My my, what will they think of next? I learned something . . . that, evidently, a pubic hair can sing! I did not realize that. What else did I not realize, Gillette?
Now, I know what you must be thinking: “What in the hell kind of blog post is this?!” It’s, uh, well, different.
This blog sets out each week to present thoughts and ideas about various aspects of creativity; those that touch directly on advertising and those that do not. This is one that does.
According to AdAge, marketers increasingly have dared to defy traditional taboos when it comes to personal care, as we’ve seen in more pushes around menstruation, breastfeeding and grooming. In the case of the latter, brands such as Billie razors andVeet razors have given the thumbs up to having hair wherever you want it, while EOS recently celebrated a TikTok creator who has been teaching her fans the best way to shave their lady parts. Now, Gillette Venus is jumping into the bikini line fray by encouraging consumers to “say pubic.”
The centerpiece of the campaign from Grey is an animated film starring a singing pubic hair. Yes, you heard me right.
“Hi, I’m a pube!” she announces before breaking into a Broadway-style tune, singing of her plight as a lowly, gnarly curl, hoping to be treated like her colleagues who spring forth from other parts of the body. As the tune ramps up, she’s joined by other pubettes in a Busby Berkeley-style routine.
For those of you unable to log into the AdAge site to view the animation, here are the lyrics to Gillette’s latest.
I’m just a pube, and it’s not fair. All I ever wished to be was just another hair But when they got one look at me The ruling from society was “Ewww” “Not you!” Oh what’s a curl to do It seems like all the ads are showing perfect skin and shiny hair But what about this other world inside your underwear? It’s ok to say our name You really can say pubic No need to be ashamed It’s even kind of therapeutic Why the mass hysteria about the pubic area? There’s nothing diabolical about this little follicle So take care of us, your pubic hair If you trim, or you shave or you’re bare down there Whichever way’s your way It’s all okayyyyyyyyy Yes, it’s okay!
The campaign aims to normalize conversation around body parts like the pubic area to make women feel more comfortable about grooming there. “Because pubic is not a dirty word, and your pubic hair and skin deserve its own care,” the brand said in a statement.
Gillette Venus had conducted a female consumer survey about the use of anatomical terms such as “pubic.” It found that nearly half of them believed it feels more accurate to use such terms yet only 18% are actually using them. More than half, 56%, said they wished there were more accurate imagery and descriptions in media of women grooming in the pubic region.
The campaign playfully addresses the issue, while the Gillette Venus site promoting the products also features imagery of a diverse range of women shaving their bikini lines. The packaging too, features the words “pubic hair.” Along with the video, the effort includes a TikTok component inviting others to sing “The Pube Song.”
“With over two decades of research and scientific development in women’s hair and skin under our belt, literally, we know that grooming means something different to every woman,” said MyAnh Nghiem, Gillette Venus communications director in the statement. “Our new collection not only offers women more options for pubic grooming than we ever have before, but starts a new conversation about using language that accurately and respectfully represents the female body.”
Okay, okay, some of you may already be saying, “Enough is enough!” You gotta admit, though, advertising ain’t boring (well, alright, some of it is; some of it is even dreadful). This spot tries to be educational, informative, and entertaining, I guess, if not a little quirky. Frankly, if you didn’t realize the animated curl was in fact a pubic hair, I’m not sure that you’d figure it out based solely on looks.
What will they think of next? Uh, I’d really rather not think about it.
In Part 1 it was suggested that dwelling on repetitive thoughts can lead to useful reasoning and help with problem-solving. Another suggestion is that a depressed person may have a more realistic assessment of a situation. However, there are little data to support the notion that these cognitive features of major depression may aid in problem solving or creativity.
Previously, the example of Abraham Lincoln was used to raise the question as to whether he rose to greatness in spite of his apparent depression or alternatively was in some way aided by it. In reviewing arguments in favor of depression contributing to creativity or leadership, it was suggested that there are a number of challenges to the evolutionary viewpoint that depression might have desirable qualities.
Here in Part 2, again adapted from an article in Psychology Today, at least two kinds of cognitive traits have been taken to support some positive aspects of depression. They suggest that either the ruminations typical of depression, or a potentially more realistic assessment of situations, may have value in problem-solving.
Potential value of repetitive thoughts . . .
The notion that dwelling on repetitive thoughts may be useful has recently gained support from a study showing changes in brain networks associated with this activity (1). The “analytical rumination hypothesis” suggests that ruminations can lead to useful reasoning, first in a causal analysis and then in a problem-solving analysis. The implication is that ruminations can help a person come up with explanations and solutions for an unhappy event.
Counter-arguments would be that this view works best when depression seems tied to a particular trauma, and may more likely be a healthy response in a person who is sad after a specific upset; it is less clear how it might work in seemingly paralyzing severe depression, chronic depression, post-stroke depression, or mood disorders of old age (3).
Among those who study evolutionary psychology, there is an even split over whether rumination is adaptive; it suggests that supporters are more likely to be non-clinicians, while clinicians, who have witnessed patients who seem stuck in ongoing non-constructive circular thinking, are more skeptical (4).
We need bear in mind the distinction between sadness, and major depression, in which a despondent mood dominates one’s life for at least two weeks, and is associated with decreased functioning, cognitive changes, and a host of physical symptoms.
It might be that ruminations are more likely to be useful when one is sad, but that in major depression they are more likely to be circular and non-constructive. In major depression ruminations might be part of a constellation of cognitive changes which are generally unhelpful, like alterations in memory, attention and decision-making.
Realistic assessment of situations
A second argument as to how depression might be adaptive suggests that persons with depression benefit from what is known as “depressive realism.” In one often-cited study, depressed and non-depressed students were given problems on a computer and asked to what degree they felt their actions were related to a light flashing on the screen.
Non-depressed subjects tended to overestimate their responsibility when light flashing was frequent and considered desirable, and to underestimate it when lights were considered undesirable. Depressed persons had much more realistic assessments of the degree to which their actions were responsible for the lights flashing (5).
The degree to which depressive realism could play a role is not firmly established. One large analysis of available studies concluded that overall there was “a small depressive realism effect.” On the other hand, the authors noted that the findings were more likely to be positive in studies that lacked objective measures of realism and relied more on self-report (6).
In summary, reaching back to part 1 of this two-part series, depression’s ubiquity does not necessarily argue that evolution has favored it as an advantageous trait. Though it is an attractive idea, modern studies have had mixed results on whether there is a relationship between major depression and creativity.
The hypothesis that ruminations in depression lead to problem-solving is controversial, and may be of limited applicability. A second notion is depressive realism, but its effect is small and whether it is seen at all is highly dependent on the methodology of the studies.
It’s important to distinguish between sadness or depressed feelings in response to specific difficult experiences, and major depressive disorders. It seems possible that we have a built-in response to specific difficult experiences which sometimes can be of help in assessing problems and leading to solutions.
It also seems possible that some people such as Lincoln found ways to harness their distress and use it to spur a drive for achievement. But this is different from arguing that major depression is an often helpful state, or that any possible upside compensates for the suffering it involves.
As for me, my bouts with depression would have to produce a significant upside to adequately compensate for what I go through to get back to a state of normalcy. Thus far, only time, positive thought and medication help me get out of the clutches of depression. While in those clutches, however, I trust I don’t lose access to my inherent creativity. We all have it and it can be amazing!
3. Lehrer, J.: Comments by Peter Kramer in ‘Depression’s Upside’, New York Times, February 25, 2010.
4. Kennair L.E.O., Kleppestø T.H., Larsen S.M., Jørgensen B.E.G. (2017) Depression: Is Rumination Really Adaptive?. In: Shackelford T., Zeigler-Hill V. (eds) The Evolution of Psychopathology. Evolutionary Psychology. Springer, Cham.https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-60576-0_3
5. L.B. Alloy and L.Y. Abramson: Judgment of contingency in depressed and nondepressed students: sadder but wiser? J. Experimental Psychol. General 108: 441-485, 1979. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/528910/
This post is adapted from an article in Psychology Today and is offered up so that we may understand more the relationship between creativity and depression.
The list of historical political and military figures who appear to have suffered from depression seems to be limitless, including such luminaries as Benjamin Disraeli and William T. Sherman, later notables such as Winston Churchill, writers over the decades (Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling), and modern celebrities (Jim Carrey, Eminem, Anne Hathaway).
Articles about the possible relation of depression to success in politics or the arts have taken two general views—that these people were able to overcome their depression and go on to greatness, or alternatively that something about their mood disorder aided them in the process.
Abraham Lincoln’s tendency toward what was then called “melancholy” was well known by his neighbors in New Salem, Illinois. In his mid-twenties, after a woman to whom he felt close died of typhoid, he led an isolated life, spent long periods of time alone in the woods with his gun, and wrote gloomy poetry. Though he occasionally sought merriment with his friends, he confided to one colleague that his mood was such that he dared not carry a knife.
Five years later in 1840, the young politician was so troubled that neighbors removed all the razors and sharp objects from his home. He requested help from a doctor and at one point sought pharmacologic relief with various medicines including sedatives, camphor, and mercury-based “blue mass” pills (The latter, which he later discontinued, contained roughly 100 times the modern EPA guidelines for mercury).
Feelings of failure and doom, as well as fatigue interspersed with agitation and thoughts of death haunted him his whole life, even as he struggled with the great issues of his day, presided over the greatest crisis in the country’s history, and ultimately saved his nation (1).
In my own experiences with depression, I have also felt fatigue and agitation and some subdued fear. I have never, however, felt so much despair as to take my own life. Most often I have this overall sense of not wanting to do anything of significance even though I realize I need to do so. I just don’t care.
One article on Lincoln described three stages which he went through — fear, engagement, and transcendence — and argued that “Whatever greatness Lincoln achieved cannot be explained as a triumph over personal suffering. Rather, it must be accounted an outgrowth of the same system that produced that suffering … Lincoln didn’t do great work because he solved the problem of his melancholy; the problem of his melancholy was all the more fuel for the fire of his great work” (1).
Is there something amidst the suffering of depression that might be of positive value and lead to achievement. Let’s look at the evidence associating depression with creativity and attainment, and the argument that the ubiquity and evolutionary persistence of depression suggest that it might be useful.
Depression and creativity
The seductive notion that a depressed mood is associated with greatness goes back at least as far as Aristotle, who believed that “Great men are always of a nature originally melancholy” (2). The notion of the “neuroticgenius” plagued by anxiety and depression continues to this day. Not surprisingly, it has generated more modern studies of a possible relationship, which interestingly, when excluding bipolar disorder, have sometimes been negative.
Psychiatrist Nancy Andreasen found “a higher rate of mental illness, predominantly affective disorder, with a tendency toward the bipolar subtype” in a group of 30 writers compared to controls (3). Alternatively, a study of 40 writers, 40 musicians, and a similar number of controls found no differences in measures of mental illness and stress (4).
A 2020 study found that artists were more likely to have vulnerabilities such as tendencies toward anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as resources such as ego-resilience and hope, compared to non-artists (5). Modern studies, then, have shown mixed results about the possible relationship of depression and creativity.
The evolutionary argument for depression
Even though many of the features of depression such as fatigue, decreased appetite, and libido would seem to have negative evolutionary value, some have argued that its ubiquity—major depression has a past-year prevalence of about seven percent of American adults—suggests some evolutionary benefits.
During my own bouts with depression, I have definitely been fatigued but my appetite has usually not waned. My erratic libido doesn’t seem to know how to act during my still-transitioning-grieving stage. While I am trying to move on from Pam’s death, my finger still seems to be on the pause button more than I would like.
According to the article, even if depression is associated with greater adaptivity, it may be that it is not depression per se, but some other unknown trait to which it is genetically linked. Or it could be that depression had some value in a past age or some specific situation that is now less applicable. In that sense it is similar to sickle cell disease in modern Western society. All in all, it should not be a foregone conclusion that the ubiquity of depression means that it has been favored by evolution.
In part two, we’ll look at aspects of depression that have been claimed to be helpful—ruminations leading to problem-solving, and “depressive realism.” We’ll also look at possible cognitive mechanisms by which depression might help with motivation in achieving our goals. Focus will be on major depression and the clinical features of bipolar disorder.
3. Andreasen, N.C.: Creativity and mental illness: prevalence rates in writers and their first-degree relatives. Am. J. Psychiat. 144: 1288-1292, 1987. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3499088/ Accessed 2/28/21.
Well, as with any blog post, one tends to change one’s mind once in awhile. I had planned to begin a series of posts dealing with depression, among other topics, as it pertains to creativity. As I find myself not ready to do that yet, I went back to my vault of various quotes. Since I have only enough for one more post at this point in time, that’s what I’m posting this time out. Stay tuned.
Apparently on screen I look tall, ageless, close to omniscient-delivering jeopardy-laden warnings through gritted teeth, but when people see me on the street, they say ‘this kid is 5 foot 5, he’s got a broken nose, and looks as foreboding as a bank teller…’ Rod Serling.
The place to start in advertising is the basic selling appeal. An appeal that fulfills some existing need in the prospect’s mind, an appeal that can be readily understood and believed. – Morris Hite, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. – Marshall McLuhan, philosopher
I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one. – Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been. – Alan Alda
It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow. – Robert H. Goddard
Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected. – William Palmer
Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things. Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
It’s kind of a strange, backslapping ritual that we go through in this town where you get awards for almost everything. For surviving the day you’re going to get awards. So I can’t suggest that those things represent any pinnacle of achievement. – Serling from #Oscars #AcademyAwards
My Quotes blog posts have proven quite popular and, thus, I offer up another version. I also offer up a side note to say that some future posts will cover some rather serious posts on psychological aspects of creativity and where the industry may be heading amidst the pandemic in which we still are engaged. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow often says, “watch this space.”
Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud. Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Stabbing little thoughts gouge my brain. Ugly, frightened thoughts. Projections of tomorrow and the next day. Twilight Zone’s “The Hitch-Hiker” by Rod Serling stars Inger Stevens
I don’t like closed doors. Creativity flourishes best in an environment of open doors and open minds. Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is. Fairfax Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
We don’t grow unless we take risks. Any successful company is riddled with failures. James E. Burke, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people — and he won’t do very well in advertising.Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Most writers, you go up to them and say you’ve got an idea, they reply, ‘You do the acting, kid, and we’ll do the writing.’ Not Rod. You go up to him with a suggestion, he gets the pencil out and starts writing. — Earl Holliman, star of Twilight Zone’s “Where is Everybody?”
Back again with a number of different quotes but this time, unintentionally, I’ve included several from Rod Serling. These even include a submission by his daughter, Anne. Interestingly, some reflect our current times and are not, simply, torn from a script of The Twilight Zone, though they could be quite applicable.
Offered up for contemplation and reminding, that some things never change. However, it’s still up to us to bring about that change no matter how painful and uncomfortable the process is.
Creative imagination — the lamp that lit the world — can light our lives. – Alex F. Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle
When we are too timid to risk failure, we reduce the opportunities to succeed. And we eliminate the chance to learn. – Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
A sickness known as hate. Not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in #TheTwilightZone, look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether. – Rod Serling (March 27, 1964)
Imagination leads to curiosity leads to creativity leads to innovation. In everything you write, write something that is brave enough to be hopeful. – Amanda Gorman, poet, first National Youth Poet Laureate
Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake. ― Rod Serling
Creativity is what makes the world go ’round. Don’t just take my word for it – look around you: Everything is a product of creative minds thinking differently, challenging the norm, taking risks and learning from trial and error. Everything you do can be a creative act.
Since not all creative acts are deemed equal, their variety suggests a plethora of creativity exists globally. We’re here this next week to celebrate global creativity in all its forms via the WCIW web site and its partners.
WCIW inspires and enables people around the world to celebrate creativity in their own way, and share it with others through our international community and brand presence.
WCIW’s mission is to encourage people to use new ideas, make new decisions, and take new steps towards making the world, and your place in it, better through creativity.
Just when you thought I had run out of quotes, I found some more. I tend to come across these every week from a variety of different sources, some of which are quite surprising as are the quotes. In any case, enjoy, and don’t be surprised when you’re surprised.
There are two kinds of men who don’t amount to much: those who can’t do what they are told and those who can do nothing else. Cyrus H. K. Curtis, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.Bruce Barton, Advertising Hall of Fame
Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud. Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.Fairfax M. Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame
Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message.William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame
Here lies before you a variety of quotes from various historical people, some of whom you may know, some of whom you may not. Either way, each quote is a foundation of knowledge in and of itself. Get nurtured, my friends. Enjoy!
On taking charge of your life:
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. — Henry David Thoreau
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. — Marcus Aurelius
We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful. — Warren Buffett
It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking. — Julius Caesar
Knowledge is the antidote to fear. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. –William James
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. — Anaïs Nin
Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. — Teddy Roosevelt