Body positive ads: the new power of brands

What comes first to your mind when I say lingerie advertising? Maybe some brand names such as Victoria’s Secret? Or maybe good looking models, or even insecurity, body shaming? Well mine is definitely thin models. Because, let be honest, thin models are ruling lingerie brands campaigns and websites. At least were, until recently.

For decades companies focused their advertising around the »ideal«, thin female body and use it as a primary form of the visual message, under the assumption that “thinness sells, whereas fatness does not”. And this not concerns only lingerie brands, but brands with all kinds of products or services. However, the level of thinness in models was usually so unrealistic that only 5% of women in the total population could achieve the type of body size portrayed in advertising. What is even worse is that these unrealistic ideals may lead to lower self-esteem, negative emotions, excessive exercise and even eating disorders among consumers.

That is why the world, people, and especially women, needed a change in advertising. They needed real people with real bodies!  

Perhaps the most famous and maybe even first of all ‘real women’ campaigns was Dove’s Real Women campaign in 2004. They casted non-professional-models with diverse body shapes for their skincare ads, which resulted in boosting products sales by 700 %, in the first year. But more importantly, they sent a message to the advertising world that women were fed up with its narrow beauty standards.


Photo taken from here

After that, more and more brands launched body positive ads. Here are some examples:

  1. Lane Bryant: I’m No Angel

Lingerie campaigns starred plus-size models telling the camera that they’re “no angels” and sending a message that all women are sexy. The ads were a direct dig at the Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ campaign with its very slim ‘Angels’ as models.

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Photo taken from here                                      Photo taken from here


  1. Aerie: #aerieREAL

Aerie is another example that body-positive branding can be good for the bottom line. After launching #AerieReal, the retailer’s sales grew 20 percent in the 2015 fiscal year. In their campaign they used women with different body sizes and they even went for Photoshop-free photos. Two years after that they also introduced a new fit guide where shoppers can see how a particular bra look on models with various body type.

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Photo taken from here                                   Photo taken from here

  1. Sports Illustrated: Ashley Graham 

Even the magazines joined the movement of real beauty and one of the surprises was the ‘Sports Illustrated’ Swimsuit Issue’s first cover with ‘plus-size’ model, Ashley Graham, in 2016.

What is even better is that there is also a study that shows thin models are no more effective than realistically larger models. Sohn’s and Youn’s study reveal that there is very weak empirical evidence to show the persuasive benefits of using unrealistically thin models in advertising. Notably, average-sized models can generate a more positive brand attitude and purchase intention, which explain the success of previously mentioned campaigns.

Despite my wish to conclude this article in positive way, I cannot ignore the concern that keeps popping in my head. That this is only a trend that companies use to increase sale, brand recognition, and will not become the standard, the normality, we all wish for.

What do you think? Could this be a game changer in advertising or just another trend that will slowly go away?

Sohn, S. & Youn, S. (2013). Does She Have to Be Thin? Testing the Effects of Models’ Body Sizes on Advertising Effectiveness. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 21:164–183.


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8 Responses to Body positive ads: the new power of brands

  1. Hi zzorko15. I am afraid to think that this will be just a trend, but some changes were made as you showed, but also if you think about clothes shops, you can find much more brands just for curvy people. I don’t know if you saw the last runway of Dolce & Gabbana during the milano fashion week, but there were not tipical models, but women with different body shapes: some of them were tall, other small or not so thin. You can find some pictures on instagram and their ashtag explains everything: it is #realpeople.

    • zzorko15 says:

      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t see the last runway of Dolce & Gabbana, so thanks for telling me. It’s really great to see that even on runways things are changing!

  2. anze24 says:

    HI zzorko15. As i agree that changes in advertising are good I would also like to express my concerns that this kind of campaigns in my opinion could have also bad influence. Like thin models may cause lower self-esteem, negative emotions, etc., average-sized models could cause reduction in awareness of healthy living. So the best solution would have been somewhere in the middle.

  3. ackemi says:

    Hi! This blog is perfect for all the women out there who are not confident enough to wear lingerie. Yes this kind of advertisement might only be a trend at some point but those women who start seeing these curvy girl on magazines, social medias and other means, I am sure that even if not most of them, but at least some of them gain confidence with their body. Being a curvy woman does not actually hurt. Being a thin woman for joining victoria’s secret models I think might require a lot of motivation and control on our bodies. These girls are required to eat a specific amount of food and they should maintain specific vital statistics which I find very hard. Going on a diet might be good at some point but over doing it is definitely not good. These curvy women are game changers and will eventually make these shy women to come out and be proud of their own bodies in the near future.

  4. meliskirmizi says:

    Hi, this post is very nice to disabuse women. We know not only the lingerie companies but almost all companies especially who sells product for women is choosing thin, tall, baby skin models. We also know that it is not real. I remember the Dove’s advertising and everybody was shock and women was happy and confident again about their body sizes. Because what Dove did was showing affects of their product on “real” people. I am sure their sales also increase that time. I just wonder if company notice that if they use more “normal” body sizes they can achieve more attention and more sales then why they still use their thin, dream-like models still?

  5. Hey!! I think that you approached this taboo subject in a very interesting way. I sadly believe that it is only a temporary campaign because stuff like that comes out every day and brands take what they think will be good for their pockets. I even think they just want to make the competition look as the “bad guys” and them as the “good guys” so that people switch to their. If it really was a permanent trend, all brands would have adopt this by now, however the strongest brands haven´t because they know they will keep selling the way they are now, like Victoria Secret.

  6. mherr96 says:

    Hey! This is a very interesting post. I really hope this situation would change someday and it will not be just a trend that will go away… Women do not need to be ashamed of their bodies but it is the society the one that is causing that problem. I remember once I went shopping to buy some shorts. I checked two different shops and the size was four fingers less in the first shop. I was really shocked…

  7. Pingback: Unrealistic Health & Beauty Standards Created By Advertising – Site Title

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