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Friday, January 16, 2009

The age old argument about the appearance of models

People want to see models “like them” – no they don’t they want to see models like they “would like to be”…no they don’t – yes they do…

If I have heard this argument once I have heard it a zillion times. The trouble is that there is a big difference between what people say and how they react.

A guy at Judge Business School has just published research suggesting that women are of the view that models aren’t realistic and don’t reflect the intended customer. Here are a couple of quotes from the article.
In general, people have a more favourable reaction to brands that show models who represent people's age, size and background.

Quoting 50-plus women who says: “It's a slap in the face to show this young woman because she'd never have the money to shop there whereas I do."
I am not so sure.

The article in WARC quotes a learned professor of marketing at the London Business School who says.
"This kind of research may have some interesting insights, but it's insights into the way consumers talk and think about the adverts when you prompt them … there is a gap between what they say, particularly in the presence of other women, and what they would do actually at the point of sale.

"And that's a big gap, not a small gap."
The thing that worried me was the fact that the researcher seems to have an axe to grind on the subject. It appears he owns a modelling agency and has been a campaigner against size zero models. This may be a worthy objective but to my mind isn’t a recommendation for impartiality.

For what it is worth, a couple of the large UK mail order agencies find that they sell more products when they use classic thin young models rather than people who reflect the intended customer - in the UK that means the slightly obese. Sure Dove did some wonderful stuff with its campaigns but it was the uniqueness of their approach that made it work. You cannot generalise from the particular.

Maybe this is a sad reflection on the consumer but that is way it is. Dick Stroud

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