Does Reality Sell?

Last week, I raised the question if sex sells. The conclusion was yes and I think that many of you sadly did not think that this was surprising or anything new, really. This week I would like to continue the conversation of ethical controversies in advertising. Since Kate Moss and Jennifer Sky started to show on billboards all over the world, questions such as what is beautywhat is too skinny, and how much can you objectify people have been asked. 

Personally, I have worked within the fashion industry for almost two years now, and have done research on model exploitation for one year. This means that I have seen my fair share of cruelty. And it is not only backstage of a catwalk, where models are deeply objectified, but on set of photo shoots, campaign shoots, et cetera. Female models need to be skinny, tall, and have fair skin. But if they don’t pass all of the requirements, hey, there’s always Photoshop, right?

I have to admit that to a certain extent, I am guilty of objectifying women as well. Because advertisement is about producing creative art and about selling a product. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the audience long for an unrealistic reality that advertising can give. Again, the audience wants to see sex and confidence, and sometimes this is not a realistic take on how you will look in, say Calvin Klein Jeans, but it is about creating art and a feeling. 

That is one opinion on the matter. The personal care brand, Dove, created a campaign in 2004 called Dove for Real Beauty. It is a very good campaign focused on the beauty of originality in people. They focus on the fact that we have to accept who we are on the inside and out, and be happy with it. Because “you are more beautiful than you think”. Dove’s ad campaign was a big hit, many companies have followed in their footsteps (H&M Jennie Runk is one example), and slowly but surely, these companies are managing to change the perception that people have of fashion, models, and advertising in general.

So what do you think — do we sell reality or do we sell art? And have you noticed a change in advertising in the past couple of years — positive or negative?  


(2004). Real Beauty Sketches, Dove. Retrieved 17 March 2014 from

2 thoughts on “Does Reality Sell?

  1. I think we want to believe we sell reality, but the fashion industry is still showcasing very thin models. For as long as the industry is doing that, the image of what is “normal” won’t change. What girls see the most will mirror what they perceive is beautiful. Even though brands like Dove are trying to make a stand, which is fantastic, one brand cannot stand against the masses and the masses are the brands showcasing thin models.


  2. Yeah, I agree with 2nvo as well, that is just what has been the way the fashion industry works and sells things. I love Dove and I love their ad campaigns that are focusing on women being beautiful in their own way and size, as well as Aerie’s recent campaign of using “real” girl’s for their models, but just those two brands alone taking a stand, that isn’t going to change the entire way the industry works and sells clothing and their brand.


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