Archive for November, 2013


Adbusters produced an advertisement featuring Kate Moss and the words “Feed Me” on either side of her head.  In the ad, Moss is extremely skinny with an almost sickly look on her face.  The ad, one could assume, is meant to parody the way advertising frequently presents women – skinny, curveless, and essentially starving.  The photograph of Moss looks like it is from many years ago and it brings to mind the infamous Calvin Klein ads she created in the 90’s.  Calvin Klein still produces similar ads, only replacing Moss is an equally skinny woman.  Adbusters takes the ads produced by popular companies and then uses them against the company itself by drawing consumers’ attention to the problems with consumerism and Americans’ supposed addiction to shopping.

The ad featuring Kate Moss not only draws attention to the way advertising frequently portrays women and encourages eating disorders, whether intentionally or not, but also brings to mind the way ads effect women psychologically.  Instead of capitalizing on the so-called “heroin-chic” trend popular in the 1990’s, Adbusters uses Moss’ appearance, along with the “feed me” term to remind women that normal, everyday women don’t look like that and if they did, they would be extremely eager for a meal.  Regarding Adbusters’ ads, Sommer (2012) notes, “They are discomfiting, especially if you’re a target.”  Perhaps another purpose of the parody ad is to make Calvin Klein rethink their advertising strategy and the way they portray women.  According to the founder of Adbusters himself, “Lasn says the ads are effective. ”I liken it to a sort of judo technique when you’ve got this huge enemy like Calvin Klein that’s telling you certain things about your body, and you use their momentum and throw them onto the mat.””

Overall, it seems fair to assert that the Kate Moss “Feed Me” advertisement parody is attempting to draw consumers’ attention towards the way women are portrayed in the advertising world.  Adbusters uses a pre-existing Calvin Klein ad to their advantage – and CK’s disadvantage – to show that companies shouldn’t glorify the ‘heroin-chic, anorexic’ look of models in their ads.


Along with the invention of Photoshop came an increase in digitally altered advertising images.  Many argue that there should be a ban on using changed images, or at the very least, a disclaimer should be placed on any images that aren’t in their original form, similar to laws already enacted in European countries such as England and France.  While a disclaimer might draw attention to the fact that advertising images aren’t what they seem, it’s not enough to protect consumers or counteract any of the negative effects of such images on the younger generation.  Even without Photoshop or similar software capabilities, the models used in ads are ridiculously skinny.  In many cases, it’s hard to believe that the models actually fit into the clothing that they are supposedly representing.  If companies took more of a ‘real woman’ approach, perhaps both the companies and self-esteem of consumers everywhere would be positively affected. 

Although Photoshop itself is a fairly new phenomenon, it turns out that even the infamous pin-up girl pictures of the 50’s were also altered from their original states.  According to Stampler (2012), “pin-up artists reduced and accentuated to create the perfect pin-up”.  Examples of before-and-after photos can be seen here.  Granted, they’re not as dramatically retouched as pictures today, but the altering of images still took place as far back as the 1950’s when the feminine ideal was more curvy and voluptuous.  Today, most advertising seems to convey that you’re not beautiful unless you’re skinny and essentially curve-free.  According to a recent story on ABC News, the majority of models have the BMIs of people diagnosed with anorexia.  In addition, “Plus-size models have shrunk, too. A decade ago, plus-size models averaged between size 12 and size 18. Today, the majority of plus-size models an agency boards are between size 6 and size 14” (Lovett, 2012).  Many countries are taking legal action to help curb the negative effects underweight models have on consumers, especially youths.  For example, Israel passed a law in 2012 that restricts the use of models with a body mass index under 18.5.  Not only does the law apply to advertising created within the country, but also anything that runs in Israel, regardless of where it was created (Ives, 2012).  Other laws are in place in England, France, and more recently, the United States, which ban Photoshopped images in cosmetic ads. 

Photoshopping can go the other way, too.  Earlier this year, a state agency called First 5 California came up with new advertising for a campaign against childhood obesity.  Instead of using Photoshop to make things appear thinner, as is commonplace in advertising, they made healthy children appear obese for the purpose of their campaign (Stampler, 2013).  Apparently, this isn’t as outrageous as it may sound, as it’s not the first time state campaigns aim their sights on childhood obesity in a scandalous manner.  According to Stampler (2013), “State-run health campaigns often target obese children — and are often harshly criticized for “fat shaming” kids who are already victimized for their weight”.  Because of the wide-range of uses that Photoshop has, simply settling for a disclaimer or ban on the software is not enough to combat self-esteem issues from idealized imagery.

Rather than subjecting consumers to idealized imagery, companies should consider using more realistic images in their advertising.  It can be argued that this is one of the only effective ways to battle the self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and other negative effects associated with such imagery.  A good example of a company who has accomplished positive things with their advertising is Dove.  The company has grown from $200 million in the 1990’s to around $4 billion today (Aaker, 2013), largely in part to its “Campaign for Real Beauty,” which debuted in 2004.  According to Aaker (2013), “The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty set out to make women aware that they have real beauty that is not based on the common standard of a young, model-thin body with excessive makeup. The goal was to make a fundamental change in the way that women are perceived and in the way they view themselves”.  In addition to using realistic, everyday models for their advertising images, Dove has created its own self-esteem and leadership programming in collaboration with other companies, such as the Girl Scouts of America (Aaker, 2013).  Dove not only benefits by providing a positive experience for consumers, but also financially.  According to Aaker (2013), “It provides a higher purpose to the brand and a shared interest with customers.  The impact for some of Dove’s efforts has been estimated to be 30 times their expenditure”.  Other companies might want to use Dove’s advertising campaigns to build their brands, because their method both promotes their product and the brand itself, as well as the well-being of consumers.

Overall, merely putting a disclaimer on advertising to alert consumers of its altered state is not enough to protect consumers from self-esteem issues and other negative effects.  Instead, companies should use more realistic models when creating their ad campaigns.  This has been proven to be effective – not only benefitting companies financially, but by drawing consumers to their brands by having a common interest.  Perhaps if more companies followed Dove’s lead, the advertising world, as well as its consumer population, would be a better (and happier) place.


Aaker, D. (2013, May 1). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Ives, N. (2012, March 20). Israel’s ‘photoshop law’ bans underweight models. Ad Age, Retrieved from

Lovett, E. (2012, January 12). Most models meet criteria for anorexia, size 6 is plus size: Magazine. Retrieved from

Stampler, L. (2012, May 09). These incredible pictures show how pin-up girls were ‘photoshopped’ in the 1950’s. Business Insider, Retrieved from

Stampler, L. (2013, June 06). Why the state of California is photoshopping kids to look obese.  Business Insider, Retrieved from

Product placement has been around for many years, but has come under fire relatively recently for being a potentially deceptive form of advertising.  Many groups, including Consumer Alert, have filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission to deter this practice by providing disclaimers of such deals in television shows and movies.  This brings us to the question of the level of deception involved in product placement, particularly within movies and television shows.  Yes, technically the product is being advertised by simply being shown prominently on the screen, but should media companies be forced to disclose placement deals to consumers?  Based on the Federal Trade Commission’s definition of deception, the answer is no, they should not.  Not only would this frustrate and potentially harm the movie industry, it also would likely irritate movie-goers and television-watchers alike, making it a no-win situation for anyone (except maybe Consumer Alert).

According to de Gregorio & Sung (2010), the first use of product placement happened in 1890 when Unilever purposely placed their product into a movie.  Since that very first product placement, the practice has become very close to a billion dollar industry (p. 83).  As the Rolling Stone notes, “Product placement in Hollywood dates back to the silent film era. But it wasn’t until E.T. craved those colorful little candies that brand marketing really took off. Now, 31 years later, it’s so pervasive we hardly even notice it – a Pepsi can here, an iPhone there. We use both in real life, so why shouldn’t they appear on the big screen?” (Kroll, 2013)  There have been several studies performed to determine the effect of such deals on consumers, and consumer perception towards the use of products in movies for advertising purposes has generally been positive.  One such study discovered that the positive perception is also tied to the relation of products to the plot of the show or movie (Russell & Stern, 2006).  Business companies, along with television and movie studios, can leverage product placement by finding the right fit to insert a product that corresponds with the plot.  This not only enhances the movie itself – people do use products in everyday life after all – but it also benefits the product’s company by bringing awareness to more consumers without the threat of their advertisement being avoided thanks to new technologies such as the DVR phenomenon. 

While some product placement deals blatantly exist (Devil Wears Prada, anyone?), others are more subtle.  Take, for example, the use of Tiffany & Co. jewelry in the recent Baz Lurhmann film, The Great Gatsby.  The jewelry company designed exclusive pieces to be featured in the film – which they prominently were – but the average movie-goer would not be aware that they are, in fact, that specific brand without further research.  Similarly, Giorgio Armani used its home collection to style scenes in the movie Paranoia, but again, the typical consumer might not know exactly who the furnishings were provided by without purposefully looking it up on the Internet.              According to an article in Luxury Daily, “Brands are likely to benefit more from product placement that can illustrate a believable lifestyle and reach more consumers than a branded social video” (King, 2013).  Google benefited from a brand integration arrangement with the movie The Internship.  According to Kroll (2013), “Summer 2013 welcomed the latest entry into the Most Egregious Hall of Fame, as Google basically got its own movie. In it, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play 40-something interns at the Internet behemoth. While Google didn’t fund the film, the company did allow it to be shot on its campus and helped build an exact replica of its headquarters. Real employees were used as extras, and executives worked closely with director Shawn Levy to ensure all details were accurate. In the end, everything from Google search to Google goods (like futuristic glasses) are prominently featured. Key words: free advertising”. 

By simply placing a product within a scene of a movie or television show, it can be argued that the act of product placement does not fall under the Federal Trade Commission’s definition of deceptive practices.  The definition is as follows:

“Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer.  Practices that have been found misleading or deceptive in specific cases include false oral or written representations, misleading price claims, sales of hazardous or systematically defective products or services without adequate disclosures, failure to disclose information regarding pyramid sales, use of bait and switch techniques, failure to perform promised services, and failure to meet warranty obligations” (Federal Trade Commission). 

There are generally no claims made about a product when it is featured in a movie.  The movies are fictional, but they also are representing a real-life situation.  The characters have to have something to eat or drink, wear, or drive, so of course real brands are going to be used.  Why not benefit both the movie production and the brand that is being integrated with a product placement deal?  Consumers aren’t stupid; they’re likely going to know that when a movie is based at Google and uses Google products and logos, there is some kind of deal happening behind the scenes.  If the product placed in the movie is there for viewing purposes, with no claims about its performance, companies should not be required to disclose the product placement deals because no governmental policies are being broken by either party.

Because the majority of product placement deals do not violate the Federal Trade Commission’s Deception Policy Statement, media companies should not be required to disclose deals to consumers.  Without an actual claim being made about the product, there really is nothing wrong with movies and television shows exposing consumers to different brands.  Consumers can then make their own decisions regarding what to do with the information received.