'Selfie' short film the talk of Sundance, but is it more ad than art?

Since its premiere on Monday, the eight-minute short film “Selfie” has become one of the most talked-about stories of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Dealing with the appearance-driven insecurities of teenage girls and their mothers, “Selfie” is commendable for the honesty and vulnerability with which its subjects address a very delicate issue. It also ends with a heartwarming message, as the selfies taken by the girls and their mothers are displayed in an art gallery, with attendees then posting sticky notes to each of them, complimenting the girls and women on what they like best about the portraits.
Then a title card pops up with the logo for Dove beauty products, along with the words “Redefine Beauty.” There’s also a call to action to “Join the conversation” by using the hashtag #beautyis.
This begs the question: Is “Selfie” art or advertising? And if you believe it’s the latter, does this mean that Dove is exploiting the very insecurities their now 10-year-old Campaign for Real Beauty has been applauded for trying to stamp out?
Like so many shrewd and postmodern marketing campaigns, there’s no objective right answer. On the one hand, beauty-based insecurities have been a bane on the female psyche since well before Dove was invented. A recent Huffington Post article about Dove’s Real Beauty campaign cited a PsychCentral story claiming that “80 percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance.” A marketing campaign that candidly addresses an issue this widespread should be given credit as a conversation-starter.
“There are so few commercials that in any way are different, that challenge the stereotypical images,” Jean Kilbourne, an expert on how women are portrayed in advertising, told HuffPost.
The team behind the Campaign for Real Beauty also deserves credit for the artfulness of their campaign. “Selfie” was directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Cynthia Wade and their other videos, including “Evolution” and last year’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” were powerful and affecting explorations on the issue of self-perception.
“A product-based affair was never going to [affect change],” Janet Kestin, the former creative director of the agency behind “Evolution,” told HuffPost. “The goal is to alleviate pressure on the next generation.”
Yet that’s not the entire goal. Sociologists aren’t the ones behind these films; they’re very clearly branded by Dove, a company owned by Unilever. An Anglo-Dutch multinational conglomerate, Unilever’s holdings also include Lipton, Vaseline, and Axe, whose advertisements have been frequently and accurately accused of sexism. Dove may be building its brand on a uniquely progressive marketing campaign, but Axe sells its products the old-fashioned way: Through blunt attempts at equating its body sprays and deodorants as the secret to scoring with the types of impossibly beautiful women whose thin yet busty figures are fueling the insecurities that necessitate corrective ad campaigns like Dove’s.
Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media & News, put it well in her comments to the Huffington Post:
“If the stated goal of the Dove Real Beauty Campaign is for girls and women to understand that their power and their beauty does not come from a tube or an airbrush or a cream, but rather from their own personalities and power, then the company would not sell certain products that they sell, and their parent company would not run some of the most misogynistic ad campaigns in the past ten years.”
Others take issue with the message tacitly embedded in the Dove ads. In a response to the “Real Beauty Sketches” video, New York Magazine’s Ann Friedman wrote:
“These ads still uphold the notion that, when it comes to evaluating ourselves and other women, beauty is paramount. The goal shouldn’t be to get women to focus on how we are all gorgeous in our own way. It should be to get women to do for ourselves what we wish the broader culture would do: judge each other based on intelligence and wit and ethical sensibility, not just our faces and bodies.”
This speaks to the problems created when a discussion this important is waged on the battlefield of commerce. Look at the quiet cynicism in the following quote, attributed to Jennifer Bremner, brand director of skin cleansing at Unilever:
“We believe that conversation leads to brand love, and brand love leads to brand loyalty. That’s obviously a positive for us not just in the power of the brand, but also ultimately in sales.”
While it’s no doubt healthy for us to engage in a cultural dialogue around this topic, it’s crucial to remember that discussions like those created by the film “Selfie” ultimately take place in service of Dove’s bottom line.
“The conversation is as relevant and fresh today as it was 10 years ago,” Sharon MacLeod, vice president of Unilever North America Personal Care, told the Huffington Post. “I believe we’ll be doing [this campaign] 10 years from now.”
There’s little doubt about that, for more reasons than one.

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Top 6 family friendly attractions in Omaha, Nebraska

Living in Kansas City means that there are some spectacular big cities within only a few hours drive. One of those great cities is Omaha, Nebraska. If you are starting to plan your Spring break adventures, or even some Summer getaways, Omaha should definitely be on your list. Only a 3-4 hour drive depending where you live in the Kansas City metro area, it won’t be long before you will be enjoying all that Omaha has to offer.
1. Omaha Children’s Museum
500 South 20th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Phone: (402) 342-6164
Fax: (402) 342-6165
Email: [email protected]
This fantastic museum caters to children of various ages through their exhibits and programs. On the daily schedule you will find story time, crafts, demonstrations and more. These special activities are happening regularly, so there isn’t a bad time to arrive and start the fun. In addition to the regular exhibits, there are special temporary exhibits that change throughout the year making this attraction one you will want to frequent.
2. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
3701 S. 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68107
Informational Recording:
(402) 733-8400
Guest Services:
(402) 733-8401
The Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the country’s most impressive zoo’s with the largest cat complex in North America, the largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp, one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests and the largest glazed geodesic dome in the world housing the world’s largest indoor desert. In addition to these amazing exhibits, there are many more to see covering an expansive 130 acres. The aquarium, which you will find inside the zoo, has 17,000 animals and 1.2 million gallons of water. (ref) In addition to the animals, this zoo also contains several rides that might interest your family. The train, carousel, tram and Skyfari are fun breaks for tired feet. This zoo is not to be missed and will take you all day to explore.
3. Lauritzen Gardens
100 Bancroft Street
Omaha, NE 68108
Phone: (402) 346-4002
While it may not sound like something the children will be interested in, it actually is a fun place to visit. With expansive walking trails your children can definitely get some wiggles out while enjoying a lovely landscape. While some of the gardens might need just a quick pass through, your kids will not want to miss the amazing Rail Road Garden. With numerous trains and notable buildings, this garden is very entertaining. Since there are 100 acres on the property, you should plan several hours for this picturesque stop.
4. Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge
705 Riverfront Dr
Omaha, NE 68102
Region: Downtown / Old Market
Phone: (402) 444-5900
This pedestrian bridge links two states together. In the middle of the bridge you can stand in two states at once: Iowa and Nebraska. On the Nebraska side of the bridge landing there is a splash pad for kids to enjoy on warm summer days. If your lucky there will be an ice cream cart selling cool treats to eat. On the Iowa side of the bridge landing is a large park. Take a stroll on the bridge and have fun watching the boats on the Missouri River float by.
5. River City Star
151 Freedom Park Rd
Omaha, NE 68102
The landing for the River City Star is a few miles up river from the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. This lovely old-time riverboat offers sightseeing cruises during the day. These cruises last an hour and explain some of the history of the Missouri River as well as some Omaha history. There are also occasional lunch cruises and dinner cruises in the evenings. River City Star is available for rental for your own private charter as well. The River City Star operates from April-October.
6. The Durham Museum
801 South 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68108
Phone: (402) 444-5071
Housed in the old Union Station building, the Durham Museum offers up treasures of days gone by. In the main waiting room is a permanent exhibit of restored statues. In the basement you will find trains, recreations of buildings in Omaha’s past, a coin collection, children’s activities and more. The Durham Museum also features traveling exhibits which make it fun to visit multiple times throughout the year. A visit to the Durham would probably last half a day.
With all of these family friendly activities, you could plan your trip to Omaha to last a weekend or a week. On top of these attractions there are restaurants, sports teams and electic shops to explore. Omaha would make a great vacation destination for the whole family.

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Federally funded anti-smoking ad proves effective

Have you seen the recent anti-smoking ads featuring former smokers and the possible (or inevitable) affects of smoking? Many people have and a study published in The Lancet on Monday revealed that the ads are working.
In March 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an aggressive anti-smoking campagin called Tips from Former Smokers (Tips) with the aim to motivate smokers to quit. Every year, smoking kills more than 5 million people globally, including over 400,000 in the US. But for this new campaign the CDC focused not on mortality, but on quality of life. The advertisements are emotionally charged and thought provoking. They show real people with smoking-related illnesses or after affects.
“Hard-hitting campaigns like ‘Tips From Former Smokers’ are great investments in public health,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, and lead author of the study. “This study shows that we save a year of life for less than $200. That makes it one of the most cost-effective prevention efforts.”
According to the study, the ads may have prompted more than 100,000 Americans to give up smoking for good. The initial projection was 50,000 quits and 500,000 attempted quits–the study projected that 1.6 million smokers attempted cessation.
The CDC encourages people to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a toll-free number to access quit support across the country, or visit a quit-assistance website.
Source: CDC, US Department of Health and Human Services.

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