Are plus-size models better than the airbrushed, unrealistically skinny models? According to the latest research, no.
Our delightful world of advertising has the opportunity to discuss if advertising is forcing men and women to starve themselves in order to fit the image that society is portraying.
Wrong. The latest research being published in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing is suggesting that the use of plus-size models in advertising has encouraged consumers to not care about their body image, making more consumers overweight.
So, if the super-skinny models are encouraging people to lose weight, the plus-size models make it okay to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle.
So what is a marketer to do? In terms of public health, it is better to have consumers on the skinny end than the large end, but in terms of public approval, letting consumers do what they want versus what they should do is easier to accept.
This debate goes hand-in-hand with our previous debate about whether advertising should look out for the public good or solely for the good of the business.
This upcoming report makes the conversation direr.
The public outcry over skinny supermodels has been much louder than the outcry of obese people due to plus-size models. Is there a prejudice of skinny models over plus-size, or is the consuming public just unsure of what they want?
We think that there is a mix.
While we do agree with the report that plus-size models could in fact lower public scrutiny about taking care of one’s body, we do find it necessary to educate the consumer on how they should actually look like and what foods they should eat.
While the rest of the States would think that the report is off-putting and wrong, we applaud the authors' efforts to show how catering to the public demand's may not work or turn out as expected. In fact, turning into a negative point of behavior would turn poorly for those against a plus-size model.
Well, if skinny models are portraying a bad self-image, and plus-size models throw consumers to the other side of the spectrum, what should AdLand do? Deny the extremes?
Is that healthy? Well, obviously not.
Like eating consumption, buying consumption should be done in moderation. Like the "holiday-til you-drop" mentality, eating during the holidays can withstand some encouragement to do what is comfortable for you to do.
What do you think? Should this report cause mass demonstrations? Should plus-size modeling take a step back?
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.