Cosmetic Procedures and Beauty Products/Services in Editorials and Advertising

This chapter explores changes in the overall (magazine) advertising market, and the trends related to the nature of the advertising found in my core corpus. In addition, an account of the portrayal of cosmetic procedures in the articles published in the magazines will be provided, which builds on both monomodal corpus explorations and the multimodal coding conducted in NVivo. Section 4.1 examines the overall fall in the circulation of lifestyle magazines and the decrease in the number of adverts - particularly those for cosmetic procedures - in lifestyle magazines. Related to this decline, the shift in the placement of adverts for cosmetic procedures must be addressed; whereas the majority of these adverts were previously placed in classified sections at the back of the magazines, several cosmetic surgery brands now publish marketing materials in a more central position between the magazines’ editorial content. Section 4.2 introduces the most significant themes and trends I identified in the editorials on cosmetic procedures found in both women’s and men’s magazines. The conflicting editorial content regarding cosmetic procedures is of particular interest; on the one hand, procedures are constructed as having a positive influence on a person’s self-confidence, whereas, on the other hand, they are portrayed as dangerous and perhaps unnecessary undertakings. Chapter 5 continues some of the discussions raised here through a comprehensive examination of themes in advertising and promotions for cosmetic procedures and beauty products/ services.

The Changing Advertising Landscape

Before looking at any changes in the number and nature of the adverts found in the core corpus, it is valuable to look at the lifestyle magazine market more broadly as it has changed quite dramatically during the time period under study (2001-2015). Overall, the magazine lifestyle market has been in (sharp) decline due to the “volatile economic climate [and] an overall fall in consumer interest” (Walker 2011: 1). Consumers are increasingly turning to online channels to read (and view) the information they would otherwise access through the medium of the magazine (cf. Hucker 2014).

In an attempt to retain or recover their readership, magazines have expanded to include the online realm by launching electronic versions of their publications. Moreover, most (if not all) magazines have created websites - featuring similar-style content to the published issues - and are active on various social media platforms.

The lifestyle magazines included in this project have been affected by the general downward trend in the circulation of magazines, as can be seen in Figure 4.1. Unfortunately, there is very little data available for the Gay Times and therefore only the circulation figures for 2014 and 2015 have been included here. Another anomaly in the graph can be seen in the sharp rise in the circulation of Cosmopolitan between 2014 and 2015, which relates to the decision by Hearst Magazines UK to update Cosmo's look and its marketing and distribution strategy. Part of this strategy was to lower the cover price and to widen distribution to include places “where the Cosmopolitan reader spends her time - in shopping centres, cinemas, gyms and at work” (Hearst 2016).

In contrast to Cosmopolitan's successful restyling and redistribution strategy, Bauer Media decided to suspend the publication of FHM in November 2015 and the last issue of the magazine was published in February 2016.

Circulation figures in 1,000 copies sold

Figure 4.1 Circulation figures in 1,000 copies sold.

Sources: Based on data published by Statista (for the circulation data for Marie Claire, see uk/; for the circulation data for Cosmopolitan, see 288861/cosmopolitan-circulation-trend-uk/; and for the circulation data for FHM, see magazine media packs (for the circulation data for the Gay Times, see www.

Number of adverts 2001-2015 in women’s magazines

Figure 4.2 Number of adverts 2001-2015 in women’s magazines.

Note: ‘PP’ stands for ‘per page’, ‘cs’ stands for ‘cosmetic procedures’, and ‘non-cs’ denotes ‘(other) beauty products/services’.

Accompanying the decline in the overall circulation of most of the lifestyle magazines, the number of adverts published in the magazines has also decreased since 2001. Although the dwindling number of adverts published in the lifestyle magazines may relate to the fall in magazine readership, the recent economic recession(s) may have also played a role. As Hanson (2014: 196) has noted, “advertising is among the first expenses that get cut during difficult economic times”. The number of adverts for cosmetic procedures in particular has declined in both the women’s magazines and FHM, as can be seen in Figures 4.2 and 4.3; interestingly, FHM did not publish any advertising for cosmetic procedures in 2015. However, the Gay Times does not follow the general trend as it shows a slight increase in the number of adverts for cosmetic procedures published between 2010 and 2015. This rise can be explained in light of the proliferation of advertising for hair transplantation and scalp micropigmentation1 procedures. The reason for separating the ‘cosmetic procedures number of pages’ (cs pp) and ‘cosmetic procedures number of adverts’ (cs ads) relates to the fact that adverts for cosmetic procedures frequently share a page, particularly in the 2001 and 2006 data.

Looking at (other) beauty advertising, a decrease in the number of adverts published in the magazines - particularly Cosmo - over the 2001- 2015 period can also be seen, although this decline is not as dramatic as the fall in advertising for cosmetic procedures. Marie Claire appears to have suffered the least in terms of the number of beauty adverts published in the magazine despite its falling circulation. Perhaps the relative stability of the number of (other) beauty adverts in Marie Claire is related

Number of adverts 2001-2015 in men’s magazines

Figurce 4.3 Number of adverts 2001-2015 in men’s magazines.

Note: ‘PP’ stands for ‘per page’, ‘cs’ stands for ‘cosmetic procedures’, and ‘non-cs’ denotes ‘(other) beauty products/services’.

to the magazine’s considerable emphasis on beauty and fashion and its target audience, which, generally, is more affluent than Cosmo's reader- ship. Moreover, Marie Claire generally comprises more pages than any of the other lifestyle magazines, which may have affected - or be the result of - the greater number of adverts2.

The popularity of the Internet can (partly) explain the decline in advertising in the magazines. As Hackley (2010: 4, 11) has explained, print advertising is predicted to decline as contemporary audiences move online to read and view news and entertainment. Moreover, as audiences shift to the online realm, an increasing amount of marketing budgets is now spent on online adverts (Belch & Belch 2015: 12). A clear advantage of online advertising is its ability to identify very specific target audiences and otherwise hard-to-reach market segments (cf. Belch & Belch 2015; Hackley 2010).

In line with this general e-migration of advertising, “cosmetic providers ... have begun to tap into the public’s undeniable reliance on the Web to bring in more business” (Wong et al. 2010: 736; cf. Montemurro et al. 2015). At the 2015 Facial Aesthetic Conference and Exhibition (FACE), Wendy Lewis, founder of The Knife Coach, discussed the importance of the Web for cosmetic surgery businesses. In her talk on ‘aesthetic clinic marketing in the digital age’, Lewis highlighted the importance of social media as she noted how it “is taking over marketing”. Facebook adverts in particular were recommended as they are cheap and enable the identification of a clear target audience; moreover, it is easy to bypass some of the rules that the platform has put in place. Interestingly, Lewis recommended to post certain adverts even if they are in violation of

Facebook’s guidelines as they won’t be taken down immediately - after all, any publicity is better than no publicity.

Despite the opportunities that the Internet offers, the increasing popularity of ad-blocks poses a threat to the online advertising industry (cf. Guttmann 2019). Moreover, as Belch and Belch (2015: 417) have commented, “despite the challenges they face, magazines ... are still very important media vehicles for most advertisers” as they are able to reach specific target audiences, are read “in a leisurely manner”, and often enjoy a long lifespan before being thrown away (Beasley & Danesi 2002: 78). Furthermore, many lifestyle magazines offer great creative opportunities to make an advert stand out, for instance through ‘gatefolds’ and/or bleed pages. Moreover, the prestige that a title carries may be transferred onto the brand that is advertising within its pages. Lastly, consumer receptivity and engagement are very high for (lifestyle) magazines, particularly for content related to beauty and grooming (Belch &c Belch 2015: 427).

The dramatic reduction in the number of adverts witnessed across the data is accompanied by a radical shift in the placement of adverts for cosmetic procedures in Marie Claire. Whereas adverts for cosmetic procedures were confined to the ‘classified’ section at the back of the magazine in 2001 and 2006, increasingly the adverts in Marie Claire have been placed within the body of the magazine, close to the editorial content on beauty. As Vestergaard and Schroder (1985: 3) explained in The Language of Advertising, adverts in the classified section of a magazine are ordered (or ‘classified’) according to topic and are usually only read by people “with a special interest in some particular product or service”. Moreover, in the magazines included for this study, the classified sections are generally marked as such, for example by section headers such as ‘Cosmo Classified’. In contrast to classified advertising, ‘display advertising’ comprises adverts that are placed among the editorial material of a magazine and are therefore read/viewed more widely. The implication of a transfer of advertising for cosmetic procedures from classified sections to the body of the magazine (sometimes in the form of promotions and advertorials) will be discussed more fully in Chapter 7.

It is significant to observe how the shift from classified to display is specific to Marie Claire; FHM and Cosmo only include adverts for cosmetic procedures in a classified section, whereas the majority of adverts for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times has been published among the editorial content of the magazine since 2001. Only a few adverts for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times can be found in a classified section.

Closely associated with the move from classified to display advertising, adverts for cosmetic procedures in Marie Claire increasingly do not share a page with other advertising, as can be seen in Table 4.1. Whereas the 2001 adverts for cosmetic procedures were accompanied by approximately five other adverts, this number dropped to approximately three in 2006 and two in 2010, before reaching a one-to-one ‘adverts to page ratio’ in 2015 (i.e. in 2015 every cosmetic surgery advert had its own

Table 4.1 Average number of adverts per page containing advert(s) for cosmetic procedures 2001-2015







No. of pages cs ads

Total no. of ads (cs or other) on one page

Average no. of ads per page

No. of pages cs ads

Total no. of ads (cs or other) on one page

Average no. of ads per page

No. of pages cs ads

Total no. of ads (cs or other) on one page

Average no. of ads per page

No. of pages cs ads

Total no. of ads (cs or other) on one page

Average no. of ads per page





















































page). For Cosmo, the number of adverts accompanying those for cosmetic procedures also declined between 2001 and 2010 but appears to have gone up between 2010 and 2015 (from an average of 3.6 to 4.5 adverts per page). However, it needs to be noted here that this average for 2015 is heavily influenced by one page in particular which includes a total of 12 adverts; the other pages containing a cosmetic surgery advert only include a total of two adverts per page.

For the men’s magazines, it is difficult to establish a clear trend in the number of adverts accompanying those for cosmetic procedures, although there has been a decrease in the number of adverts appearing alongside the adverts for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times when comparing 2015 to 2001 and 2006. Adverts for hair treatments and procedures in particular have their own page in the magazine.

In addition to the number and placement of adverts for cosmetic procedures, the character of these adverts has also changed quite dramatically between 2001 and 2015. In accordance with cosmetic surgery trends (e.g. see BAAPS 2015), invasive procedures such as breast enlargement and (surgical) liposuction are advertised less frequently and have been substituted by the promotion of non-surgical, non-invasive treatments. This trend will be discussed in more depth in the following chapter.

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