For Sale: Cosmetic Procedures

In addition to marketing the professionalism, expertise, and skill of the medical professional, certain other themes - common across marketing messages - were apparent in both adverts for cosmetic procedures and (other) beauty adverts. Echoing Lirola and Chovanec’s (2012: 490) finding that “media representations of cosmetic surgery present operations as quick and easy solutions to change the body and feel better”, 7% (N=28) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures in the corpus refer to ‘easy’; moreover, a significant increase can be observed between 2001 (9%, N=15) and 2015 (31%, N=5). However, it must be emphasised that most of the references to ‘easy’ in adverts for cosmetic procedures do not relate to the procedures, but rather to the information a provider delivers, access to the facilities, or - quite commonly - an ‘Easy Payment Plan’. This emphasis on the affordability of procedures was also explored in Moran and Lee’s (2013: 387) analysis of the sale of genital cosmetic surgery, which found that “the message that cosmetic surgery is easy ... extends to the area of patient financing”, as cosmetic procedures were presented as “affordable on any budget”. Nevertheless, a few of the adverts in the 2001 data do describe their procedures as “easier than you think” (The Harley Clinic in Cosmo October 2001: 345), or as “simple” (The Wimpole Hair Restoration Clinic in FHM October 2001: 327). Moreover, an advert for Restylane, provider of injectable fillers, in Marie Claire (October 2006: 123) claims that “the answer to looking rejuvenated, revitalised and refreshed couldn’t be easier...”. This type of claim was banned when the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) published its Advertising Guidance related to cosmetic interventions in 2016, which stipulated that “marketers should avoid irresponsibly describing cosmetic interventions as ‘safe’ or ‘easy’, because it is likely that all such interventions will carry some level of risk to the patient” (p.10).

Alongside an emphasis on ease, 10% (N=40) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures highlight the instant or quick results or fast service that a product, procedure or provider offers. The advertising for cosmetic procedures in the Gay Times, in particular, highlights the quick or instant nature or effect of procedures[1] [2] [3] [4], which is unsurprising as it is predominantly adverts for non-surgical and non-invasive procedures that draw on this theme. Advertising messages for laser hair removal, for example, focus on the quick (and effective) results that laser treatments achieve (my emphases):

V. Flash out unwanted hair in seconds ... permanently removing unwanted hair from all body parts in minutes. (Skin Soft Flair Removal Clinic in the Gay Times October 2001: 65)

Other adverts for non-invasive procedures besides laser treatments may also mention how treatments “immediately smooth away your wrinkles” (Juvederm in Marie Claire June 2010: 114), or hydrate skin “in an instant” (Restylane in Marie Claire October 2006: 123). In addition to explicit mentions of ‘quick’ or ‘instant’, several adverts use ‘just’ or ‘only’ to refer to aspects of procedures. Adverts for Nicosia (Gay Times June 2006: 111) and Ellipse-Klinikken (Gay Times October 2006: 100), for example, emphasise that “just one treatment” is required and an advert for the Welbeck Clinic (Cosmo February 2006: 181) promises “dramatic results in only seven days” (my emphases). Moreover, the Wimpole Flair Restoration Clinic (FHM October 2001: 327) asserts that “treatment requires only a short time away from work” (my emphasis). Related to the quick or instant theme, 22% (N=86) of the adverts for cosmetic procedures urge readers to act ‘today’ or ‘now’, compared to just 12% (N=60) of the (other) beauty adverts. Most of these references in adverts for cosmetic procedures direct readers to “call [us] now/today”. Although the creation of a sense of urgency is a key element of all advertising discourse (cf. Patel 2015), it was more common in the adverts for cosmetic procedures.

When considering that the majority of people must pay for cosmetic procedures themselves, it is unsurprising that 69% (N=266) of all adverts for cosmetic procedures refer to financial aspects such as the prices for procedures or current offers. Adverts for cosmetic surgery providers based outside of the UK in particular attempt to entice readers by emphasising the amount a person could save by choosing to go abroad to undergo a procedure. An advert by Advanced Cosmetic Surgery, which operated in Ireland, for example, urged readers to “take advantage of the currency difference and save up to stg £1,000 on most UK prices” for “a holiday break with a difference” (as found in the June and October 2001 issues of Cosmo and Marie Claire). In addition to such specific offers, cosmetic surgery providers also offered various freebies for prospective customers such as a free consultation or - predominantly in the 2001 and 2006 data - a free (colour) brochure.

Overall, there has been a fall in the relative number of references to financial aspects within advertising for cosmetic providers; however, as can be seen in Figure 6.7, this decrease is not consistent across magazines.

The reason for the general fall in references to the financial side of procedures is not entirely clear. A possible explanation could be the increase in the marketing of non-invasive procedures which are less expensive; this account could also explain the relatively low number of references to the finance theme in the Gay Times. Flowever, this interpretation of the data fails to account for the increase in references to

114 Advertising - Medical/Commercial Aspects

Relative number of references to Finance theme in adverts for cosmetic procedures 2001-2015

Figure 6.7 Relative number of references to Finance theme in adverts for cosmetic procedures 2001-2015.

the finance theme in Cosmo. A more likely explanation relates to the placement of the adverts for cosmetic procedures; it seems that the adverts placed in central positions in the magazine - as is the case with (other) beauty adverts - are less likely to refer to financial aspects than those published in classified sections. References to the finance theme are found far less regularly in adverts for (other) beauty products/ser- vices (10%, N=49) than in advertising for cosmetic procedures (69%, N=266).

Interestingly, there is a disparity between references to the finance theme in (other) beauty advertising in men’s and women’s magazines. Whereas 23% (N=8) of the beauty adverts in FHM and 36% (N=8) of those in the Gay Times refer to the theme, only 11% (N=22) of the adverts in Cosmo and 5% (N=11) of those in Marie Claire refer to aspects of finance. Freebies in particular are offered more frequently in men’s (23%, N=11) than in women’s (5%, N=22) magazines, which may be interpreted as a way of convincing men to buy into the grooming market. I will come back to this argument in Chapter 8, Negotiating Masculinities.

  • [1] Our latest laser treatment removes unwanted facial and body hairgently, quickly and effectively, with long lasting results. (HarleyMedical Group in all 2001 issues of Cosmo and the October 2001issue of Marie Claire)
  • [2] Fast. Effective, Affordable and is carried out by R.G.N. qualifiednurses. (Hair Away in Cosmo February 2001: 204)
  • [3] Safe, Gentle, Quick. Effective, Affordable. (London Cosmetic LaserCentre in Cosmo February 2001 and Marie Claire October 2001)
  • [4] Fast and effective. (Hair Away in FHM June 2001: 255)
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