Barbara Lippert, a critic for Ad Week magazine, tells The Early Show that the new ads aim to speak to women who are "always multi-tasking, who are smart and sophisticated, and who still do have to worry about what they look like. They are speaking to the Lynettes of 'Desperate Housewives.' If only we all had as much time as the rest of those 'Desperate Housewives.' "
Lippert noted that advertisers have always used beauty to sell.
"In the '50s and '60s, advertisers really wanted to scare women by telling them things like: 'Always a bridesmaid, never a bride,' if they had bad breath. That you would never find a husband if your hands were too rough," she says. "These ads spoke in the voice of God and made women worry about being good enough. I think these new ads are making fun of that."
Some critics say this is a step back for women but Lippert disagrees. "Putting a half naked women on the hood of a car is a step back," she says. "These ads show that we've gone further than that. Advertisers are assuming that women know that there is no miracle beauty product out there and that they want to be serious about their lives."
Women and Company is responsible for the Citigroup ads. Its strategy is to use familiar language and imagery along with humor to empower women to take care of their finances. One ad tells women that they can't prevent worry lines but they can get a better retirement plan.
"I think that's excellent because it's sort of making fun of the fact that you can prevent worry lines and it's speaking to women saying this is what's important," Lippert told co-anchor Hannah Storm. "You might be spending money on a lipstick, but this is what's important. Not everyone has the husband and can build a dream house — the way we're used to seeing those retirement commercials. You better think about you yourself."
Another Citigroup ad that's clever, Storm says, is one that at first glance looks like a shampoo ad. It says forget about splint ends, let's talk about dividends.
"Banking is a very dull subject and they never speak to women directly like this," Lippert says. "So it's just saying that this is about you. It's not about building for your family. It's not about dreaming about what can be. This is reality. You've got to sit down and think about this. It's more important than split ends."
And she said it is getting women's attention.
"Certain things are triggers," she said. "I do think that advertisers want to use the familiar because they only have a tiny bit amount of time to get your attention so they think they will with this. If they showed you an aspirin pill or showed you an ugly looking flap jack, you really wouldn't look."