desire to be in control of your life and to side-step any input from God, the greatest “man” in your life. So often he nudges us in the direction of his commandments, and so often we find ways to “outsmart” him. Ultimately, though, as the father in the commercial desires the best for his daughter, God desires the best for your life as well. And ultimately, while the father remains powerless in the commercial, God will have the last say in our lives.

In another attempt to swing away from old ideas, namely the past cultural expectation for women to be covered from head to toe, our culture has gone too far again, allowing the teenage daughter to leave the house with the majority of her legs exposed. The body is a good and beautiful thing, and certainly not something to be ashamed of. Paul calls the human body the very temple of God, where the Holy Spirit dwells (if you’re a Christian) and goes on to say that “you are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Thus, even though the commercial promotes the daughter’s miniskirt as a stylistic choice, it is important to consider how you present and treat your body.

What do I do with it?

In the short time frame of the Tide “Too Short” commercial, you are presented not only with a sales pitch for laundry soap, but also a visual picture of emerging family ideals. As family dynamics change with rapidity, you need to continually reevaluate the effects of these changing dynamics and determine how they compare to God’s perfect desires for your life.

It is rather impossible to avoid advertising when engaging with nearly any form of media today, but it is pivotal to not blindly absorb the messages and assumptions presented by advertisers. By taking some time to evaluate a commercial like Tide’s “Too Short,” you can prepare yourself to learn how to intentionally discern what other commercials/ads/media are teaching.

In regards to Tide itself, it seems that questionable family values has been a trend with its “Acti-Lift” campaign. On YouTube, you can find another commercial entitled “Tide with Acti-Lift Green Shirt TV Commercial,” where a mother goes out clubbing with her friends while wearing her teenage daughter’s shirt (which is stained in the process). The following morning, the daughter asks her mom if she has seen her green shirt. But no worries—Tide comes to the rescue and removes the stain in time for the daughter to wear the shirt the same day, no questions asked. As a general rule, it’s good to recognize what exactly is being promoted by the products you buy. By purchasing them you are in some ways affirming their company’s choice of advertisement.

All advertisements are produced with the intent of selling a product. However, for decades advertisements have been telling us less about products and more about ourselves. Most commercials are designed to appeal to your desires—to be safe, to be comfortable, to be wealthy, to save time. Some, such as the Tide “Too Short” commercial, appeal to even deeper desires—to be in control (the women versus the man) and to be loved (the mother and the daughter). This commercial should remind you to recognize when advertisers are looking to speak to your deeper desires and to recognize that fulfillment in life cannot come from laundry detergent, time-saving kitchen gadgets, or alcohol. Instead, fulfillment comes from God.

:: Used with permission. Original article from the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

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