Friday, April 13

More "Reality" In Advertising

Do we have a movement starting to take shape around the world?  Are we going to mandate more "reality" in our advertising?

Not too long ago, the UK starting banning advertisements that used excessive retouching.  Some pretty big heavy weights were called out, like pretty woman Julia Roberts for L'Oreal.  A law there prevents advertising from claiming or showing unrealistic results.

Just recently, Demi Moore was back in the retouching headlines with her campaign for Helena Rubinstein ... this just a couple years after a bit of a scandal from her W cover shot, there accused of using photoshop to look much thinner.  In these cases there was no law in force, just the court of public opinion.

Well now Israel is making it a law, enforcing strict guidelines on how thin a model can be in advertising.  In fact, a brand has to prove that the talent has a BMI over 18.5 to get into a photo shoot ... for print, tv, and runway.  Lawmakers there are aggressively trying to reverse a rise in eating disorders, particularly among their youth.  They believe that unrealistic portrayals of thinness are partially to blame.  Just like many Americans here think that unrealistic portrayals of youth and anti-aging create undue expectations about beauty.

Ashley Judd would certainly agree.  We recently went very public with her views on the "gossip" she's been receiving about how she looks in her recent movie.  Her rant about how people (especially other women) judge each others' looks is very refreshing to hear coming out of Hollywood.

Are these random one-offs, or are we seeing a movement that will start to take shape?  Not sure ... we've always been an economy of caveat emptor, but it's hard to deny the impact that advertising has on pop culture and fashion trends, including face and body image.

With social media now offering an instant message board for reactions to brand activity, I am sure that we will be hearing more people comment on it and thereby influencing purchase behavior.  Will that influence "law?"

What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe North America

Author, The Experience Effect and The Experience Effect for Small Business
Professor, NYU


  1. Tough question. While it is always ethical to present the truth, I find traditional advertising to be more about setting your brand image and giving the consumer something to aspire to. I don't think traditional advertising is a tipping point to a purchase decision. Word of mouth, expert opinion and even editorial are more influential than traditional advertising getting your target to act. That said, I don't think making an ad as visually appealing as possible will misrepresent a brand. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but I like looking at good, slick creative.

  2. Hence the debate, right? Where's the line between slick creative that inspires vs unattainable images that set unrealistic standards? Hmmmm. Jim.