Advertisers are starting to step out of the self-imposed pigeonholes that they forged out of the perfect limbs, hair, abs, skins and glowing teeth of models.
The recent efforts of Dove, Pantene and various others illustrate that advertisers recognise that people are turning away from the photo-shopped images that litter the internet in favour of something that feels more real.
And Getty Images believes that this realness does not lie in a cardboard cut-out that’s based on a fabricated notion of what constitutes beauty; but rather, in the elements that come together to make every person unique.
In an effort to provide images that resonate more strongly with an increasingly diversified market, Getty Images has launched Curve Visual Trends, a series of insights that takes note of how advertisers are stepping away from set moulds to celebrate people irrespective of their ethnicity, body type, age, sexual orientation or gender.
Representations of women
The first chapter in the collection is called 'Female rising' and explains women are empowering themselves by rejecting the trends of objectification and fetishisation that have for so long typified promotional imagery.
“Big brands are starting to play catch-up, now that they know Dove’s thriving ‘Real Beauty’ campaign isn’t just a flash in the pan, but rather a flashpoint that heralds a new age of body-positivity and acceptance,” says the Getty Images website.
And Pam Grossman, the company’s senior creative planning manager, notes that this trend is also changing the traditional role played by fathers in advertising.
“When I track big brands at the top, like Johnson and Johnson, a traditional mommy brand, that has an advertisement that opens with dad kissing a baby, it shows how far we’ve come,” she says during a webinar on the visual representation of women in advertising.
Getty's article then goes even further to applaud brands that are breaking down gender stereotypes for children.
"Today’s girl is just as likely to dress up as a comic book character as she is a princess – and sometimes she even combines the two. And it’s becoming more acceptable for little boys to play with so-called “feminine” toys, thanks the newly released black and silver Easy-Bake Oven and Harrod’s redesigned toy section that groups playthings by category, not gender."
From there, the observation shifts to the ‘Coming out of brands’ chapter, which is dedicated to the depiction of same-sex relationships in ads. And with the recent legalisation of same-sex marriages, New Zealand advertisers will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on this area of the market.
Abroad, various ad agencies have become increasingly willing to use depictions of same-sex relationships, with both Expedia and Lucky Charms Cereal using intelligent ads to target the LGBT market.
After the release of the tear-jerking Expedia advert, Sarah Gavin, director for public relations and social media at Seattle branch of the travel site, told the New York Times that “ [Expedia] wanted to get back to the idea that travel is really personal, and equality is a core part of who we are.”
In New Zealand a significant number of brands voiced their support for the Marriage Equality Bill, thereby showing that promoters are no longer concerned that associating a brand with the LGBT community will alienate members of the public.
Although we are yet to see a Kiwi TVC entirely focused on the LGBT market, the recent promotional effort by Air New Zealand, in particular, illustrates that it won’t be long before advertisers do give it a shot.
The new old
With the recent census results showing that New Zealanders are older than ever before, marketing strategies need to be adapted to target those who are older than 65 in a way that relates to them.
If brands fail to provide content and imagery that resonate with this demographic, it could lead to a breakdown in communication with 12 percent of the population. And this could lead to a huge loss in potential sales, because according to Getty "people over 50 buy about half of all new cars and have a weakness for the top-end of the range notes."
In an effort to help advertisers overcome this problem, the third chapter of Getty’s insight continues in the subversive vein by explaining why it is important for advertisers to show older people as strong, beautiful and loving members of society, who aren’t a hindrance in any way.
Rather than positing older people as the foil to youthful exuberance, Getty encourages advertisers to depict scenes that could quite easily feature much younger people.
This is, however, not a novel approach in New Zealand, with Saatchi & Saatchi’s ‘Hip-operation’ campaign for ASB winning fans across the world for the way in which it broke down the stereotypes associated with those who are older than 65.
Earlier this month, a video in which mannequins were cast in the image of people with physical disabilities went viral.
The most interesting element about this thought-provoking project wasn’t that the new mannequins looked different from the ubiquitous athletic physiques usually seen in shop windows, but rather that passers-by were intrigued enough by a mannequin to stop.
From an advertising perspective, this means that promoters should be looking at ways to break away from the standard construct of beauty, because passive observers simply don't respond to it any longer.
Also, by adding unique elements, which don't necessarily fit into ideal stereotypes, advertisers can also avoid risk of marginalising or othering those who fall outside this bracket of "normality."
Since the 1980s, the Disabled Persons Assembly of New Zealand has been trying to counter this problem with campaigns that showed disabled people in a different light.
Now, almost 30 years later, it seems that major brands are starting to see the value in adopting a similar approach, as seen with the recent Paralympics-themed ad released by Samsung.
In the final chapter, titled 'Body Image 2.0', Getty notes that the fashion industry is also starting to veer away from its preoccupation with airbrushed bodies.
"British retailer Debenhams sets a new tone by pledging to limit their photoshopping to fixing stray hairs and pigmentation. In the latest fashion collection, the high street retailer completely turns its back on the industry norm of young thin models featuring a Paralympian athlete and a woman with a prosthetic leg," says the Getty article.