Intolerance: Anti-Waif "Real Women" for Ads

Sportswear company 'Nike's' new promotional campaign aimed at women has joined the vogue for 'real people advertising' by jettisoning whippet-thin models for ladies with more 'lifelike' figures. 'I have thunder thighs,' proclaims one the company's new adverts, which depicts a woman standing in running shorts, displaying muscular, but rather stout, upper legs. The world's largest maker of athletic shoes now apparently wants to celebrate the body types most women have, rather than those to which they aspire. The woman in the 'thunder thighs' advert says her legs may be 'unwelcome in the petite section', but goes on: 'They are cheered on in marathons. Fifty years from now I'll bounce a grandchild on my thunder thighs.' Another of the billboards pictures a well-upholstered bottom in shorts with the full-frontal slogan: 'My butt is big'. The woman in the advert goes on to describe her rear as 'a border collie that herds skinny women away from the best deals at clothing sales'. The 'Nike' adverts are calculated to appeal to women who are not waif-like, but equally are not obese. The wording of the campaign makes clear these women exercise, but realise they are working with the body shape nature has dealt them. The sports company's campaign follows the heavily publicised 'Dove' beauty products 'Real Women' adverts of 2004, which featured six women, none of them professional models, who stripped to their underwear to demonstrate how 'Dove' supposedly worked on 'real curves'. Real Women at Dove Campaign for Real Beauty At the start of this year, 'Dove' employed a new tactic -- but a similar theme -- when it chose a 96-year-old London great-grandmother, Ms.Irene Sinclair, as the unlikely poster girl for its range. A close-up of Ms.Sinclair's lined face appeared over the questions 'wrinkled?' and 'wonderful?'. Other unconventional stars of the campaign included a 45-year old woman with long grey hair whose picture asked 'grey or gorgeous?' and an overweight woman with the inquiry 'fit or fat?'. Appealing to 'ordinary women' brought big results to 'Unilever', owners of 'Dove'. The company said 35 per cent of UK women bought a 'Dove' product in 2004 as sales rocketed. Experts believe the trend for 'real people' advertising will become more pronounced as the baby-boomer generation -- those born from roughly 1946 to 1964 -- hit their later years. The advertising industry knows it cannot sell to this powerful demographic by peddling unrealistic images. A 'Nike' spokesman, Ms.Caren Bell, said the campaign was an attempt to portray 'what is real' as opposed to 'the ideal'.
'When a woman works out, her body develops, becoming more muscular, instead of model-thin. That is a look the ads are trying to celebrate,' she said.
Mr.Gordon Macmillan, editor of the marketing website 'Brand Republic', said:
'We can expect to see more companies going down this road. 'Consumers get annoyed by what they see as the unreal supermodel images in advertising, and they want to see something that talks to them about their lives. 'Something that promotes a positive image of ordinary bodies is talking straight to the consumer.'
There have been examples of earlier advertising backlashes against 'heroin-chic 'and the concave cheeks of supermodels. In the 1990s, the UK-owned 'Body Shop' built a campaign around a voluptuous doll named 'Ruby', which the company called its 'self-esteem mascot'. The slogan beneath her ample figure read:
'There are three billion women who don't look like supermodels and only eight who do.'
'Go figure: Nike gets real in new women's ad campaign', Fergus Sheppard, The Scotsman, 2005-08-20, Sa


Anonymous Anabolix said...

I checked out the links and find it strange to read all these strongly held opinions on beauty.

For me, the terms "model" and "supermodel" do not imply good-looking, beautiful or sexy... just high-earning clothes hangers, moving mannekins. When did a fashion model become beautiful? The whole point I thought was to draw attention to the clothes and not the person wearing them!

I guess that overtime the amount of images of thin and bland-faced women have become aspirational to children, and models became role models.

Then again, I really do not see that this has become such a massive problem as most people cannot and do not look like these waif supermodels.

On the contrary, most people seem to be getting unhealthily obese, and I am more concerned that the campaign for real beauty (and the like) will catch on and make fat people feel that being fat is OK. This is a much bigger threat than waif-thin supermodels.

To be clear: beauty is NOT about 'feeling good on the inside', 'self-esteem' and all that. Beauty is aspiring to perfection... symmetry, curves, gracefulness, cleanliness, and so forth. Beauty is when all the component parts work together to make a wonderful whole that everyone can agree is pleasant on the eye.

Skinny is not beautiful. Fat is not beautiful. Ugly is not beautiful. Supermodels are not beautiful. one per cent of the human race can be described as beautiful, and then it only lasts for a short time. Beautiful is aspirational and fleeting, chasing it with surgery and diets is VANITY!

8/22/2005 12:22:00 am  

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