2006 Middle School Winner

Neutrogena Build-A-Tan

Neutrogena Build-A-Tan
by Gabriella Simeone
Buford Middle School
Charlottesville, VA
Teacher: Gail Heard

Neutrogena attempts to sell their ‘Build-a-Tan’, sunless tanning lotion with bold type and general statements of dermatologist recommendations. The ad boasts that you can control the shade of your tan by the frequency of applications of the product. The ad presents you with many repetitions of the same slogan: control the tan, most natural for you, and uses more evidence from dermatologists that their product is the best on the market.

Though there are no warnings posted directly on the advertisement, surely there must be some unspoken side effects. Nothing is mentioned about how different skin types may react differently to the product or about the long term side effects of using the product daily. The ad explains that the look you’ll get from the tanning lotion is totally natural, but what defines those parameters?

Like so many other ads, this one not only shows the product in question, in the bottle but also in action. Three pictures in a vertical band represent a time lapse from one or two applications through several more. They choose actress, Misha Barton, known by many teen females, to play the “oh so difficult” posing role. It begins with a semi-confident Misha, illustrating how ‘most’ girls feel about their bodies when they don’t have the radiant glow of a golden brown summer tan. She is, throughout the three pictures, wearing a tiny, white, summer sun dress in a tantalizingly sexual pose, because, everyone sits like that. The ad is aimed at teen girls looking for confidence, therefore the advertisers made a wise choice in choosing a character, obviously consumed with confidence, who many teen girls idolize, in advertising their product. Many girls lack self confidence in one area or another so they are drawn to something that may give them an extra boost. As part of the target audience, I know how important it is to feel happy and confident with how your body looks but it sends a horribly unhealthy message to girls that they need this particular cosmetic to stay popular, courageous, or accepted in main stream society.

Through sex appeal, simple solutions to challenging emotional issues, the use of famous, beautiful people, scientific evidence, testimonials and flattery, Neutrogena creates a false image of their sunless tanning lotion. Despite the massive beautification of the product, I would never trust it or use the product.