Department Store Bans Photoshop

Discussion
Jun 18, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

You’ve got to hand it to Debenhams. The U.K. department
store retailer started by using plus size mannequins in the windows of its
stores because they more accurately reflected the sizes of its customers. The
company has also used a disabled person in a wheelchair to model in one its
ad campaigns. Now the company has decided, in keeping with its promotion of
natural beauty, that it will no longer allow photos of its models to be retouched.

According
to a report in the Daily Mail, a sign next to a shot of a
model in the store’s window reads: "We’ve not messed with natural
beauty; this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?"

"Our campaign is all about making women feel good about themselves —
not eroding their self belief and esteem by using false comparisons," said
Mark Woods, director of creative and visual for the retailer.

"Not only does it make sense from a moral point of view, it ticks the
economic boxes as well. Millions of pounds a year are spent by organisations
retouching perfectly good images," he told the Mail.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Debenham’s push for more natural,
authentic beauty in its visual displays and advertising? Will consumers think
of the retailer as being more honest than its competitors through steps such
as this? Is this something that would work in the U.S.?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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17 Comments on "Department Store Bans Photoshop"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

They get points for honesty and some more for customer respect, but it’s critical to remember that a lot of merchandising is aspirational.

People shop, in part, for a release from their day to day lives. Holding up a mirror is a good way of saying I see you and I respect you and it only works if the person looking in the mirror agrees.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
10 years 10 months ago

Cheers for Debenhams. But I’m willing to bet it doesn’t last too long. People don’t want to see how things are, they want to fantasize about how they could be. What do you think sells cosmetics?

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Shopping for me is a little bit idealistic and aspirational. When I wander the mall looking for the perfect outfit to wear out Saturday night, looking at the clothes on a mannequin that’s smaller than me makes me think “maybe.” I don’t think I’m wishing I looked like a hangar; I just hope to look good.

If I saw an outfit on a realistic, authentic, or whatever you want to call it mannequin, I don’t think it will give me the same feeling of desire. If I want to see realistic, I just need to look in the mirror to see all the realistic I can stand.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Aspirational or not, it’s time we started honoring women for who they are–not for some fantasy of what they should look like. All that airbrushing is so…’70s. And the impact it has on young girls is disturbing.

Two thumbs up…some things are more important than short-term sales. This is a brand-builder…and will reap long-term rewards.

Anne Howe
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I like the decision not to retouch images. Even more, I like the transparency messaging to shoppers, letting them know the decision they’ve made to be more authentic. But I hope the marketing budget is not the primary driver of the decision.

As a shopper, I want to see how the outfits look on mannequins that are sized to reality. I detest seeing a cute outfit on a skinny mannequin, with the clothes all pinned tight in the back. Let us see how a size 8 dress is really going to look on a size 8 shape.

If I were in the U. K. this would affect my decision on where to shop. I would vote yes with my wallet.

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Why not have the models posing in animal skins and braided grass? Or maybe just unretouched naked. Yeah, that would get attention.

Vikram Ketkar
Guest
Vikram Ketkar
10 years 10 months ago

That’s a good step. They should start using real-world heroes–social workers, athletes, and scholars as models. Beauty is a matter of perception. It’s high time people start differentiating between really beautiful people which make the world a beautiful place to live in rather than just good looking people.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

The celebrity and fashion magazines take the most beautiful women in the world and Photoshop them into something that doesn’t exist. Now you want to talk about aspirational? We have created a target for women to reach that is IMPOSSIBLE. We have set a standard with which to measure bodies and looks that can not be attained. The consequences of that are devastating.

And perhaps worst of all, we have convinced our beautiful women (our wives, daughters, sisters, girlfriends and those who are just walking down the street) that they are not beautiful at all.

Kudos for Debenhams. Perhaps this is starting to be a trend, now following German magazines and Spanish fashion shows. Would this work in the U.S.? That is not the issue. The issue is truth in advertising.

JULIE QUICK
Guest
JULIE QUICK
10 years 10 months ago

The move will certainly get a lot of public endorsement and drive shoppers to a store that they feel understands them.

But the move could limit their ability to command a premium price. The image of “high fashion” (true to reality or not) is what drives a lot of top-end apparel retailing. A tank top from Bebe commands a lot more dollars than one from Old Navy, not just because of who makes it, but because of who wears it.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Good for Debenhams. I give them points for honesty and bringing reality to their advertising. Problem is, I don’t think reality is going to last very long when it comes to the shoppers wants.

Advertising is created to make us think we will feel better and look better wearing certain items. We are not ready to change. We want to see ourselves in the imaginative state of beauty, thin and in some cases athletically built. Wearing what the advertisers are selling makes us believe it is possible.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

The comments about shopping being aspirational so having models look good implies that airbrushing is necessary to have women look good! I hope Debenhams proves that women can look really good and are aspirational without airbrushing! There is a difference between looking really good and being perfect.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 10 months ago

This strikes me as a smart move that succeeds in differentiating the Debenhams brand, while also taking a stand for the authentic beauty of real women. That said, Debenhams may find their stance is hard to replicate across the entire brand, i.e., today’s wary consumers are always on the watch for brands that don’t walk the talk. To ensure that doesn’t become an issue, Debenhams may want to further its communication around this effort by ensuring consumers know that this campaign is just one step in a long process of educating consumers and other brands. Indeed, the article notes that Debenhams does airbrush some pics.

My only other quibble here is that Debenhams needs to ensure their campaign doesn’t overshadow the actual apparel. Otherwise, it’s a smart move that I’d like to see more brands follow.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

I guess I’ll play the role of sole cynic here, but I see little laudable here, only a blatant publicity stunt: I checked D’s website, and after seeing a whole page devoted to “beauty” (including Chanel, Elizabeth Arden, et al) I am of the opinion they have nothing against people making themselves look more attractive than they really are…why shouldn’t photos get the same privilege?

Chuck Palmer
Guest
10 years 10 months ago

Hmmm. Authenticity vs. Aspiration.

Depends on their customer. If this is a cultural shift in their organization driven by a deep understanding of their customer (and not a campaign)then kudos to them.

If they are doing this in a year and NOT hitting their consumers over the head with it, even better.

I always assume consumers are smarter than me. Dove did this and they did it so well that when they started to market their men’s line (!) the women who felt embraced by Dove bought it for their men. For Dove, it was a 360 shift in thinking, culture and communication.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
10 years 10 months ago

I appreciate honesty and transparency. I believe more companies should follow this example. They are still models and admired, just natural looking.

mark schroeder
Guest
mark schroeder
10 years 10 months ago

Wow, from the above it’s really clear that there is a huge universal assumption that women aspire to looking like photoshopped dummies. Not that we created that aspiration mind you or that we can change it, but that its just there. I think that’s incredibly wrong, lazy and condescending. I was involved with some research some time ago which highlighted the frustration women feel as they have these unattainable images pushed at them. Authenticity is a growing component of all marketing, as people’s distrust of shiny, artificial, exaggerated and plain dishonest imagery grows. This debate seems to hold up the cosmetics industry as providing the only clues as to how to market to women, but even there the cracks are showing–just look at Dove’s brilliant global campaign for real beauty.

This discussion shows how badly we need leaders like Debenhams to develop a more ethical way of marketing to women. We need a retail industry brave enough to applaud them for it and learn from them…and similarly lead.

Barbara Strickert
Guest
Barbara Strickert
10 years 10 months ago

In reviewing the various comments by gender it is interesting to see that, for the most part, the men want to see fantasy and the women applaud seeing reality. Should I be surprised?

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