A Campaign Against Altered Advertisements that Promote Body Dissatisfaction

We blogged this summer about the American Medical Association adopting a policy encouraging advertising associations to develop guidelines for advertisements that discourage the use of altered photographs “in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.” The policy was aimed at magazines read by young girls and women in particular. An AMA board member commented on a Polo Ralph Lauren jeans advertisement in which the model’s waist was slimmed so severely, “her head appeared to be wider than her waist.”

This topic is making headlines again as Norway’s Equality Minster has called for a ban on altered images of models. He is calling for advertisers to place “warning labels” on advertisements and billboards that show retouched images of models. It is the responsibility of the Equality Minister to address all forms of discrimination, children’s affairs, and integration issues. It was noted the disclaimer would read, “This advertisement has been altered and presents an inaccurate image of how this model really looks.” The Minister believes that such warning labels would reduce the pressure the beauty ideal places on young women.

In July of this year, two campaign ads were banned in the United Kingdom due to over-alterations of the models. After complaints were lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority, it was ruled that both ads breached the advertising standards code for exaggeration and were banned from future publication. Both banned ads were for makeup products and it was deemed that the digital manipulation of the celebrities were not an accurate representation of the product’s results.

In a 2010 study conducted by the Girl Scouts Research Institute and the Dove Self Esteem Fund, 88% of girls reported that the media places a lot of pressure on girls to be thin. Moreover, 60% of the girls reported comparing their bodies to the bodies of fashion models, and 48% reported wishing they were as skinny as models in magazines, even though they knew the images were altered. It has been well-established that body dissatisfaction and dieting are risk factors for the development of an eating disorder. The unrealistic altered images portrayed in advertisements can, and are as described above, play a role in young girl’s body image and desire to lose weight in an effort to obtain these unrealistic bodies. Hopefully we are seeing the wave of the future. Advertising agencies need to take serious consideration of the impact their “fake” images can have on our society.  We encourage the American public to follow-suit and get active! There are several ways to get active and make sure your voice is heard. The National Eating Disorder Association created the group “media watchdogs” (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/media-watchdog.php) to improve media messages about size, weight, and beauty. Volunteers are needed to advocate for this cause. The Eating Disorders Coalition and Binge Eating Disorder Association have joined forces on an anti-weight stigma campaign in response to the First Lady’s Childhood Obesity Task Force and have provided sample text to make your voice heard (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs033/1102502723903/archive/1103223369285.html). Every voice counts!