American Program Bureau A Global Speaker, Celebrity & Entertainment Agency

Jean Kilbourne

Pioneering Advertising Researcher, Filmmaker


Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses.

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids.

The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.


The Naked Truth: Advertising’s Image of Women

While some people are fighting to keep sex education out of our schools or to limit it to abstinence only, children are getting a very powerful and very damaging kind of sex education from the popular culture. Even very young children are routinely exposed to portrayals of sexual behavior devoid of emotions, attachment, or consequences. Media messages about sex and sexuality often exploit women’s bodies and glamorize sexual violence. Girls are encouraged to objectify themselves and to obsess about their sex appeal and appearance at absurdly young ages, while boys get the message that they should seek sex but avoid intimacy. These messages shape their gender identity, sexual attitudes and behavior, values, and their capacity for love, connection, and healthy relationships well into adulthood.

The Naked Truth: Advertising’s Image of Women

Jean Kilbourne’s pioneering work helped develop and popularize the study of gender representations in advertising. This presentation reviews if and how the image of women has changed over the past 20 years. So many problems today, such as date rape and other forms of violence, eating disorders, and increased rates of drinking and smoking for women, are considered “women’s issues.” Unfortunately, sometimes the people who most need to learn more are reluctant to attend lectures on these topics. Jean manages to discuss these issues in a way that includes and reaches men as well as women and that powerfully illustrates how these images affect all of us. Entertaining, fast-paced, sometimes hilarious, the presentation is also profound and deeply serious. It encourages dialogue and discussion and a new way of looking at oneself as well as one another.

Deadly Persuasion: Advertising & Addiction

Addiction is arguably the number one public health problem in our country, one that affects all of us. This presentation exposes the manipulative marketing strategies and tactics used by the alcohol and tobacco industries to keep people hooked on their dangerous products. Jean Kilbourne presents a compelling argument that these cynical industries have a clear and deep understanding of the psychology of addiction – an understanding they exploit to create and feed a life-threatening dependency on their products. She also educates the audience about targeting and the primary purpose of the mass media, which is to deliver audiences to advertisers. In addition, she demonstrates how the objectification of women and the obsession with thinness are related to addiction. The presentation contains sections from most of Jean’s other presentations and can be adapted for many different audiences, from health professionals to high school students.

Marketing Misery: Selling Addictions to Women

This presentation illustrates how advertisers and the media target women and sell addictive products to them, such as alcohol, cigarettes, diet products and prescription drugs. The presentation also examines how sex role stereotypes undermine female self-esteem and encourage sexual abuse, addiction, and violence against women.

Slim Hopes: Advertising & the Obsession with Thinness

This presentation explores the origins and terrible consequences of our national obsession with excessive thinness for women. Most women suffer from this obsession, not just those who develop eating disorders. The presentation examines ads for rich foods and junk food, ads for cigarettes, and ads for diet products. It also illustrates how the ideal body image has changed in the past thirty or forty years, and explores the fact that thinness has become a moral issue (the menage a trois that women are made to feel ashamed of these days is with Ben and Jerry). It offers a new way to think about life-threatening eating disorders and provides a well-documented critical perspective on the social impact of advertising.

Need help finding a speaker?

The Program Consultants at American Program Bureau Are Here to Help!

Tell us about your event and we will offer custom speaker recommendations specifically tailored for your event's theme, audience, budget or any other criteria your provide. Whether you are looking for a keynote speaker to set the tone for your entire event, an industry expert for an executive briefing or workshop, a motivational speaker to supercharge a sales force, or a celebrity speaker to kick-off your convention, we can help you find the right speaker for your next event.

Questions About Booking?