In the last year, the fashion industry took more and more steps toward inclusivity; female empowerment; and putting a stop to retouching, body-shaming, and discrimination. While the industry is still far from perfect, there are a few brands that walk the walk when it comes to being inclusive in every way.

Praise to brands such as Aerie for not retouching bodies and using models of every shape, size, and color; brands such as eShakti for providing completely customizable clothing to fit your body perfectly; and finally brands such as ModCloth, ASOS, and Swimsuits for All that provide clothing from straight through plus sizing.

Below we are outlining 13 brands that have shaken up things in the industry and started paving the way toward more body-positive brandings.


Meet your completely customizable retailer, eShakti, a.k.a your new best friend. The brand offers sizes from 0 through 36W and complete customization through exact body measurements, various options for necklines and sleeves, and garment length to fit your height. Talk about a new way to shop without breaking the bank.

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“Why I LOVE eShakti? eShakti‘s philosophy is that I was able to customize it perfectly to fit my personal style and specific body type!! It is your choice and it is easy, fast and affordable.” Styled by @iampriiincesss #eShakti #RealFashionForRealPeople Featured:

A post shared by eShakti (@eshakti) on Jan 7, 2017 at 5:59am PST


Aerie stopped retouching its photos a couple of years ago and started being more inclusive with diverse models and sizing. We love that the brand embraces stretch lines, cellulite, and real bodies.

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Get your booty in here! ALL undies 10 for $35 this weekend, and yes, that means our amazing-super-soft-second-skin Real Me Thongs & Boybriefs, too.

A post shared by Aerie (@aerie) on Oct 6, 2017 at 5:40am PDT

MORE: 31 of Our Favorite Curvy Brands and What to Shop from Them

Modcloth is your perfect mix of feminine, vintage, and quirky. There’s something for everyone, and the company offers garments in straight to plus sizing. What’s even better, it actually shows pictures of two models (straight and plus sizing) to see what both look like in the garment. Can we get a round of applause, please?

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A post shared by ModCloth (@modcloth) on Nov 26, 2017 at 3:40pm PST


We can’t help but spend hours online shopping on ASOS and calling it our one-stop shop because the site literally has everything and more. It offers various sizing from straight, curvy, and plus, as well as maternity, tall, and petite styles.

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This is you season, Ally. Keep shinin’ in vinyl this autumn.

A post shared by ASOS (@asos) on Oct 12, 2017 at 8:53am PDT

MORE: 12 Body-Positive Instagrammers to Follow Now

Old Navy is one of our classic favorites. It has great prices, tons of stylish options, and sizing for all. It also makes sure its advertisements, social media, and models are diverse, and the brand promotes body positivity.

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we’ve got the sweaters, fall’s got the wind machine 🌬️ 🍂 . #oldnavystyle

A post shared by oldnavy (@oldnavy) on Oct 5, 2017 at 4:27pm PDT

Swimsuits for All

We dare you to scroll through Swimsuits for All’s Instagram account and not feel empowered or more confident or want to immediately throw on a bikini and head to the beach. This is a brand that has definitely walked the walk and talked the talk, and we believe that it fosters an interactive and engaged community with its customers and promotes loving your body, whether you’re a size 4 or 34.

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A post shared by Swimsuits For All (@swimsuitsforall) on Dec 2, 2017 at 11:57am PST


Eloquii is one of our favorite plus-size brands. It offers sizes 14–28 and focuses on “fashion for the style-driven, fit-obsessed customer.” Eloquii designs fun, trend-forward pieces with great structure and affordable prices.

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Happy New Year! We hope your 2018 is filled with smiles, sparkles, and dear friends ✨ #XOQ

A post shared by ELOQUII (@eloquii) on Dec 31, 2017 at 12:07pm PST

Dear Kate

Dear Kate is a “fear-proof, worry-free undies and apparel” company that helps you get through any period, literally. Its branding is relatable, chill, and girl-power positive.

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It’s #WorldSmileDay! Studies have shown that smiling improves your mood, enhances your creativity, and reduces stress. Need another reason to get your grin on? It’s Friday 😊 #FRIYAY

A post shared by Dear Kate (@dearkates) on Oct 6, 2017 at 6:30am PDT


Who else could spend hours wandering through the aisles of Target and feel right at home? Target offers a wide selection of in-house brands, sizing, and plenty of options for every personal style. We love how the store promotes body positivity, real women, and attainable style.

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Strike a power pose and embrace your inner yogi just like the amazing @mynameisjessamyn. #JoyLab 🙏

A post shared by Target Style (@targetstyle) on Jan 16, 2018 at 5:01pm PST


Dressbarn offers clothing sizes 2–24 and does a great job on social media showing pictures of its db Brand Ambassadors, who are real women wearing Dressbarn. It has created a great community for the brand and shows how women all over style the pieces on their own.

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This month, we asked five real women to show off our new arrivals and share their stories. Tap the photo to shop these looks! | #Workit #GirlPower

A post shared by Dressbarn (@dressbarn) on Oct 4, 2017 at 12:09pm PDT

6 Empowering Ad Campaigns That Are Changing the Way We Talk About Bodies

It’s no secret that advertisers are not always the most reliable when it comes to portraying realistic bodies. However, sometimes a company does get it right and launches a campaign centered on ensuring that very thing happens.

We’re celebrating the end of National Media Literacy Week by highlighting six notable examples of body-positive campaigns in recent history:


In 2016, DressBarn sought to tackle the issue of society imposing labels on women, which classify them into superficial categories. The campaign, titled More Than a Name, featured images of women ranging in age, size, and shape along with phrases like “More than an age” or “More than a size,” which helps challenge the stereotypes people face every day when they are judged based on exterior characteristics.


After an internal research study revealed that over half of girls experience a decline in confidence after puberty, Always decided to begin instilling female empowerment at an even younger age. Playing on the phrase previously thought of as an insult, the #LikeAGirl campaign reclaims it to highlight all of the incredible things girls are capable of achieving. The videos and poster advertisements display girls breaking down stereotypes and explaining what doing something “like a girl” means to them.


JCPenney’s body-positive HERE I Am campaign began in 2016 and has done much more than increase the diversity of their size range and models. For the first time, women of all sizes were able to tell their stories while promoting love for themselves and for one another. The campaign has featured celebrities like Mary Lambert and Ashley Nell Tipton, the first winner of Project Runway who featured a plus-size collection.


This past September, Glossier launched their Body Hero campaign to promote their newest collection of body wash products. The campaign featured a diverse group of female models with varying shapes, sizes, and colors that highlighted the natural beauty of each one. Even more notable, Glossier did not promote the fact they were being “body positive” and released it as they would any other campaign, which reinforces the normalcy of varying bodies.


In 2015, Target launched their new fall clothing collection and among the fairly diverse group of female models stood their most diverse male model to date. For the first time, Target featured a plus-size male model, which made them one of the first major retailers to do so. More recently, their summer 2017 bathing suit line featured a range of sizes and a diverse group of models dedicated to “Living confidently, on one’s own terms.”


Although there is not one specific campaign, the online retailer ModCloth is known for its specialization in indie and vintage clothing styles that comes in a wide range of sizes. In addition to making fashion affordable to people of all sizes, the retailer was the first to sign the Hero Pledge for Advertisers in 2014 in which they promised not to “change the shape, size, proportion, color, and/or remove/enhance the physical features.” In fact, some of the models seen on the website are employees of the company as a way to accurately represent an average woman’s body.

Note: while there is definitely a shift in the way companies choose to advertise to women, body positive ad campaigns directed at men typically seem to fall short. This highlights all the room left for improvement in the advertising industry.

Olivia Clancy is a sophomore at New York University studying applied psychology and child and adolescent mental health studies. She plans on using her own experiences with mental illness to help others in her future career as a clinical psychologist.

Header image via ModCloth

Fashion doesn’t exactly have the best rep when it comes to promoting positive body image. But, seeing that it’s Love Yo’Self Week and all — and because we love to call out peeps for doing the feel-good loving-women-of-all-sizes-and-shapes thing — we thought we’d highlight seven companies that are actually actively promoting a positive body image. Who’s doing it right? They’re doing it right!

7 Positive Body Image Apparel Companies

1. Title Nine. They’re using real women as models. Rock on.

2. Beyond Yoga. This company’s Be Body Proud! campaign is AWESOME.

3. Taffy. Finally! An activewear brand that’s not about covering up the curves.

4. swimsuitsforall. And when they say all, they really mean all! How refreshing. Also, love THIS.

5. Sheila Moon. Love to cycle? They love you, no matter your size.

6. Lola Getts. They get it. (Get it? Har har.)

7. Katie K. We love a lot about this brand, but this campaign is the coolest.

And, okay, so this is lingerie and not activewear, but we love this campaign, too. Forget the Photoshop, let’s celebrate who we are, as we are! —Jenn

Advertisements And Self Esteem

Living in the information age, advertisements act as the necessary stimuli for consumers to acquire a product or service, so as to produce revenue for the company’s product or/and service that is marketed. In many occasions, advertisements act as role models, since people have been found to have the tendency of feeling better about their own bodies or actions, when these are aligned with the broadcasted advertising image. These groups are usually presented in modern ads, which in their scenarios reflect the inner needs of today’s customers. Thus, it is understandable why people want to buy a product so as to become a new member of that specific group the advertisement shows.
In fact, today is very easy to become that other person you imagine you should be, as long as you consume what an ad tells you that you should in order to be directly related to the product/service starring in the advertisement. Feeling better about yourself because the selected “cover” best suits the occasion, is considered shallow in my opinion, as I tend to judge people not based on appearance and lifestyle choices, but mostly by understanding their intellectual abilities and examining their talents.
Penetrating a market-meaning a home-to produce profit, is the ultimate goal of a firm competing in any industry. Studying consumer needs, developing a desirable product, planning its promotion techniques, selecting an appropriate price policy, and reaching the selected target group, are in brief all the basic marketing steps a company must take to gain profit by selling. Nowadays, due to the enormous amount of products offered to cover a specific need, corporations have to diversify their propositions using a combination of the four most important marketing tools, price, place, product and promotion-also known as the 4P’s. Although all of these marketing tools have a tremendous effect on consumers’ satisfaction and product viability, promotion techniques are still considered as the only tool that is not yet fully used or explored. The primary factor for this is that advertisements are bound to change and adapt their imagery to that of contemporary consumers who constantly change their preferences.
During the twenty-first century, advertising has enormously evolved and today captures the interest of prospective customers, due to its shocking, funny, or easy-to-relate-to nature. For example, clothing, diet yogurts, cars, detergents, mobile-telephone service companies, ice creams, airlines, personal hygiene products and other marketed goods, have to compete by presenting in their advertisements a clear and unique brand image. For some product or service categories, the war is no longer between lowest price and best quality. What counts today more than ever before, is the “added-value” element and how it is perceived by customers. This added value is the outcome that the customer gains when he subtracts the actual value of a product from the value he believes the product carries. Corporations have come to the point where this difference is only an idea, a quality that the person gains only due to the purchase. This quality can be the pre-mentioned ability to belong to a recognizable group of people, by using a specific brand (e.g. BMW versus Fiat, Colgate versus Crest, etc.).
These qualities that consumers believe they acquire by purchasing a product or a service are directly related to consumers’ mentality that society accepts or rejects people due to their choices and not based upon peoples abilities. Actually, advertising, being a widely accepted promotional tool, has begun to build not only brand images but also consumer minds. Belonging to a happy household today is translated as being a conscious selector who seeks information and chooses among a vast variety of choices based on carefully selected standards. When these standards are the outcomes of television role models, advertisements have additionally the ability to shape characters and develop groups. Living in the consumer-oriented age, households are governed by self-esteem needs that have to be fulfilled through their purchasing habits. Product attributes pass over to their users as advertisements stress daily and people tend to mimic the behavior patterns seen at these ads so as to feel better about whom they are. Based on such unstable grounds regarding personal identification and qualities, or ability to relate to others, peoples’ esteem will undoubtedly result in chaos. On the other hand, developing personal competencies by investing on education, friendship, dialogue, and soul-searching techniques, can produce more sustainable results that are based on well defined principles and not on trends or corporate benefits.
Summarizing, companies seek to develop successful campaigns that can increase profit margins and at the same time win-over happy customers. Those customers, who have as their primary goal not to be directed by corporate interests, must understand the significance of a firm’s strategic views. From the consumer viewpoint, recognizing needs and trying to fulfill them is not only acceptable but also desirable. On the other hand, becoming overwhelmed by these needs and sacrificing principles on the way to realize a dream some advertisement presented as unique, can be considered as personal corrosion. Careful filtering the data advertisements portray and continuous self-criticism will form a unique consumer group; that of a conscious kind in which all should be proud someday to belong.

Hey Beautiful! Self-Love Has Been Dominating the Internet All Week—And We Love It

Lane Bryant

Feeling beautiful in a world with supermodels and gorgeous actresses dominating every magazine cover, billboard, and TV show can be tough-really tough, some days (we’re sitting here staring at April’s cover model Olivia Wilde, after all). But thankfully, some companies are giving us the ammunition to fight back against negative messages-both from the world and from ourselves-with new campaigns intended to inspire all of us to feel stunning, inside and out. Granted, they’re all from companies trying to sell us something. But we appreciate that they’re saying it in a way that will help us feel better about ourselves rather than make us feel like we’re less than perfect. (Has Body Image Become Oppressive? A Look at the Backlash Against Beauty.)

Dove: Choose Beautiful

If you were presented with two doors to walk through, one marked “beautiful” and the other marked “average”, which would you choose? That’s the decision Dove poses in their powerful new campaign, Choose Beautiful. And it’s immediately clear that this is not as easy of a decision as you may think. The video shows women upon women waffling between doors. Ultimately (and disappointingly), most end up going through the average door. While some of the women said they just didn’t want to appear conceited, most said that they really don’t feel pretty. “Beautiful for me? It’s too far away, out of reach,” says one Japanese woman.

But, most interesting, was how this choice made them change their view of themselves. By the end of the experiment (and after some were dragged through the more positive door by their mothers and friends), most of the women say they’d walk proudly under the “beautiful” title if given the chance again. “Beautiful is a great word, so why not see what’s on the other side of that?” concludes one young woman as she throws open her arms, parading through the entryway the way we think every woman should.

Lane Bryant: #ImNoAngel

Lane Bryant just released a cheeky new ad campaign that takes aim at the impossibly gorgeous Victoria’s Secret Angels. The plus-size brand has women model their new lingerie line while saying “I’m no angel…” (double entendre, no doubt). After showing off their hot (and much more relatable) bodies, the models add, “I’m all kinds of sexy!” to remind us that you don’t have to have a certain body type or look to be sexy. The message is a powerful one for a generation that grew up envying the VS Angels for more than just their wings. And there’s nothing more powerful than seeing a woman who actually looks like you touting confidence and sexiness.

Curvy Kate: Star in a Bra

Women’s breasts come in all shapes and sizes-but you’d never know it based on the limited offerings in most stores. It’s not just a problem of exclusion: Ill-fitting underwear condemns large-chested ladies to years of tugging, digging, and spillage. (Find The Best Bra for Your Breast Type.) But Curvy Kate, a lingerie brand designed specifically for women who are a D-cup or larger, decided to fight this battle on two fronts: By designing affordable, high quality bras in larger sizes and by sending out a call for real women to post pics of themselves modeling their lingerie as part of their annual Star in a Bra campaign.

The snaps were then posted online where people could vote for their favorites. Curvy Kate named Sophia Adams the 2015 “Star in a Bra,” but they also created a powerful ad with 10 of the fan favorites. The art direction came directly from Victoria’s Secret’s fall “Perfect Body” ad campaign, creating a strong visual message by having real women pose in the same way as the models. Not only is it healthy for us to see real women modeling, but they even have wisdom to share: Adams, the contest winner, shows off her 32JJs and adds, “I used to have so many body hang ups, hated my size, and wanted to change myself. But as I get older I’m realizing it’s all about self love and treating your body like the temple it is!”

In the end, all three campaigns aren’t about outer beauty (although there’s plenty of that too), but are instead about how to feel gorgeous in a world that constantly wants to tell us we’re not. But our bodies are temples and sometimes we just need to be reminded of how amazing each of us truly is, no matter what we see in the mirror.

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen

How targeted ads could affect our self-esteem and make us better people

Targeted ads could affect our self-esteem, study finds. Public Domain Behaviorally targeted ads tend to get a lot of criticism for appearing to invade our privacy. However, a new report in the Journal of Consumer Research argues that targeted ads can beneficially alter a consumer’s perception of themselves — not just the brand that’s advertising to them.

The study, published on March 27, says that targeted ads could even make you donate more money to charity.

“Behavioral targeting” is an online marketing strategy that sends ads to people according to their past browsing history. This contrasts from ads which are targeted according to demographics (your age, gender, location, occupation,) or those ads which are not targeted and are shown to every person viewing that web page.

So how could behavioral targeting make you into a better person?

It all comes down to flattery

In study two, the groups were shown an ad for a luxury watch brand. and In the first study, which used 188 undergraduate students, there were two test groups. Both groups were offered a Groupon voucher for a “sophisticated” restaurant. Group A was told that this was as a result of their earlier browsing history, while Group B was told the ad had been targeted to them because of their demographic information. Group A were considerably more likely to purchase the voucher.

But why was this? The study goes on to suggest that we like ads targeted to us if they portray sophisticated tastes. More than this, if we realize that an ad is targeted, and that it portrays sophisticated tastes, we will in turn believe that we are more sophisticated than we did before seeing the ad.

To prove this, the behavioral scientists again divided participants into two groups. Both were shown ads for a high-end, “sophisticated” watch brand. Group A was told that the ad was targeted at them, while group B was told that it was not. After this, Group A evaluated themselves as more sophisticated than Group B. Group A was also more likely to buy the watch than Group B.

So, this kind of flattery can get consumers to buy more products. This encourages advertisers to be more transparent with targeted ads, when the ads they are targeting imply positive qualities, according to the researchers.

In study three, scientists claim they showed that awareness of targeted ads could make us more charitable. Green Peace How targeted ads have an effect on users in the longer-run

However, where this gets really interesting is when we look at the effect of targeted ads on our behavior, beyond our immediate purchase intentions.

The third and final study claimed that the message behind the targeted ad (e.g. that we are sophisticated, or pro-environment) will stay with us in other contexts. Group A was given a behaviorally-targeted ad for a “Green, energy-free speaker crafted from sustainably sourced Colombian wood,” — i.e. an environmentally friendly product. The control group was given an ad for the same speaker but with a different description: “sleek, powerful speaker crafted from the hollow body of Colombian wood.”

After this experiment Group A perceived themselves as more green than the participants in the control group. They were more likely to buy the product, and even more likely to donate to a pro-environmental charity.

So, according to the report, by making consumers aware that the ads they are seeing (which imply positive qualities) are targeted to them because of past internet browsing, the viewer can be made to view themselves in a more positive light.

However, the study says nothing about the reverse. What about ads targeted by behavior that imply more negative traits, like greed, or even un-sophistication? It seems likely that ads which imply these traits could have a correspondingly negative impact on our self-esteem.

But even those ads are too ordinary to notice over time. So marketers also try to get creative with form. Here’s one example. A public-transit staircase sits next to an escalator. The treads of the escalator are painted yellow, and the DHL brand mark is imprinted on the landing. Next to it, the word “OtherServices” is applied to the floor in blue and orange—which just happen to be the colors of the FedEx logo. The implication is clear: DHL is faster than FedEx.

Clever advertising by DHL

— Brilliant Ads (@Brilliant_Ads) May 7, 2017

Here’s another. The wall of a bus shelter is encased in 3M Security Glass, which is also the product to be advertised. The wall appears to contain be hundreds of bundles of currency. The ad dares its subject to test the promise the product makes.

This is how a security glass company shows their products are “unbreakable”!

— Brilliant Ads (@Brilliant_Ads) April 26, 2017

In both of these cases, the ads work because they give consumers an experience of the product advertised. In the DHL ad, the comparison of the escalator and the stairs lets the consumer feel the speed differential. In the 3M Security Glass ad, the consumer almost can’t help but accept the invitation to try to test the glass’s durability. These advertisements mix reason and emotion, creating delight in coming to understand the product.

And then there’s the Dove Real Beauty Bottle. Like 3M and DHL, Dove aims to mix reason and emotion. The setup is right—a product that embodies its message. But the problem is that the result is incoherent and contradictory. The bottles negate rather than support the advertiser’s associative claims.

Consider some scenarios. A pear-shaped woman has run out of body wash. She visits the local drug store, where she finds a display of Dove Real Beauty Bottles. To her chagrin, now she must choose between pear- and hourglass-shaped soap. She must also present this proxy for a body—the one she has? the one she wishes she did?—to a cashier to handle and perhaps to judge. What otherwise would have been a body-image-free trip to the store becomes a trip that highlights body-image.

Now imagine actually using the bottles. In the shower, they become slippery. The pear shapes are unwieldy, all their weight pressed to the sides. That will make them hard to hold in a single-hand. The tall, thin bottles are gangly. They fall over easily when bumped on the shelf.

Ah, but which bottle is least cumbersome? The hourglass-shaped bottles, of course. The ones with big “bosoms” and “hips,” providing firm grip around the “waist” when wet. And just like that, against the campaign’s hopes, Dove engineered bottles that, through functional differences, inadvertently imply there is a best body after all.

* * *

Capitalism doesn’t care about you. But usually it takes some work to uncover that truth. Dove is owned by the conglomerate Unilever, which also owns Axe. Axe makes the same kind of products Dove does, but markets them to young men, often in overtly sexist ways. That’s a hypocrisy that reveals advertising’s true scruples, which involve extracting incremental value from your wallet as efficiently as possible. But at least hiding the hypocrisy in the common ownership of a parent company also obscures it from the consumer’s view.

The Evolution video: the use of airbrushing and Photoshop in the media

Watch the Evolution video, to understand how easily our perception of beauty can be manipulated. Once you’ve done that, then use our action checklist to start a conversation with your child about real beauty.

Evolution: the influence of media on the distortion of beauty

From real to retouched in 60 seconds – this video illustrates how lighting, make-up and digital manipulation distort our perceptions of beauty. You’ll never look at a beauty ad in the same way again!

The influence of media on the distortion of beauty

People often compare themselves to images of models, actors and singers in the media, but are these images even real? With clever lighting, make-up and Photoshop, it’s possible to transform an image so it no longer reflects the shape, size or features of the original model. No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted!

You may have seen before and after pictures of models elsewhere, but the Evolution video allows us to see the process as it happens. It’s proved hugely popular, with more than 2 million views on YouTube in its first two weeks alone. Has your family watched it yet?

The positive outcome of watching the Evolution video

Watching the Dove Evolution video has been proven to boost young people’s body image. In 2011, researchers used the film as part of a study investigating the power of music videos, called Highlighting Media Modifications: Can a Television Commercial Mitigate the Effects of Music Videos on Female Appearance Satisfaction?

The test involved asking young women to watch five popular videos featuring women who matched the thin and attractive ‘ideal’. Some watched these alongside normal ads, some watched ads without people and some watched the Evolution video. The result? Viewing music videos resulted in significantly lower levels of appearance satisfaction compared to viewing control television – however, watching the Evolution video counteracted this effect.

Use the Evolution video and the action checklist below to start a conversation with your child and help them boost their own body image and confidence.

When it comes to women in the media, there’s no question: sex sells. The imagery we see, whether on billboards, on TV, in the pages of magazines, or elsewhere all create the perception that you’re not enough if you’re not slim with voluminous hair, flawless skin, and a perfect smile; if you’re not willing to bare it all and tempt your audience with your female form. And nobody’s a bigger culprit of this than the advertising industry. But the ads we’ve been exposed to for years—imagery of unrealistic, retouched women—are really being brought to task in the name of female empowerment.

Dove just did a study that shows women and young girls are still feeling the pressure to conform to the “perfect” body—maybe more than ever. According to the study, eight out of ten participants (both women and girls) said they felt pressured not to make mistakes or appear weak—in other words, to be perfect. This may be why the mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, pushed to ban ads in public transportation that promote negative body image issues. And it’s why the world’s second-largest advertiser, Unilever (which owns Dove and Axe, among others), recently made a pledge to be less sexist in their ads. The company’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weeds, says, “The time is right for us as an industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising.” Many more brands, such as ModCloth, are also pushing for advertisement reform to portray real women in advertising.

In a world inundated by ads that make us feel less than, here are some campaigns that will have you feeling ready to take on the day!

01. JCPenney #HereIAm

JCPenney recently launched its “Here I Am” campaign featuring several prominent plus-size women breaking the beauty-standard mold on their journeys of both worldly success and personal self-acceptance. The women featured here reveal that society has made them feel like they needed to change their entire lives—and some have spent their whole lives trying to change their looks—until they realized that society’s perception of them is not the best measuring stick for their worth and ultimately will never limit what they can do. Contrary to what critics have said, the “Here I Am” campaign is not about glorifying obesity, it’s about helping women accept themselves as worthy of dignity, no matter their size.

02. Always #LikeAGirl

Ever since its much-talked-about debut as a Super Bowl ad a couple years ago, the Always campaign “Like a Girl” has quickly become a classic in the world of positive body image advertisements. The commercials highlight the careless way people use the phrase “like a girl” by asking men and women of different ages, “what does it mean to do something like a girl?” Most people interpret it as an insult, while the younger girls viewed it as a positive statement about themselves, ignorant to how it could possibly mean anything else.

As the ad says, young girls suffer a serious drop in self confidence when they hit puberty, and that seems to be the turning point for many when it comes to belittling who they are with phrases like these. But, with this ad campaign, Always wants to change that. “Like a girl” should never be an insult—it should be a fact. And, as one young woman in the ad said, “Why can’t run like a girl also mean win the race?”

03. Aerie #AerieReal

Aerie has been a proponent of untouched advertisements for a few years now, and as the #AerieReal campaign maintains its popularity, the brand continues to put society’s unrealistic beauty standards to the test in its ads.

The “Aerie Real” campaign has committed not to Photoshop models, and recent reports say that the campaign is not only helping their street cred but also their revenues. They’ve been publishing a series on their YouTube channel called “Real Talk,” which gives their models a chance to share what not being retouched means to them. While it would still be nice to see the Aerie Real campaign not equate body positivity with being stripped down, it’s hard to deny this messaging is a step in a better direction than most other ads out there.

04. Dove #MyBeautyMySay

A pioneer of the body-positive movement for more than a decade now, this Dove campaign continues to counter society’s definition of beauty. The ad features a group of diverse women of different body types, backgrounds, and careers. The one thing that connects these women is the strides they had to take to get where they are today.

The women in this ad share what other people have said to discourage them, whether they’re too this or too that. But despite all the people tearing them down, all these women have achieved their dreams and confirmed their own beauty because beauty can’t be defined by any one set of standards. It’s as unique as the person herself.

05. Nike #BetterForIt

You’ve probably already seen some of the hilarious ads from the Nike #BetterForIt campaign—a series of advertisements that say what every woman thinks when she exercises: “No shame in running half a half marathon,” “Oh good, a bunch of models right in front of me,” and, “Don’t mind me over here with my little baby weights…baby arms.” Exercising can certainly cause insecurities for us all. But these ads encourage you to push through the head noise.

The ads have actually been so successful that they’ve spawned their own YouTube series Margot vs. Lily that promises just as much wit as it does strategic product placement. Although they may not feature women of diverse body types, they do show diverse mental perspectives. These ads might just be the motivation you need to run that extra mile—not because you have to but because you can.

Photo: Always

Does the advertising industry feed off of female insecurities? Experts weigh in

It’s one of the most sinister aspects of advertising; manipulating our deepest fears and insecurities to make us part with our cash – and it’s about to get a lot worse.

From billboards to TV adverts, mainstream media is used to tap into our weak spots, with women in particular seen as easy targets for brands to part with their cash.

But while these forms of media are heavily regulated – and brands will soon be forced to comply with new rulings enforced by the ASA to combat sexism in advertising – there’s a concern that the “Wild West” of social media will soon become a breeding ground for the type of unhealthy advertising which makes people, particularly young women, self-conscious about their bodies and lifestyle.

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Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

As social media hosted outside of the UK is difficult to monitor – the ASA’s remit online is websites with addresses – the line between what is advertising and what is authentic online is becoming increasingly blurry. This could have a devastating effect on young people’s self-esteem.

Jaywant Singh, a professor of marketing at Kingston University, says stringent new rulings on broadcast and print advertising will do little to combat the problem because of the rise of ad channels like YouTube and Instagram which cannot be regulated in the UK.

Though social media “influencers” are urged to include indicative hashtags such as #spon or #ad in paid-for posts, the legalities remain somewhat ambiguous and, so as not to “spill the beans” to the followers whose intelligence they often underestimate, many have been known to omit them.

Some Instagrammers can earn up to £60,000 per post, it was revealed last year.

The photo-sharing platform introduced a feature earlier this year which allows users to tag a brand as a “partner” to indicate a promoted post, however, many “influencers” who already have long-established relationships with brands have been less than eager to exploit this, despite the blatancy of some non-indicated branded posts.

Singh explained that this is highly problematic for the ad industry.

“Anything goes,” he said. “Look at any of the top 10 Instagrammers – all you see is sexualised unattainable photo-shopped images of sultry pouting teenagers with heaving cleavages and bare bottoms; they are ’empowering women’ but perhaps only to feel bad about themselves and buy more things.

“Just because Instagram is allegedly ‘owned’ by individuals, it does not mean it should be a regulation-free highway of commercial gain. Unless steps are made to regulate the new channels, it is only going to get worse,” he concluded.

Singh believes that a lot of ads today trigger something referred to in psychology as ‘compensatory consumption’, which he explains is a behaviour in which individuals try to overcome this threatened perception of self by acquiring the product being advertised to them.

“Creating and highlighting insecurities about the female body has, as a result, become central to many ad campaigns in the cosmetics and personal care industry,” he explained.

Dr Cui Su agrees. “Beauty ads invest prosaic items like soap or body lotion with the promise of a better life or a better self,” the advertising course leader at London College of Communication explained.

“For a woman with spots, ads for creams and lotions try to show her a better, likeable self, that a blemish-free version of her is possible. However, in order to ensure further purchases, this future is always deferred and never fully realised. So to sustain beauty industry going, anxiety is still an important part of the feel-good advertising mix,” she told The Independent.

Singh believes that a lot of ads today trigger something referred to in psychology as ‘compensatory consumption’, which he explains is a behaviour in which individuals try to overcome this threatened perception of self by acquiring the product being advertised to them.

“Creating and highlighting insecurities about the female body has, as a result, become central to many ad campaigns in the cosmetics and personal care industry,” he added.

One major beauty brand that is constantly coming under scrutiny for its methods of appealing to a wide-range of women is Dove, whose “real beauty” campaign, launched by Unilever in 2004, has become an integral part of their global marketing strategy and brand identity.

A recent way this was carried out was via different-shaped body wash bottles, designed to represent different female figures, which left shoppers more insulted than it did inspired, as outlined by Campaign.

The term “real beauty” is intrinsically troublesome, given its inherent implication that a woman can either be fake or real, depending on which beauty brand she uses.

“Dove’s suggestion is a more body-positive future perhaps, but not one that is fully feminist and free of body anxieties,” argues Su. “After over a decade, it seems like ‘Real Beauty’ has run its course among female consumers,” the advertising expert added.

Ultimately, advertisements are there to make us want things, right?

So perhaps the real question when it comes to the beauty industry is: is it possible to instil desire for a product without inadvertently suggesting that we need it and are therefore incomplete without it?

“I see this as a creative challenge,” argues Su, “with more creative effort, beauty or cosmetic brands can do better. See for example this Shiseido ad.”

Hunger games: profits at Protein World were boosted in Britain by its controversial ‘beach body’ posters

As for the widely criticised Protein World ads that used honed, Barbie-doll like women to promote fitness supplements (remember ‘beach body ready’?), the most recent campaign featuring Khloe Kardashian was passed after, despite receiving a flurry of complaints, experts decided that “she did not appear to be out of proportion or unhealthy and therefore the ad was not socially irresponsible,” a representative for the ASA told The Independent.

“Protein World knew exactly what it was doing,” claims Su, “they did it because of what it understood about its target audience: the fitness fans.”

Regardless of whether it was intentional or not, “are you beach body ready?” remains an intrinsic summer jingle which continues to be regurgitated by blind-sighted brands and careless copywriters who may or may not have been living under a rock during the summer of 2015.

How do beauty product ads affect consumer self esteem and purchasing?

“One of the signature strengths of the advertising industry lies in its ability to transform seemingly mundane objects into highly desirable products,” write authors Debra Trampe (University of Groningen, the Netherlands), Diederik A. Stapel (Tilburg University), and Frans W. Siero (University of Groningen). In an advertisement, a lipstick situated next to a stiletto heel represents glamour and a teddy bear in an ad for fabric softener signals softness.

The authors conducted four experiments to examine the different meanings consumers gleaned from products that were advertised versus not advertised. In one study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-enhancing product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne concealer, deodorant).The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with a shiny background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral white background. “After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products consumers were more likely to think about themselves than when they viewed the same products outside of their advertisements.”

What’s more, those advertisements affected how consumers thought about themselves. “After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the advertising context,” the authors write. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving products.

Ads for beauty-enhancing products seem to make consumers feel that their current attractiveness levels are different from what they would ideally be. “Consumers seem to ‘compare’ themselves to the product images in advertisements, even though the advertisement does not include a human model,” the authors write.

“Exposure to beauty-enhancing products in advertisements lowered consumers’ self-evaluations, in much the same way as exposure to thin and attractive models in advertisements has been found to lower self-evaluations,” the authors conclude.

In a society where media reigns supreme, women and girls are confronted daily with outrageous and damaging beauty standards. These ideals set in place are often so outlandish they end up being contradictory: Be curvy but not fat; thin but not boyish; sexy but not slutty; toned but not masculine. Women face pressure, from all sides, to look and act a certain way in order to appeal to larger society and, most specifically, to men.

Campaigns such as Stop the Beauty Madness, Dove’s Real Beauty, and countless others were created in an effort to undermine these harmful beauty standards by highlighting the deceptive powers of photo manipulation and encouraging women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to see themselves as beautiful.

Dove released their latest Real Beauty short film on Tuesday, in which women were prompted to choose between doors labeled “beautiful” and “average” when entering buildings all over the world. The moral of the ad is clear: women should “choose beautiful” and love the way they look. No matter how well intentioned, I feel the message conveyed in the video leaves much to be desired. What is supposed to be inspirational instead feels over-simplified, even condescending.

Don’t get me wrong; I think body positivity is great, and it can be crucial to a healthy sense of self. The promotion of self-respect and self-acceptance will never be a bad idea in my book. I’m concerned, however, that in both kinds of ads (the sexist, unrealistic ads that tear us down and the empowering ads meant to build us up) the conversation remains squarely focused on women’s bodies.

It makes me want to scream: What about our minds?

image via Dove Real Beauty

When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher asked us to write something positive about each of our classmates on construction paper. We turned in our piles of little notes, she sorted them by name, and handed them back to us so each student could read what their classmates had written. I remember being delighted by this exercise. Who didn’t like compliments? What young person didn’t want positive affirmation?

My mother held on to most of my school projects throughout the years, amassing an odd collection of finger paintings, papier mâché, and old notebooks, which she kept stored in white legal boxes on a high shelf in her closet. Recently I went through the contents of these boxes on a trip home, craving a healthy dose of nostalgia, and quickly found the envelope filled with those little affirming messages.

There were twenty-three folded pieces of construction paper inside.

Thirteen of the notes told me I was “nice,” eight notes told me I was “pretty,” one told me I was “organized,” (which is hilarious because I can distinctly remember being a comically messy and unorganized child) and one told me I was “cool.” At least this last kid got it right.

I’ll never know what was written about the other girls. I guess it could be possible that I really was just the nicest, prettiest, coolest, most organized girl in Mrs. Jenning’s class, but I’m going to climb out on a limb and surmise that most of my other female classmates received similar compliments.

We weren’t told we were smart, or brave, or strong. Those are boy things.

Girls are nice. Girls are pretty. Or at least, we’re supposed to be.

Perhaps that’s why I spent the majority of my young life utterly convinced I was bad at math, or why I didn’t even realize I was capable of academic success until college. Perhaps that’s why only 12.1% of civil engineers, 8.3% of electrical engineers and 7.2% of mechanical engineers are women, despite 66% of fourth grade girls expressing interest in science and math.

If nice and pretty are the two ideals that women and girls are most often held to, it becomes painfully and tragically obvious why an accomplished congresswoman would be referred to as “beautiful” and “exotic” in an article, or why eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among adolescents and teens. When these “self-esteem” ad campaigns, however well meaning, focus only on a woman’s appearance as a source of confidence, they contribute to the very idea they are attempting to challenge. They send the message that a woman can only be confident if she considers herself physically attractive.

Should I ever have a daughter, I hope that for every time I tell her she’s pretty, I tell her she’s smart ten times over.

Positive body image ads

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