This presentation is about how the media is distorting our perceptions of reality. Dove brought the use of photoshop in advertising to global attention with their video “Evolution”, showing how digital altering is used to change appearances.
So when we see our favourite celebrities on billboards and in magazines, we aren’t seeing the real them. There are many things that are changed, but here are some examples of the most regularly occurring:
Magazines and advertising are the main culprits, and believe it or not there is rarely a photo that is not tampered with. How does the law come in? surely there must be a governing body regulating this sort of thing?
In the UK, we have the Advertising Standards Agency, which is a lot stricter than any other monitoring organisation in the world. But even their rulings refer only to the advert in relation to the product. And that primarily means…
Basically, if photoshop has been used to alter the model, it’s fine as long as that does not relate to the product being sold. This mainly impacts the beauty industry.
If it does not relate to the product, an advert has to be very heavily and obviously doctored for the ASA to get involved.
But what about the exposure we get before the ads are banned? What about the countless other examples that are not banned? What effect is this constant stream of “perfection” having on us?
This is a chart of individuals admitted to hospitals in the UK due to anorexia. There are at least 1.1 million people in the UK affected by an eating disorder. We can take from these statistics that society is suffering from three major negative consequences:
- An unattainable ideal has been established with a narrower scope of socially accepted “beauty”
- It is psychologically harmful to consumers who see anything falling short of the ideal as flawed and imperfect, and so drive themselves to self harm in their attempts to reach perfection
- It is unethical on a professional level and damages the viewer’s trust in advertising as an industry
Gok Wan stated in his documentary on teenage body dysmorphia: “I can’t help but think the fashion industry - the thing I have dedicated by adult life to - has had a part to play in the rising number of young people suffering from body dysmorphia.”
The fashion industry has led the way in unrealistic standards of beauty - people are now used to seeing “perfection” in the media. They don’t question the fact that their favourite celeb is perfect. They don’t see them as real human beings. This needs to change.
But people are starting to fight back. And not only people, but organisations too.
- Feel More Better & Beauty Redefined – spreading awareness
- New York Times – Randy Cohen calls for enforcing warning labels on ads that have been heavily edited, comparing it to labelling food with ingredients or cigarettes with health warnings
- AMA has adopted a new policy to develop guidelines for advertisements that would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2010 said that a kite mark on digitally enhanced photographs would raise awareness of how often such manipulation takes place and help stop people trying to achieve “unattainable physical perfection”
- Professors from London Metropolitan University and Kings Cross London, and Dartmouth in the US, have all published papers linking exposure to media propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other mental health problem
- In 2008 the French parliament passed a bill proposing all enhanced photos be accompanied by a line saying “photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person”
- In Australia magazines that agree to carry disclaimers are awarded with a “body image tick”
All these organisations are campaigning for one thing - AWARENESS
It’s not just about generally knowing that this happens, it’s about being reminded every time you see it being done, so that everyone can know on what scale photoshop is used. Once these authorities and organisations have imposed the warnings, we the public can be selective about who we support, and make sure that we don’t give our money to brands who enforce unrealistic standards.
Advertising and the media influence how we think, but we have the power to influence them too. We drive their profits. Dove listened to people and responded, and their real beauty campaign has been wildly successful. We need to make other brands realise that this is what we want.