Magazine article Marketing

One Size Fits None

Magazine article Marketing

One Size Fits None

Article excerpt

Brands are under renewed fire for using ultra-thin models and airbrushing in ads.

The mantra that you can never be too thin, rich or aesthetically perfect has never been more loudly heard than in the fashion and beauty industry.

From a draft Ralph Lauren ad showing a model whose head appears to be bigger than her pelvis to promotions for L'Oreal's Elvive hair products fronted by Cheryl Tweed and her glossy mane of extensions, brands are under attack for peddling unattainable and potentially damaging images of beauty to consumers.

Even Conservative leader David Cameron - who is attempting to become Britain's next prime minister, not its next top model - has been slated for appearing heavily airbrushed in a recent poster campaign.

Aspiration vs authenticity

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the message that women need to look better, do better and buy better is having huge consequences on the mental health of females in Britain. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Adrienne Key points to the increasing amount of research that shows the media plays a role in the development of eating disorders.

While the latest catwalk designs shown at London Fashion Week are already yesterday's news, the debate on airbrushing in advertising, and in particular the use of unhealthily skinny-looking models and often heavily altered images of women is again a hot topic.

The Liberal Democrats are lobbying brands running ads they believe encourage teenage anorexia. Jo Swinson, the party's spokeswoman on women, has said the presentation of an unrealistic 'standard' of what is beautiful means that young girls are under more pressure now than they were five years ago.

'Airbrushing means that ads contain completely unattainable images that no one can live up to in real life,' she adds. 'We need to help protect children from these pressures and start by banning airbrushing in ads aimed at them.'

It is difficult to see how such a gesture will have a real impact on the image of beauty portrayed by an industry that has effectively been selling 'hope in a jar' for centuries. Olivia Johnson, partner at creative agency Hooper Galton and the brains behind the Dove 'Campaign for Real Women', says the fact remains that women like to be sold a dream and as such are often complicit in the process.

'The remorseless promotion of ludicrously thin women is damaging, but it's dishonest of the industry to say it genuinely believes a more realistic image of women would be as successful.'

Anxiety and aspiration sell, and the 'Campaign for Real Women', while a marketing milestone, has not fundamentally altered the landscape of fashion and beauty advertising. …

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