In a World of Photoshopping, Aerie and Dove Aim to Spur Selfie-Esteem in Girls


Aerie, the sister brand of American Eagle which markets bras, panties and sleepwear to girls in the 15 to 23-year-old set, is taking on an issue much bigger than itself in a new campaign, under the hashtag #aerieReal

Catching the consciousness wave of not marketing false, unattainable images to an impressionable audience, Aerie has pledged to stop using Photoshop and other retouching tools in its advertising. 

Their ads will no longer alter models “to inhuman proportions,” The Daily Mail notes. “The shadow of a muscle or an extra bit of skin is not smoothed away; skin tone appears as is; and while some of the models are still skinnier than most, not all have perfectly flat stomachs or size AA busts.”

Dana Seguin, director of marketing for Aerie, told Adweek that the brand is not digitally removing freckles, tattoos, scars and other blemishes. “We’re also not changing proportions. That’s something a lot of people do,” said Seguin, with their newest ads attesting: “The girl in this photo has not been retouched. The real you is sexy.”[more]

The ‘real’ beauty cause is a growing movement arguably spurred by brands like Dove, whose iconic “Real Beauty” campaign, which is celebrating 10 years this year, have brought to light some of the less-than-admirable practices performed in the fashion and personal care industry.

By casting average-sized women as models, knocking down stereotypes through its record-breaking “Sketches” campaign and encouraging more positive body language and behavior, the Unilever-owned brand has helped inspire an anti-Photoshop movement across print and digital advertising.

Aerie is doing its part to spread the positive reinforcement by encouraging fans to share their own pictures on Instagram and Twitter, furthering the social conversation on creating a broader definition of beauty. 

“I love that this is what 15-year-old girls will see when they go bra shopping,” writes Adweek’s Roo Ciambriello. “It’s such a stark contrast to Victoria’s Secret’s Pink line (marketed to the same crowd), which features models that are so Photoshopped they kind of look like really glowy superhumans.” 

With only 4 percent of women worldwide describing themselves as “beautiful,” Dove, Aerie and many other brands have their work cut out for them. Dove just launched a timely documentary at the Sundance Film Festival (called Selfie) that challenges girls and their mothers to discuss their insecurities, culminating in snapping an “honest” selfie photo. It’s being promoted with the hashtag #Beautyis to spur conversations on how the target audience perceives beauty.

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change,” Selfie director Cynthia Wade told Adweek. “Now we have the ability to photograph the beauty we see in our friends and ourselves.  When we share these diverse images on our social networks, we are taking personal ownership and truly redefining beauty.” Food for thought for Abercrombie & Fitch and Lululemon — and the media and marketing industries.

“Think about the recent shenanigans over the Photoshopping of Lena Dunham’s Vogue cover shoot,” comments Elan Cole, global executive creative director, consumer brands, for Interbrand. “Our social media-driven world creates a natural platform for ‘idealization.’ Even the selfie is an attempt to show an idealized version of ourselves in a given circumstance. (How many shots are tossed before the favorite selfie is chosen?)”

Idealization, Cole adds, “is part of being human, it’s a key element in attraction and desire. It’s also how we’ve been telling compelling stories for as long as we’ve been sentient. Brands represent idealized states, they offer something better, and strive to deliver perfect versions of their offerings. We know that’s not the case in reality, of course, but idealization is a key part of attraction, relevance, and distinction.”

“The thing about Lena Dunham that’s interesting is that Vogue didn’t retouch her into a Heidi Montag state of unreality. I would argue that they idealized Lena Dunham. Similarly, you better believe the Dove girls got the same treatment as this fortunate guy. So is the question about ‘the perfect you’ — or ‘the real you?'”

Your thoughts on how brands like Aerie and Dove can spur self-esteem — and selfie-esteem? Share your thoughts in the comments.