Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Experts in Skincare

I saw this life-size display in a Marionnaud storefront a couple of days ago. It is a German-language Clarins advert and the text reads: "your experts in skincare".

You can't quite see this here, but the model's underpants are semi-transparent. And the poster is sized and positioned in such a way, so that the viewer's gaze is directed at the space above the bicycle saddle. Right.

In terms of the psychology of advertising, I think this poster is very Austrian: freikörperkultur, health as the path to sexiness, sun worship, golden hair, long legs, lean muscles, and a symbol of an active lifestyle - in this case a sporty bicycle. Whoever came up with the ad was clearly trying to evoke stereotypical cultural ideals. I don't suppose too many people notice that the saddle is set too low...

27 comments:

  1. i have to answer that this is not "austrian". clarins is a global beauty product company and the ads come from paris. you see them all over europe.

    but its funny to read the "nudism in austria" article. i never recognized that beeing "natural" is strange for foreigners :)

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  2. Max - I am saying that the ad is Austrian, not Clarins as a brand. For instance, I checked and even the French version of the same ad is different.

    Attitudes to nudity are a huge cultural difference and many expats are initially surprised by the nude co-ed saunas and other instances of FKK here.

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  3. Is the saddle set too low? The girl appears to be wearing heels, if she were in flats surely the saddle would be at a correct height...

    Then again, I am new to cycling and have hardly any idea about setting up a lady's cycle!

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  4. Well, the saddle should be at about the level of her tailbone, or higher. The heels look like they are 3 inches, which covers half that distance. Plus, it seems that she is planning to ride the bike with the heels on, so she should adjust it accordingly : )

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  5. but the ad is not austrian, its only in german an marionaud sells clarins products. see here:
    http://creativeskirts.typepad.com/creative_skirts/2009/04/because-i-love-to-ride-my-bike-in-a-bikini-and-4inch-wedges.html

    or here:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kSNVKrktKUQ/Sfk9nei5aQI/AAAAAAAADbY/yxPQUGvxrdw/s1600-h/clarins.jpg

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  6. Hmm, interesting. I wonder where the English-language ad is from. It is not American or English. The positioning of the model is different in those ads as well from the one in the Vienna storefront.

    I still stick to my view that this is a very Austrian display. In Vienna, skincare, hosiery and lingerie ads are very explicit compared to those in, say the US and England, and at the same time more athletic-body themed than those in, say France. In Germany the attitude to nudity is similar, but I think it is more stressed in Austria. For instance, I notice more graphic lingerie displays in Vienna and Salzburg than in Berlin and Cologne. Same with skincare, advertisements of socks, and anything else that could but does not necessarily need to involve nudity.

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  7. PS - an interesting "outside" impression of Vienna that also notes the stress on nudity and lingerie in adverts (towards the end of the article), from the Times on Line.

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  8. very funny to read although very subejective. but thats ok, we styrians all hate viennas people ;)

    btw, doors push into the street because its a safety law - in an emergency its easier to run outside (thats what once a friend, an architect, told me)

    the emergency of course should not be dine and dash :)

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  9. You Styrians!

    Of course all views of foreign cultures are very subjective. I have lived in Vienna on and off for 2 1/2 years now, and also when I was a child, so I am very comfortable here with most things. However, I meet many people - especially from the UK and US - who find it extremely difficult to adjust. More so than to other European countries/cities, I mean.

    Oh, and I like the doors opening to the outside. To me it seems more intuitive for some reason.

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  10. Blah, that ad makes me sick. The company is not winning my heart by throwing a bike in there.

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  11. Dottie - I asked 3 female Austrian friends what they think of the ad and they were confused. "It's a normal ad, what do you mean?"

    This is why I think this advert is specifically for the Austrian - or at least N. European market.

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  12. When we lived in Lithuania, there was definitely a more open view towards nudity than there is in the U.S., but it didn't necessarily involve health or beauty - for instance, on a bottle of thigh creme, you might find a naked, very normal (that is, not especially fit or beautiful or sexy) looking woman, applying creme to her leg. Very sort of utilitarian in a sense. Just simply, "this is for your legs, here's someone applying it to their legs" kind of thing.

    They seemed very much like this as a society, overall. I have my theories about why that is, but I never really talked with any Lithuanians about it, so who knows. I found it pretty refreshing though, as everything is so over-sexualized here, it was refreshing to find people who were just like "you have a body, I have a body, get on with it." It's not that they flaunted themselves, they just viewed bodies as normal things, not a tool for seduction/attraction so much.

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  13. What do you think makes Vienna more difficult to adjust to than other European cities, Velouria?

    I'm not offended by the ad but it definitely seems to ping specifically Teutonic cultural/sexual ideals.

    Bikes are EVERYWHERE in advertising now. It's crazy.

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  14. portlandize - That is interesting. I am somewhat familiar with Lithuanian culture, and overall agree. In Austria, it is not so much that things are not sexualised, as there is a distinction between the "sexy body" and the "natural body", which seems to depend entirely on context. For example, it is considered normal for classmates to go to a co-ed sauna together naked, and it would be "sick" if anyone got aroused in that situation. But then if two of these same classmates go on a date and get naked for the purpose of sex, it's different. I've discussed this a million times with my Austrian friends who patiently try to explain it to me, and I still am unable to entirely grasp the concept.

    neighbourtease - That's a very complicated question that I'm not sure how to answer here. More than anything, expats seem to find it hard to deal with how direct people here are and with the different codes of politeness. There are also differences in body language and even the rhythm of movements that seem to be especially pronounced. Lots of people describe being bewildered that "everyone in Vienna bumps into them all the time" when they first move here, but then they adjust to the difference in rhythm and it stops happening. I know it sounds weird!

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  15. I have never lived in Austria but have lived in Germany twice in my life for extended periods. I was often struck by how different the approach to advertising was at times. I remember in particular an ad for a German airline featuring a female flight attendant wearing tight shorts next to a supposed male customer in conventional business attire. It disturbed me and contributed to a feeling of homesickness.

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  16. Makes me thankful to live in the U.S.

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  17. As I have mentioned in a previous comment the only time I've spent in Vienna was walking across it to change trains, but I have spent some time in Innsbruck.

    I didn't have any trouble adjusting at all. In fact I found it rather relaxing not having to be forced into a quasi-Puritanical mindset all the time. To a certain extent I found the same true in Switzerland, but more low key.

    Rather ironic given the history of the religious doctrines.

    Doors that open out (especially if they overlap the frame rather than being set into it; like a refrigerator door) have an advantage in home security as well; they cannot be forced in as any pressure applied to them simply closes them harder.

    The disadvantage is that they can be easily blocked from the outside; say by a heavy snow.

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  18. Velouria (n+1):

    "I still am unable to entirely grasp the concept."

    It's simple; you have been ingrained with the idea that nudity is related to sex; and that idea is false. In the words of Loretta Castorini - "Snap out of it!"

    ". . ."everyone in Vienna bumps into them all the time" . . . I know it sounds weird!"

    You can find the same thing just moving between Boston and NYC. More so back in the day before so many New Yorkers started moving to Boston to get away from NY; and bringing NY with them.

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  19. While they were post-processing the images from real into desired ideal, they somehow mirror flipped the bicycle (gears on left), maybe the model too. Or maybe it's deeply intentional--it's a mirror image of Vienna, see. I'm kidding about that.

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  20. MDI - Oh, I didn't even notice that! You're right, it's a mirror image. I wonder why.

    kfg - I do go back and forth between Boston & NYC (and besides I have only lived in Boston for a bit, I am not originally from there) and don't find such a difference. Neither do I find it to the same extent between the US & UK, US & France, US & Belgium, and even US & Germany as I do between US & Austria - in particular Vienna. Same with the other expats who mention this - they have been around quite a lot and notice this in particular about Vienna.

    Re nudity & sex: You're assuming I am American and have been "ingrained" with things it seems. "Snap out of it" : )

    I do not so much think that nudity = sex, but that nudity is personal and private, and moreover that it is the individual's choice how open vs mysterious they wish to make their body and how and when they wish to share it - be it sexually or not.

    It is not only about sex, but about expectations of privacy, disclosure, and personal space. I am uncomfortable with FKK because of its attitudes about those things. When you go to an Austrian clinic/hospital, you are expected to undress in front of who-ever happens to be there and walk across public spaces in that state. That conflicts with my ideas of privacy and human dignity.

    I am uncomfortable with matter-of-fact nudity, because I think it is dehumanising. I do not think that with humans it can ever be matter of fact. We think too much and there is too much symbolism in everything. Therefore, to strip nudity of meaning is inherently to take away a person's dignity. This is hardly a unique view or a puritanical one. The French, who are hardly puritanical, do not view the naked body matter-of-factly.

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  21. "I am uncomfortable with matter-of-fact nudity, because I think it is dehumanising. I do not think that with humans it can ever be matter of fact. We think too much and there is too much symbolism in everything. Therefore, to strip nudity of meaning is inherently to take away a person's dignity. This is hardly a unique view or a puritanical one. The French, who are hardly puritanical, do not view the naked body matter-of-factly."
    What a brave soul Velouria. Well, I'll simply agree. :)

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  22. I saw this ad in Moscow airport, same image, same product. I also noticed that her saddle was too low.

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  23. "When you go to an Austrian clinic/hospital, you are expected to undress in front of who-ever happens to be there and walk across public spaces in that state."

    i dont know where you go but this never happened to me. i live here for 37 years now.

    and, i think you make too much noise about some so called nudity. this is only an advert of a not really naked woman in a not infamous position. i think there are far more worse ads than this... that really are dangerous to society. like ads for war-computergames, ego shooters and so on...

    of course thats only my opinion.

    to jeff: this is europe. im glad i do not live in the US.

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  24. max - come on. I am not "making noise" about the ad. Notice that I never said it bothered me. I just think it is interesting that having it here is okay, whereas having it in the US would be absolutely not okay. The responses from several Americans who commented confirm this.

    As for the hospitals - what I wrote is something many foreigners describe experiencing here. The fact that you don't experience it may simply reflect a cultural difference in standards of "modesty". In the UK and US, you usually do not just undress in front of medical staff. You put on a special gown, and the practitioner opens small portions of it to examine you. There are very careful guidelines as to how this should be done sensitively. This is very different from how examinations happen in Austria.

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  25. of course that is different and i didnt know, i misunderstood you, i thought you had to undress in front of other waiting patients :)

    and by making noise about that ad i meant all the comments not yours only.

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  26. @velouria -- very interesting about the different rhythm of the city and different notions of personal space being challenging for people to get used to. I haven't lived in a German culture, but I did grow up in quite a few countries so I am never quite at home anywhere, but also never really alienated by anything. I always like to hear about how other people experience these things.

    The ad is just kind of silly to me. Primarily because of the wrong height of her saddle, I guess. Like, if you're gonna be naked on a bicycle, you should try to be more EXPERTE.

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  27. Well, it depends what you consider "in front of" others. In the Notfall-Ambulanz at the AKH Wien they have these curtained-off areas where they examine patients, which are right next to the waiting area. There are large gaps between the curtains and you can see people being examined, partially undressed. Does that count?

    But in all seriousness, you have no idea what a huge topic of discussion this is among English-speaking people who live in Vienna. I probably should not have even started with this "can of worms".

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