Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Consensus Advisors, a boutique investment and advisory firm specializing in the retail industry.
Think of the things you've seen in ads. Invariably, in the real world, the Big Mac is smaller, the Lite beer makes you heavier and the Slim Fast is too slow. And then there are the people in the ads — sometimes they don't resemble actual humans at all.
What is presented is extensively touched and retouched, smoothed and brightened, softened and, in the case of the models, thinned and bemuscled, recolored and deblemished. What we see isn't what exists, but we have learned, very early on, to complete the picture so it makes sense, even if it makes us feel terrible about how fat and unbemuscled, ill-colored and blemished reality is.
In response to the pervasive and occasionally egregious use of digital picture editors (to Adobe's dismay, generically called "photoshopping"), a group called the Brave Girls Alliance (BGA) has helped introduce (with bipartisan sponsorship), the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014, which calls on the Federal Trade Commission to develop a legislative framework for any advertising that materially alters the bodies of the models portrayed. In advance of a legal solution, the BGA has challenged retailers to sign a pledge to provide more truth in their advertising — at least when it comes to the people wearing, holding or standing next to their products.
It seems it would take a very cynical company to ignore the evidence of the damage that our tinkering with reality has been doing. But the pledge has met with resistance. After all, the ads look so good! No retailer has signed up, until now.
ModCloth, an online retailer with a "vast, yet carefully curated collection of over 7,500 designs from over 1,200 designers, as well as a growing private label business," is first retailer to sign the anti-photoshop pledge.
It's a small victory (ModCloth isn't Macy's), but it's a big story nonetheless. The field is wide open for retailers to garner goodwill from their customers, and possibly do some good at the same time — and all before Congress tells them they have to anyway.
Pictures done to the new standard may look a little duller and rougher, or to put it another way, realer. Still, if 80 percent of women currently feel "shame" after reading a beauty magazine, something about the general perception of what is normal is wrong.
Even after thinking about this issue, I'm not sure I know what real truth in advertising will look like. What I hope is that I'll be able to see it when I see it.
What's the likelihood that major retailers will move away from adjusting images in marketing campaigns over the next three to five years?