The Superpower of Supermodels

We see them every day. I have pictures of them cut out on my “inspiration fitness board” at home. They’re on our Pinterest pages. Perfect women surround us. We cannot escape the realm of the women with the thin yet toned and tanned body, with her big breasts, thick waist, clear complexion, and shiny hair. Like most of my fellow females, I do not see freckle, mole, or stretch mark free skin when I look in my own mirror. Despite what popular advertising has told me about what my body should look like, I can’t help but wonder what is so wrong with natural beauty.   

Aside from the obvious fact that women are showcased in almost all advertisements for print and tv, it is the way in which women are portrayed should be the main cause for concern. As I see it, the real problem with the women showcased in the advertisements and magazine is that their bodies are not real. The proof image, the picture that comes straight out of the camera, is never the image displayed to the public. Companies hire self-crowned “Photoshop experts” to digitally enhance, cover, tighten, and slim every single day.

This overexposure to the “perfect girl” has a dire effect on the girls and the women of our generation. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 17% of high school girls have gone at least 24 hours without eating in order to lose weight or keep from gaining weight. That number has increased 3% since 2009, and I don’t predict it declining any time soon. With the increased number of fashion magazines, reality TV shows, and nearly unlimited celebrity access, the ideal womens body is becoming an almost everyday sight.

The evidence linking exposure to images of impossibly ideal bodies to risk  factors for poor health is growing. A group of college-age women in  one experiment were exposed to “ideally thin”  images of women, while a control group was exposed to normal images. The study  found that women in the ideally thin group were less satisfied with their  bodies, had lower self-esteem, and more eating disorder symptoms than the  control group.

Agencies around the world are taking action to prevent this behavior. For instance, last summer the American Medical Association created a policy that encourages advertisers from using  altered photographs that “promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body  image” and have been found to be linked to eating disorders and other adverse  health outcomes. One AMA board member cited a particular photo that was altered  so that a model’s head appeared wider than her waist.  Across the Atlantic,  authorities in France and the United Kingdom have  considered requiring computer-altered images to be  labeled as such.

With such strides being made across the pond, I had high hopes in my research that America would be doing the same. Unfortunately, my search turned up nothing about American laws, yet a large amount of articles about a new Israeli law filled my search engine. “The Photoshop Law” went into effect on Jan. 1 2013 to prevent fashion models from losing weight to the detriment of their health and the wellbeing of others inclined to follow in their footsteps. It is also called the “Photoshop law” because it demands that computer-generated changes to make models appear thinner be noted along with the images. Although the law targets adults in general, it is clearly aimed at female models. Eating disorders mostly affect young women

Women were created to be strong, nurturing, fierce, compassionate creatures, yet somehow all the focus has been taken off that natural essence and shoved into the tiny unreachable box of perfection. I don’t predict the ideology of “sex sells” to deteriorate in the advertising industry. My only hope is that we somehow shift our views of the womans body from perfection into a state of fierceness in their every day form. Lets face it, majority of men aren’t married to Kate Upton, so why should the women in advertising have to look like her?


-Crystan Weaver

What is Sex Really Selling?

Everywhere you turn, you see it — advertisements that feature models in seductive poses or racy images that entice customers to purchase the product. Advertisers are increasingly utilizing the theory that “sex sells” in order to promote their products. Why? Because it works.

 The link between sex and advertising has been traced back all the way to the beginning of advertising in the 19th century. One of the earliest known advertisements that used sex to sell were trading cards tobacco companies placed into their cigarettes packages. These collectible cards featured women wearing scandalous outfits (for their time) with excessive skin exposure, encouraging men to smoke a specific brand of cigarettes.

 However, the use of erotic images in advertising didn’t stop there. Later in the 19th century, Woodbury’s Facial Soap released an advertisement suggesting intimacy between a man and women. With the tag line, “A Skin You Love to Touch,” the man faces the female model while embracing her, clearly showing the mans desire. It is apparent that the continued use of erotic advertising over the years has stuck, simply because it works.

The use of sex in advertising has been a long-standing tradition in the history of advertising and continues to increase in today’s society. Researchers conducted a study looking at 3,232 full-page advertisements in popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Time, Newsweek and Playboy, published in three different decades –1983, 1993, and 2003. In 1983, 15% of advertisements used sex to promote their products and increased to 27% in 2003.

Sex appeal could arguably be the leading technique that advertising agencies use in America to attract certain audiences. So it comes to no surprise that Hardees would use attractive females eating a large, oh-so-juicy hamburger in slow motion. So the question being asked is, “Is it ethical for the new Hardees advertisements to set a new standard for sexualizing food by using a sexy woman making love to a burger?”. Objectifying women in advertising is very prominent for the targeting to male audiences. The message Hardees would appear to be establishing is, “Hey, boys, you have next to no chance of ever having sex with a woman who looks like Kate Upton unless you save your money and pay for it. But you can satisfy your hunger with one of these salacious sandwiches she has blessed”.


The burger giant, Carl’s Jr. hired socialite and reality TV star Paris Hilton to star in several commercials and print ads for its Spicy BBQ burger. The advertisements utilizes sex appeal with the famous male anatomy logo “She’ll tell you size doesn’t matter. She’s lying”. The intention of this ad was targeted mainly for men to relate that size really does matter, and to women that fit girls can still indulge a greasy cheeseburgers. But the hair flipping, sliding around on a wet car minute long video was too over sexualized and banned from airing during the Super bowl. Carl’s Jr. did not consider ethical approaches or consider the different audiences that would see this ad as morally wrong, like the Parents Television Council. mqdefault[10]Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder responded to this threat with, “This isn’t Janet Jackson — there is no nipple in this. There is no nudity, there is no sex acts — it’s a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car.” But it’s not just the act of having a woman half-naked in a commercial, it is mostly about the misleading message in the commercial. But, as always, there are people who are going to be offended by this kind of publicity by stating that they are portraying women as sexual objects. What’s your opinion on this?

Food companies weren’t the only ones using sex as a selling point. Last Fall, Adidas also joined the sex appeal craze. They created a controversial advertisement that essentially showed a woman stripping her clothes purely because she was a fan of his Adidas shoes. The ad is being directed toward younger men who thrive to appear attractive through their style. However, it is questionable whether it is actually selling the shoes, or the idea that a woman is easily convinced to undress for a reason such as one’s appearance. Adidas has continuously presented their brand as one that stands for teamwork and the value of sports. They slightly re-branded themselves in this advertisement as a company that also cares about the style Adidas shoes can bring into your social life. A little re-branding is necessary every now and then to keep a product’s image fresh, however an ad such as this one also represents a gender stereotype that women will strip their clothes as soon as they see a pair of stylish clothes. There is a very thin line between proper sex appeal and the use of offensive gender stereotypes, and it is difficult to tell if Adidas actually crossed this line.

In today’s culture, audiences are bombarded with advertisements left and right. In order to distinguish themselves from the crowd, some advertisements are using sex appeal to grab the attention of consumers. Is it ethical to use sex appeal as a way to persuade consumers? Have advertisements gone too far?

-Briana McWhirter, Emily Foulke, Hannah Turner

Igniting Your Inner Marlboro Man


On January 10, Eric Lawson, an actor who played the “Marlboro Man” in print and outdoor advertising for the cigarette brand from 1978 to 1981, died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD—a disease frequently caused by smoking. Lawson was 72.

Lawson isn’t the first Marlboro Man to die from a smoking-related disease. At least three other men who acted in the iconic campaign died due to causes linked to smoking cigarettes. David Millar died from emphysema in 1987, Wayne McLaren from lung cancer in 1992, and David McLean from lung cancer in 1995. McLean’s widow sued Philip Morris in 1996, claiming McLean had to smoke up to five packs of cigarettes per TV commercial filming. TV commercials for cigarettes were banned in 1971.

The rugged, masculine Marlboro Man campaign was introduced in 1955 to market Marlboro to men, because at the time, filter cigarettes were regarded as feminine. The campaign ended in 1999, when the use of humans and cartoons (see Joe Camel) were banned as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement between tobacco companies and the state attorneys general. Today, cigarette advertising is primarily in magazines and retailers.

Now, the very product the Marlboro Man advertised is ultimately taking away the actors’ lives. After he hung up his hat for Marlboro, Eric Lawson was an anti-smoking advocate, appearing in a public service announcement and a segment on Entertainment Tonight about the negative effects of smoking.


Looking back at the cigarette ads of yesteryear, they definitely weren’t ethical, but they sold a lot of cigarettes. The Lucky Strike ad from 1930 claims a pack of Luckies protects against obesity. Today, we are more educated and know the real harm cigarettes cause. The percentage of adult smokers in the U.S. has dropped from 43 percent in 1964 to 18 percent today. (

With the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, brands such as Blu are taking a “tough and masculine” approach. Does this ad remind you of something?


Advertising for e-cigarettes does not fall under the same regulations as tobacco advertising because the product does not contain tobacco. However, e-cigs have not been proven safer than traditional cigarettes. Did Blu make an ethical choice by channeling Marlboro’s now-infamous campaign that made Marlboro the most popular cigarette brand in the country? Blu is a young brand that is advertising in a fashion similar to Marlboro did when it was new. If e-cigs are found to be not at all safer than tobacco cigarettes, should they be subject to the same regulations? What will it take to regulate e-cigarette advertising? These are questions to ask about the ethical implications of cigarette advertising today.

-Nathan Evers

No Pounds, No Ethics

False advertising is a serious criminal offence that often times results in the destruction of those responsible; not destruction such as obliteration into tiny fragments, more so their undoing, but that doesn’t seem to quite capture the gravity of its effects. This is especially true in the case of weight loss products; weight loss in of itself can be difficult to achieve and a sensitive issue for many Americans. Now imagine that frustration coupled with the fact that you’ve now bought a product that doesn’t do what it said it would when you bought it. Legally False Advertising is best defined as

“Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities” (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)).

Now False Advertising is illegal for obvious reasons, what may not be so obvious however is where the line is drawn. Is it possible that in order to avoid legality issues companies will create vaguer more defensible advertisements.

Many commercials believe in the use of small print to provide information to prospects and consumers. Usually, the information presented in the small print is the facts that could ruin potential relationships between businesses and customers. The founder and editor of says that “Companies like to put the happiest face on their claims, but they know if they really told the truth in the big print people would be less interested in the offer.” SENSA, a weight loss supplement company, uses what some call the “mouse-print” in the commercial below.


This commercial not only uses small print to provide the important, need-to-know, facts about their product, but they also make those facts disappear after a second of being seen. SENSA includes minimal health risks in the fine print, and also warns its commercial viewers that the FDA has not evaluated the statements made. Is it ethical to present misleading information, false information, or important information in small print for consumers to miss before purchasing a product? The Federal Trade Commission monitors false advertisements, but small print is still in effect in many commercial and print ads!

Here we see that the FTC has recently charged several weight-loss companies with deceptive advertising. Finally, companies facing consequences for their false claims or deceptive handling fees. It turns out that SENSA’s claim for losing 30 pounds in 6 months with no exercise whatsoever had no scientific backing. Later on down the page we see that HCG Diet Direct was advertising products that were “unproven to help with weight loss and potentially dangerous even when taken as directed,” according to acting director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, yet HCG claims that the drops are approved by the FDA. This of course was not the truth.

These are products that hundreds of thousands of people are putting in their bodies every day. It’s unreal to think about. What is very real however, is the fines these companies are facing. The two mentioned above rack up to almost $30 million alone. Is this a just punishment, or is it to much? Perhaps it isn’t harsh enough?

-Austin Johnson, Jade Lester, Tyler Thomas

You can’t have your Coke and drink it too

It’s one of the pillars of successful marketing, target your audience. Individualizing ads to particulars groups or regions of consumers ensure that messages have the most impact. But what happens when a company features a controversial scene in a spot, then removes it for some audiences and not others? Good marketing move or failure to take a stance?

In its newest global campaign, “Reasons to Believe” Coca-Cola set out to inspire consumers that no matter what happens in life, it’s those small happy moments that make life worth living.

Check out the commercial below.

In most European countries the ad contains a scene of two gay men holding hands in front of their wedding party. However, in the Irish version (the video below) the scene has been replaced to feature a bride and groom.

The Irish LGBT publication, EILE Magazine, brought attention to the issue, calling the removal an “inexplicable move”. In response to the criticism, Coca-Cola said that the advertisement had been tailored to individual markets so that the ad resonates with the people in each country where it is shown. The company defends the decisions saying that grooms were excluded from the Irish version because gay marriage is not legal in the country. EILE Magazine claims the Coca-Cola reasoning moot. The footage of the two grooms is known to be a video clip from a same-sex union ceremony in Australia – equivalent to a civil partnership in Ireland. Yet gay marriage is also illegal in Australia, but shown there. EILE claims the spot should have been suitable for Ireland as well.

Coca-Cola has unequivocally made public their supporting stance on same sex marriage. Since 2006, the Human Rights Campaign continues to award Coca-Cola with a 100 percent ranking of their company polices and practices regarding LGBT. The Coca-Cola Company notes on their website, “To achieve a perfect score, companies must have fully inclusive equal employment opportunity policies, provide equal employment benefits, demonstrate their commitment to equality publicly and exercise responsible citizenship”

Many are saying that Coca-Cola’s recent actions were hypocritical. Coca-Cola claims to support gay marriage, but their choice to remove a gay marriage scene from a commercial in Ireland, in which law does not prohibit such imagery, is misleading of the company’s values. Similarly, another beverage icon, Starbucks, has also gained attention for their hypocritical actions.

Bryant Simon discusses the company Starbucks in his book Everything But the Coffee. Through his research he comes to discover that Starbucks isn’t delivering what they are promising in their brand – good coffee with little environmental impact. Claiming to buy fair-trade coffee from Rwanda and Nicaragua farmers, Starbucks was actually buying from bigger farmers and only buying 5-6 percent of fair-trade out of all the total coffee purchases.

Much like Starbucks claiming to be environmentally friendly yet not taking the necessary steps in order to be green, Coca-Cola’s actions were just as misleading; claiming to support gay marriage yet removing a scene from one version of a commercial for the sole purpose of trying to please everyone.

As future and current brand ambassadors we have to remember that every decision we make, including company policy decisions, become an integral part of brand, and when decisions are made that contradicts that it hurts the brand.

On the other side of things, as consumers (and as Simon states in his book) we have to remember pursuing “solutions to highly complex social problems through buying and buying alone” doesn’t fix the problem or change the ideology. We have to stop relying and believing that buying certain brands is going to change a social issue.

So, does Coke’s decision to take out the gay marriage scene hurt its brand identity? Should companies take stances on social issues? What practices do you follow to make sure this brand conflict doesn’t occur in your company or with your clients?

- Savannah Valade, Caroline Robinson, Elizabeth Harrington

New Season, New Drama

For 7.8 million people, winter wasn’t too cold and lonely.  Their break was filled with anticipation and whispers about Juan Pablo Galavis, the new bachelor on ABC’s hit show The Bachelor.  As the first Latino to be featured on the show, his good looks and Spanish accent had women across the country swooning.  Now, almost three weeks later, Juan Pablo is still causing a stir – but for very different reasons.

In an interview this past week, Juan Pablo gave a very controversial answer to whether he thought The Bachelor should make a gay or bisexual version of the show.

“I respect [gay people], but I don’t think it is a good example for kids to watch that,” he said.  “There’s this thing about gay people — it seems to be, I don’t know if I’m mistaken or not — I have a lot of friends like that, but they’re more pervert in a sense.”

Bachelor Nation recoiled at Galavis’ less-than-sexy response.  Some Juan Pablo fans rushed to his defense, but members of the gay community were more outspoken.  One Facebook user accused Galavis of knowing exactly what he was saying, as “pervertido” is the Spanish word for pervert.

Even Bachelor producers felt the need to do some public relations acrobatics.  Producers tried to shift any blame away from the show and entirely onto Galavis, saying “Juan Pablo’s comments were careless, thoughtless and insensitive, and in no way reflect the views of the network, the show’s producers or studio.”

juan pablo

Juan Pablo later apologized through Facebook. He insisted that throughout the interview, he had nothing but respect for gay people and their families.  He did not mean to use the word pervert, but misspoke because of his limited English vocabulary.  He claimed to have only meant that gay people are more affectionate and intense, which might not be viewed positively by some of the TV audience.

Juan Pablo probably meant to use apologia, a rhetoric in communication that is used in defense for one’s actions or opinions.  However, to many members of the gay community, it was perceived as a non-apology apology – something quite the opposite.  A term that first appeared in the ’70s, a non-apology is when you apologize – but only if you have to.  Many celebrities or companies involved in a scandal will attempt to enact crisis communication by “apologizing” for offending anyone, rather than for their actions.   To the public eye, Juan Pablo’s apology had non-apologetic written all over it.  Pulling the “I-don’t-speak-English-so-good” card as one CNN reporter so delicately put it, is one such red flag.

Was Juan Pablo sincere in his apology? Or was he just trying to cover up some ill-used “palabras”?

- Christine Schulze

“How REAL Will American Idol Get This Season?”

It’s that time of year again! All our favorite shows are returning, after a seemingly long-awaited hiatus. The longest running singing competition, American Idol, has returned for its thirteenth season. But this season, Idol has been forced to change things up. The show is taking on a fresh, new approach to increase the amount of viewers by revamping their marketing schemes.

In previous seasons, the show directed promotions towards the judges, featured cities, and upcoming drama. The initial aspirations of the show to seek out raw talent has slipped within the past seasons and in return, turned away viewers. At the shows peak, American Idol attracted 30.4 million viewers in season eight. Since then, viewer ratings have only decreased and reached an all time low with 14.3 million viewers for season twelve. As a result, Fox has decided to rebrand the show by bringing in a new team of producers, less drama-filled judges, and a more heartwarming advertising campaign.

Within the past seasons, focuses of promoting the show featured drama among the judging panel rather than the actual talent of the contestants. Producers recently have realized the show has drifted away from the heart and original purpose of the show–discovering real people with real talent around the country. In an effort to rebrand their image, season thirteen marketers began focusing on the background stories of the contestants in hopes to return Idol to its initial purpose.

American Idol

One component of the new advertising campaign features eight contestants in their hometowns sharing their personal motivations as to why they sing. Producers felt this new type of advertisement would help viewers identify with the stories and be able to relate to the contestants. Viewers are invited to participate in the hopeful journey of the “average Joe’s” transformation into a superstar.

American Idol’s new video promotion of the upcoming season also focuses on introducing new contestants and excluding any drama or glamour of the judges (hallelujah). In addition to highlighting real contestants, marketers have incorporated social media by producing a new tag line for the show, #ThisIsReal, to encourage audience conversations on Twitter. Producers hope that the incorporation of social media marketing will increase the show’s ratings and reputation. The advertising of real people and their real aspirations are designed to appeal to a variety of audiences on social media platforms, especially the younger demographics.

By incorporating a variety of platforms such as television, print and social media, American Idol hopes to attract a wide array of audiences through this new and improved IMC campaign. Do you think this new campaign will be effective in increasing and engaging audiences? Or will American Idol continue its downward spiral?

-Briana McWhirter, Emily Foulke, Hannah Turner