"A Man's World" of Advertising

May 31, 2007

Sometimes the problem just seems to be always hanging over your head — on a billboard, perhaps.

Near the upscale Chicago suburb of Glenview, residents are outraged by the presence of a 10-foot-by-36-foot billboard advertisement for a local spa showing a supposedly flawless model lying on the beach with text identifying potential “problem” areas such as “cellulite and saddlebags” and “facial lines and wrinkles” along with “solutions” like “botox” and “lipodissolve.”

“I was shocked,” said Regina Thibeau. “I was offended as a woman, angered as a mother and embarrassed as a resident of Glenview.”

Even though more than 300 people have signed a petition, the billboard is there to stay, according to the salon owner Pascal Ibgui, who leased the advertising space through July along with his plastic surgeon partner, Steven Bloch.

Ibgui, a French native, told the Chicago Tribune that he believes the protests reflect an American prudishness, which he refuses to enable by taking the billboard down. Economics, of course, also plays a role:

In a recent direct mail campaign, Ibgui and Bloch sent cards to 25,000 households on the North Shore featuring the same picture as the billboard. The mailings brought in so much business that the salon and spa decided to take it to a bigger medium, Ibgui said.

He said the billboard caters, in part, to his “huge” male clientele.

“I don’t want to sound like a chauvinistic pig, but this is a man’s world,” he said.

Well, at least Igbui recognizes patriarchy at work — and unwittingly admits the connection between male power and our culture’s obsession with a very narrow definition of female beauty.

Below is the billboard’s close-up.

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