What Can Industry Do To Stop The <em>Onslaught</em>?

Campaign for Real Beauty should extend beyond the Dove brand and serve as a rallying cry for a change industry wide in fashion and beauty advertising.
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Dove is back with its latest "Campaign for Real Beauty" film Onslaught and a new press release about a new initiative attempting to address the fallout of all this beauty advertising to women and girls. From their release:

Girls are being besieged with all types of media in nearly every corner of their lives:

- The average person sees between 400 and 600 advertisements per day - equivalent to more than one message for every waking minute.

- The average US girl has the opportunity to see an estimated 77,546 commercials by the time she is 12 years old.

This growing phenomenon is having a direct impact on girls' self-image and even causing some to engage in destructive behavior. The Dove Self-Esteem Fund/Seventeen Body Image Survey also revealed:

- 93 percent of girls and young women report feeling anxiety or stress about some aspect of their looks when getting ready in the morning

- This could explain why more than 70 percent of girls and young women avoid activities when they feel bad about their looks including giving their opinion, attending school and even going to the doctor.

- 76 percent of girls and young women admit to partaking in unhealthy activities when they feel badly about their bodies

- 58 percent of girls describe themselves in negative terms, including words like "disgusting" and "ugly," when feeling badly about themselves.

- Nearly four out of 10 engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, such as anorexia or bulimia.

- More than one out of 10 girls has used cutting or self-inflicted injury as a coping mechanism.

The solution?

The Dove Self-Esteem Fund is partnering with Step Up Women's Network, a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls, to help girls recognize their own unique beauty. Together, they will conduct self-esteem building workshops giving girls a reality check to distinguish what is real versus Hollywood magic and hopefully inspiring girls to think about their beauty role models in a new way.

Jessica Weiner is leading the workshops -- don't get me wrong, I am a fan of her work. It just feels weird to me to create an ad as provocative as "Onslaught" and share such powerful research and not focus on the root of the problem, i.e. the ads themselves, and the teen magazine industry that is dependent on these advertisers for their existence. I know lots of very enlightened teen mag editors that would whole heartedly embrace Dove's message but then have to go back to their "books" and run ads that play a role in creating those harrowing stats Dove (and Seventeen!) highlights in its press release. If we really want this to change, we need to place just as much emphasis on getting advertisers, especially those who advertise in teen mags, to follow Dove's lead, not just on rebuilding self esteem in girls.

Hearst just sent me a press release full of their own research attempting to justify why the print versions of their teen magazines should still exist. The data points are obviously directed at their advertisers (who have been leaving print for online, leading to the closure of lots of titles in the past two years):

- 80% made a purchase as a result of seeing an ad in Seventeen or CosmoGIRL! in the last 12 months; only 47% had as a result of seeing an ad online.

- 63% trust the ads they see in teen magazines, and 68% feel that the ads are "targeted to me."

All the more reason the Campaign for Real Beauty should extend beyond the Dove brand and serve as a rallying cry for a change industry wide in fashion and beauty advertising, especially in teen magazines and during teen programming on television (it should really extend to all women, but since we're focusing on girls here, we can start with the media and marketing created just for them). If the food industry can self regulate to benefit societal good (and avoid government regulation) so can the fashion and beauty industries in response to real consumer outcry and concern. I just worry about whether there is enough real consumer outcry or concern....

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