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The Real Skinny On The Skinny

A couple of weeks ago AdAge reported on a study conducted by business professors at Villanova University and the College of New Jersey – inspired by Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty.” While an official written report is still in the works, the study initially revealed that ads featuring super-skinny models made women feel suddenly worse about themselves, but better about the brands featured. The conclusion perhaps being that such ads cause women to despise their own bodies, and then subconsciously try to remedy the feeling with shopping therapy. “If I can’t have a body like that, I could at least have a bag like that.”
A sample of 194 college students ages18-24 expressed more negative feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition after seeing thin models than before. The so-called high self-monitoring women, or those more concerned about what others think of their appearance, were the most negatively affected by seeing the thin models in the study. And, apparently, when the focus group was complete, researchers offered Oreo packs to the women as thanks for their participation. Women who had just seen skinny models were four times more likely to refuse the cookies than women who hadn’t, and 42% more likely to opt for reduced-fat versions if they did indulge.

Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova acknowledged the findings create something of a dilemma for marketers, who might have a positive effect on young women’s self-esteems by showing more typical women in ads, but suffer in the marketplace as a result.

The Marketers Have Spoken

Shortly after the story ran on AdAge.com, they conducted a survey of their online users—mainly marketers.

Be a Part of the News:


BACKGROUND: A study by university professors, inspired by Dove’s “Campaign
for Real Beauty,” shows that ads featuring thin models made women feel worse
about themselves but better about the brands featured. Ultra-thin runway
models have already been banned from some events in Europe.

THIS WEEK’S POLL QUESTION: Should U.S. marketers consider banning the use of
super-skinny models in ad campaigns?

The Results?
63% said “Yes”
37% said “No”


Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

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