The term “real women” makes me think of a Pinnochio-esque setting in which a female becomes animated, sits up, and suddenly declares: “I’m a REAL woman!” That imagery may seem off target with this topic, but it does correlate with the real women getting media attention lately; I feel as if real women are finally getting the opportunity to show their stuff!
Fila USA just rolled out a new advertising campaign for their most recent line of body shapers and workout apparel – the Body Toning System line – and none of the women in the ads are models. This is a refreshing thought since the clothing claims to shape and tone. Women of all body types exercise, so why not cater to ALL of them? Nothing drives me crazier than ads with flawless models sporting apparel that’s supposed to “trim” the body or “enhance” proportions. For example, how can a woman with zero fat accurately represent a product that’s designed to smooth undesirable areas? Why does a buxom supermodel with generous upper measurements need a padded push-up bra? Ads all seem to feature the same unrealistic type of woman no matter what the product, and I don’t think that’s right.
But, luckily, Fila seems to understand that concern. The official FilaToning Facebook page claims that items from the Body Toning System line are “[m]ade for every woman who has ever stopped to look at her butt in the mirror. Try the apparel that helps you sculpt, tone and amaze.” If you scroll down their Facebook wall, you’ll find all sorts of positive responses from women who have either tried the shapewear, love the new ads, or both. Most wall posts are also accompanied with a positive response from the administrators of the FilaToning page. One woman shared that she received a compliment while wearing one of the shapers, and her comment was met with an enthusiastic “good for you!” from one of the Fila admins. I’m impressed!
Fila’s advertising effort reminds me of a Dove campaign from 2004 – the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty – which showcased “real women” on billboards and advertisements. I appreciated the effort on Dove’s part, but I don’t think they pulled it off as well as they could have. One of my biggest gripes was their voting rollout (people were asked to vote on the real women in the ads and determine whether they were “fat” or “fab”) because it seemed largely counterproductive. Dove focused so much on trying to redefine the standard of beauty and then they essentially asked people to compare the real women to ones they were already used to seeing in advertisements – the airbrushed, unrealistic ones. Not cool, Dove. Way to lower our self esteem even further!
So what does it mean to be a real woman in an advertisement? Believe it or not, the average American woman wears a size 14. If you’re surprised to hear that, then it’s probably because you don’t see many plus-sized women on magazine covers or in the media (unless it’s under a headline that reads “So-and-So Blows Up to a MASSIVE 200 Pounds! Isn’t She Gross?” or something like that). Could a “real” woman be synonymous with an “imperfect” woman? I’m pretty sure any mention of real women is probably a reference to women who don’t have their own personal trainers, makeup and hair artists, or Photoshop masters by their sides on any given day. And to me, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting non-supermodels in advertisements. In fact, I’d like to see more of it!
Most brands (fitness-related or otherwise) don’t seem to understand that they’re not marketing to women with perfect measurements, zero blemishes, and flawless tans. They’re marketing to women who consider themselves underweight, overweight, too tall, too short, large-chested, flat-chested, too freckled, too pale, too dark, and every other “imperfect” attribute you could imagine. By Photoshopping the crap out of photos and essentially deleting every imperfection on models, advertisers and media outlets are telling us that we’re not beautiful on our own…and that’s simply untrue. Real beauty isn’t something you attain through expensive software!
Fila is already doing much better than other marketers with putting real women in their advertisements, and I’m anxious to follow this campaign as it gains momentum. I hope they don’t travel down the same paths as their unsuccessful predecessors – I really want them to succeed! Rumor has it that Fila will be scouting for more non-models for their Body Toning System line pretty soon…I’d like to see some spokeswomen who are over a size 14. Hell, while we’re on the subject, I’d like to see some size 20 models in the Fila ads! I want to see a brand PROUDLY feature a variety of plus-sized, freckled, flat-chested, and otherwise imperfect spokeswomen with headlines like “THIS is Real Beauty.” I want to see a brand that caters to women of all shapes and sizes without making them feel like they’re too fat, too skinny, or generally disgusting compared to that picture of Katy Perry they see on the latest Cosmo cover. I want to see a brand take a stand and back the women who actually buy their products. The day I see a brand shun the unrealistic beauty standards, feature so-called average women in their ads, and send a message that being REAL is what’s beautiful is the day I’ll pledge my lifelong loyalty to that brand. And I’m not kidding. Any takers?
How do you feel about real women in advertising campaigns? Do you agree that Fila is on the right track with their newest ad campaign? What do you think a real woman is? I’d love to hear your feedback – comment away!