Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Do Consumers Want 'Real Women' in Ads Instead of Aspirational Images?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Do Consumers Want 'Real Women' in Ads Instead of Aspirational Images?

Article excerpt

Asda looks likely to tap into the 'real women' trend for its forthcoming 'bottom-shaper' jeans, while L'Oreal has been censured by the ASA for using misleading post-production techniques in ads.


Consumers want both. There's room in advertising for both aspiration and inspiration. In Asda's case, I doubt it will feature truly 'real' women complete with muffin-tops and love-handles. But maybe there is an opportunity to go a bit 'realer' than some advertisers, given Asda's brand values and the particular communication challenges posed by a product called 'Great Bum Jeans'.

It's interesting that this question is framed around what consumers want from advertising. Actually, most have a healthy scepticism about advertising, appreciate that its purpose is to present brands positively and so accept a degree of presentational license. A more interesting question is: 'What should consumers in the 21st century have a right to expect from the media that advertising funds?' Speaking for myself, that would be an end to casual sexism (for example, The Sun's Page 3 topless picture) and an end to misogynistic editorial that masquerades as the opposite (for example, 'news in briefs' that accompanies the Page 3 picture).


The simple answer is it depends on the brand and objective. Some do and some don't.

Some brands are selling a dream - a holiday, a perfume, a jet. We know how and why they are doing this. Indeed, it is partly the dream, as opposed to a complete reality, that we are buying.

Some brands sell an aspiration. It is one of the reasons they command a premium. We know why L'Oreal uses Julia Roberts - a beautiful star, but one many admire and want to be like. Yet, while brands can seduce and 'augment' reality, they must never lie or mislead.

Some brands are more focused on selling trust, efficacy, simplicity or authenticity, so I need to know they truly understand me as an individual and care about me and my real world. Hence the success of the Dove and Procter & Gamble 'Proud sponsor of mums' campaigns.

So, for some brands we want to see 'real women' in ads, but for others a person some would also love to be - albeit sometimes in a dream.


It depends on how 'real women' are defined, who is doing the observing and what the expectation is. …

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