One big issue with retouching models in advertising is that it creates a false truth. This false truth is false adverting. They are selling a product based on an unachievable result. When talking about the impact retouching has on the industry and the public, during a speech on why retouching should be banned, MP Jo Swinson stated “Big money” was being made from presenting images of “flawless women” with bigger breasts, whiter teeth and perfect skin. “It’s dishonest, it’s harmful and it has got to change,”1
We, as consumers no longer know when an image is showing us a true representation, or an idealist truth the advertising companies want us to believe in. This is ethically wrong and irresponsible. Some companies have gone so far with this retouching and creating an unachievable result, that their adverts have been bad. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has felt that they are misleading customers to such a degree the adverts are no longer allowed to be used to advertise the product.
One instance of this is the Lancôme advert featuring Julia Roberts. The results that are shown as ‘from the make up’ are not
actually possible. She has clearly been retouched. A lot. Looking at the before and after images you can see just how much the image has been altered. It is the degree of retouching that sells the ‘perfect’ face/look to the consumers. They long to look like the model.
It is this ideal of looking perfect that can lead to people taking drastic measures to look that way. It is fair to say the retouched models on adverts have negative affects on consumers young and old, who buy into the ideal. They feel they don’t have the perfect skin, shiny eyes or perfect figure, like the models. Most of these elements are achieved are through retouching and not an actually existing trait on a real person. The fact is not even the model look like the model on an advert. Former Cosmopolitan editor Leah Hardy stated, “Thanks to retouching, our readers never saw the horrible, hungry downside of skinny. The models’ skeletal bodies, dull, thinning hair, spots and dark circles under their eyes were magicked away by technology … A vision of perfection that simply didn’t exist.”2
Whilst discussing the negative impact of retouching on women, MP Jo Swindon argued
“A survey for one magazine found that one third worry about the way they look “every waking minute of their day. Cosmetic surgery rates are rising dramatically as are the numbers suffering from eating disorders. We need to bring some honesty into advertising.”3
This alone shows the negative impact of retouching on Consumers. People trying to achieve the ‘model thin’ look are not aware of the risks. They see an incredibly skinny model looking healthy, and feel that that look is actually achievable and a positive thing.
The question we need to be asking is, is this level of retouching necessary? And if so should we be clearly told and warned that it is happening?
Ettie Spencer, a delegate from East Lothian who has worked both in the mental health field and as a university lecturer teaching young people, said: “What is wrong with requiring advertisers to state that images have been manipulated in the same way that cigarette packet must carry a health warning?”4
People don’t see the “backstage” of digital era. They assume that what they see is what they get, and they are willing to pay the price to look like one of those shinny magazine models. Yes, why wouldn’t we do everything to look as glamorous as they do? After all, they have everything “we” desire.
How far are we willing to go lying to ourselves?