Fila’s New Ad Campaign Shapes ‘Real Women’ in the Public Eye

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.

Fila Toning (and their non-models) on Facebook

Fila Toning (and their non-models) on Facebook

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!

Believe it or not, size 14 is the average for American women.

Believe it or not, size 14 is the average for American women.

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!

I want to see a brand take a stand and back the women who actually buy their products.

I want to see a brand take a stand and back the women who actually buy their products.

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!

Image Credits

Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. Sheโ€™s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the companyโ€™s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.


  1. Mr. Imperfect

    I want to know when Fila plans on making a Body Toning System line of apparel for MEN.

    Hey, we men have love handles to you know… I know my man boobs could use some downsizing – JK! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously though; I agree with the fact that marketers need to abandon the Photoshop effects and super models – and start throwing more “REAL” women into the mix. Will a brands efforts in this regards buy my loyalty for life, no, but it won’t cause the brands I prefer to LOSE my loyalty either.

    In other words, what markets fear most – end users being turned off by images of people who are underweight, overweight, too tall, too short, large-chested, flat-chested, too freckled, too pale, too dark, etc. using their products in their advertisements is an unsubstantiated concern in my opinion. A false positive have you.

    Bring on all the big people; after all – big people need loving to you know!

    • QLP Jill

      I originally wanted to touch upon male body image in this post, but I just didn’t have the time or space! ๐Ÿ™‚ I understand the concern of “turning people off” with imperfect images, but what I’m trying to say is that the people who would be turned off by real women probably aren’t going to buy the product being sold in the first place. If someone is going to look at an average girl like me in an ad and think: “Oh man, she’s too fat to be on an advertisement because she’s not a size 4,” then that person has a lot to learn and probably won’t even check to see what the advertised product is.

      On the other hand, if a real woman looks at an average girl in an ad, she’s probably going to think: “Oh man, that advertisement doesn’t feature a super thin, D-cup model! This product must be made for someone like me!” And she’s likely to look at the brand name and product, commit it to memory, and look for it the next time she’s in a store. THAT’S what brands don’t understand – by isolating imperfect people they’re also turning off an entire niche of people who would snatch up their products in a heartbeat. I’ve never bought Fila’s products before, but I’d DEFINITELY start if they helped to break this horrible stereotype that we normal people have to face every day!

      I don’t envy people who go through their entire lives striving to be like the models they see. It doesn’t seem like any fun at all! It’s one thing to be unhealthy, but there’s NOTHING wrong with being proud of who you are!

  2. Vernon

    So what is the difference between photoshopping yourself or wearing a body sculpting product? You are still projecting a image that isn’t necessarily real. Once you take these clothes off reality hits you and your butt still looks the same.

    These are like the clothes that people wear in the gym there main purpose is to “show off” Like the guy standing in front of the mirror doing curls in a cut off t-shirt or women on the treadmill who wear hotpants. Granted I am not an engineer and didn’t make this line of clothing, but if you go to the gym to sweat… wouldn’t you wear clothing that would help you do just that like oh I don’t know sweats?!?!

    • QLP Jill

      Well, the difference is that the body sculpting / workout gear is supposed to make you feel good about yourself while you’re working out. I haven’t tried Fila’s new line YET, but other gear I’ve tried in the past really doesn’t work that well. Trust me, there’s only so much that Spanx can do…it doesn’t compare to Photoshop magic in the slightest! But I do see what you’re saying. I’d say the main difference is that this Fila gear is designed to give you a better body image and encourage you to exercise and stay healthy…and Photoshop is just plain cheating. Thanks for commenting, Vern! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. KB

    QLP Jill this was an INCREDIBELY well written article and I completely agree with everything you said. As soon as I started reading I immediately thought of the DOVE campaign with REAL women. Sounds like FILA is taking this several steps further and I also hope they stay on the right track and are very successful. Whenever I see articles in magazines or ads on tv (toning shoes and garments on size 0 models also comes to mind), even makeup on celebrities with flawless skin or hair products adds on people with notoriously beautiful hair I always think to myself…I wonder if these people even acutally use these brands or are just in it for the money and exposure? I’m all for REAL people advertising products that REAL people are going to buy. I find it very hard to believe that these models are stepping out of their high fashion shoes to wear a 3 inch soled toning shoe or that celebrities making millions of dollars a year are really buying Cover Girl make up and dying their hair at home from color in a box. It’s high time that ads come back to reality!

    • QLP Jill

      Thank you, KB! ๐Ÿ™‚ I always think the same thing when I see celebrities endorsing products – I doubt very much that Jennifer Lopez uses a $10 makeup compact or that Scarlett Johansson buys $15 hair color from a Walgreens! It means a lot more to me when ads feature testimonials from real people (although some if not most of them are paid) because it’s much more convincing. I’m tired of being considered fat because I don’t look like a cover model…I’m NOT fat! I’m proud to be a part of the REAL women of society! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Cybernetic SAM

    *****APPLAUDS LOUDLY****** *****WIPES TEARS*****
    You said it all lady, GREAT POST!!!!!!!

    • QLP Jill

      Thank you, Cybernetic SAM! ๐Ÿ™‚ I feel like I just bared my heart and soul to the world…haha!

  5. JJ "Suite G"

    The idea of what constitutes “real” beauty in our world is obviously skewed. The projected image of the “ideal” woman could certainly use an overhaul when it comes to modern advertising! Video spots and photos that feature only slim and conventionally attractive women are a dime-a-dozen these days–and are quickly losing their appeal. It’s about time for a shift in the way designers and sportswear companies market their clothing. So, bring on the “real” beauties and the “righteous babes”!

    • QLP Jill

      I completely agree. Sam just brought up a good point as well: it shouldn’t be just cosmetics or fitness companies featuring real people in ads…it should be all types of brands! It’s time to start including your actual customers in your campaigns!
      I enjoyed your last sentence, by the way…HELL YEAH! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Cybernetic SAM

        Thanx JJsuiteG, I wish all men spoke so unhindered such as yourself, I dedicate this to you: LADIES of The World

  6. Juliette

    Wow. It’s really nice to see any advertising campaigns that don’t use models or the heavy photoshopping that’s so common these days. Personally I’m much happier when buying a product where the person in the ad looks like someone I might meet in my daily rounds…a real, non-airbrushed, person. It’s especially awesome to see campaigns that feature women as such.

    Gotta admit, I’m tempted to check out their line of workout apparel…even if all I do is my DDR workout in my living room while wearing it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • QLP Jill

      That’s exactly how I feel – I don’t trust ads that try to sell me products that are on already-perfect models, but I do trust ads endorsed by women like me!
      And I agree about the workout wear…Because of this campaign I’m going to buy some Fila outfits for my workouts! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lauren G

    Well said Jill. We girls who aren’t a Victoria’s Secret model need to stick together!! I’m so tired of seeing those ads with super skinny models wearing clothing that “tones and trims.” Really? Well thanks for making me feel so awesome about myself. I’m a size 10ish, (a girl never reveals too much) with hips, curves and a larger chest. It’s token me years to feel semi ok with my body. One day I met a wonderful guy who loves me for me, now I think I’m beautiful. I have more confidence because it took someone to see me, not my large chest, I’ll never go back to those dark days of wearing nothing but boy clothes. I show off my curves and eat :).

    So, to all the marketers out there: if you want to keep us “beautiful” girls interested, then start feeding your models!

    • QLP Jill

      Well, it’s no wonder you feel beautiful because you ARE beautiful, silly! ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree with you 100% – it’s an immediate blow to my self esteem whenever I see the same body type in every single advertisement. It gives the impression that we’re supposed to look like the Victoria models, and that’s just not possible! Whatever happened to the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe types!?!?! She’s one of the sexiest women of ALL TIME and she was a size 16 (which would equate to about an 8 by today’s standards, but still)! Advertising needs an overhaul, that’s for sure.

  8. skelly

    AWESOME post Jill. I remember the Dove Real Beauty campaign a few years ago but was completely shocked to read that they not only had but endorsed a rating system for the women in their ad. Not only is that counterproductive but its outright mean. That’s why many women dont want to step into the spotlight to begin with…fear of being judged by onlookers.
    I hadn’t heard of Fila before this post but I checked out their Facebook page. Their models are representative of ‘real’ women and it is very refreshing. I agree with you though, I think they could use even more variety with regards to colors, shapes and sizes of the models they use to promote their brand. It will only increase the reach of their message and hopefully get more loyal followers not to mention speak to other marketers out there to say ‘fake’ DOESN’T sell.

    • QLP Jill

      “Thatโ€™s why many women dont want to step into the spotlight to begin withโ€ฆfear of being judged by onlookers.” You’re so right! I know I’m afraid to have a picture taken that’s going to go on my friends’ Facebook pages, let alone have one taken that would be on display for the world to see. I understand the compulsion to keep every model nice and perfect on magazine covers an in ads, but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is something that could be changed if we work hard enough! If we don’t love and respect ourselves, then how can we expect everyone else to do so?

  9. Stantz

    Great post! I think more companies should try the “real women” approach and see what happens. As Jill already pointed out, I doubt that celebrities actually use all of the products that they endorse: let’s see the real people that actually use the product! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. BlogDude

    Hello I was fortunate to find your blog in yahoo. Your subject is marvelous. I get a lot in your topic really thanks very much.

  11. Mr. Happy Face

    I hadn’t noticed before in my searches!
    This is a fantastic source youโ€™re offering. Thanks!

  12. Jana

    Excellent post, Jill! I’m pretty passionate on this point, too. I think that if it was public knowledge that the average American woman was a size 14 (and stocked their effing shelves that way, too – why are the majority of available sizes under 7??), there might be a little less social pressure on being a size 0.

    • QLP Jill

      Thanks, Jana! You said it: sales shelves and racks are seriously lacking in the “average” sizes. I’ve always wondered about that…

      It’s nice to see you back in the QLP kingdom! We missed you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. meto gee

    Hey, i like the article and appreciate the fact that some women like real women to be featured in ads. however i just wonder whether we women don’t enjoy looking at picture perfect models. It gives us something to aspire to and look forward to. i think there should be a balance between picture perfect and real.

    It is just like watching a movie where the star action never dies, but has nine lives and defies all plans to kill him. This does not happy all the time in reality, but in our dreams and imaginations. So it is the reality of life that people like to aspire to look and do better than where they are really in reality.

    • Jill Tooley

      Hi there! Thanks for stopping by to comment!

      I definitely understand what you’re saying. You made some good points! I appreciate picture-perfect models as much as the next person, but I feel like there’s plenty of that in the media already. The only thing that’s missing is the realistic representation, which I don’t see nearly as often. I’d be all for a balance between the two, but it seems quite lopsided to me at this point in time. It makes me wonder if marketers are scared to feature “average Janes and Joes” in their ads; after all, Dove did get a lot of opposition from their campaign a few years back.

      Hopefully, someday we’ll see that reality/dream balance in advertisements! Thanks again for your feedback, and come back anytime. ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2016 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.