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Why the Mythical Female keeps showing up in marketing and advertising

Korean television commercial featuring the Mythical Female (and her male counterpart).
Korean television commercial featuring the Mythical Female (and her male counterpart).

Let's start with the obvious: beautiful, young, 20-something women are eye candy and as such attract attention. And isn't the point of an ad to attract attention?

Yes, but you need to do more than attract attention. You need to attract the attention of someone who is a potential buyer of your product. What you don't need is the Mythical Female (young, skinny, straight, white) that shows up in so many advertising and marketing campaigns.

Take, for example, the current television campaign for Korean airlines. Every shot looks like the cover of a fashion magazine (no accident) and every woman (except the Korean airline staff) is young, beautiful and white. This would make some sense if the people who use Korean airlines are all young, beautiful and white. It doesn't require any marketing research to know this is not the case. Just take a look at the inside of a fully loaded Korean airline. Do you think it will be packed with 24-year-old women and men?

You might want to argue that the female models are necessary to present the high-fashion look and that the consumer, particularly the female consumer, is smart enough to see that the ad is an illusion. OK, but how does that help sell Korean airlines? Do we know anything really about Korean airlines? (In a 30-second commercial, the first 20 seconds make no direct reference to the brand or the product.) Does the real customer of Korean airlines see anything that they can relate to?

Most important, does a 40-year-old woman (the more likely market target) see herself in this campaign? No. They see the Mythical Female that only exists in fashion magazines – and the Korean airlines TV campaign. At best, most female consumers are not influenced by images of the Mythical Female. At worst, they are instantly turned off by an image that they know is a lie.

Our advice: beware the Mythical Female. She has her place (fashion, beauty, hair salons), but it is likely not in your campaign.

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