Overweight Women in Advertising

Dove appears to have started a trend in advertising. At one time beauty products and weight loss shakes were endorsed by models with perfect figures twirling around on television. I have spent years wondering why any advertising firm would think a woman who stands 5 feet 8 inches tall, and weighs all of 100 pounds, would be a good spokesperson for a weight loss shake. With the release of Slim-Fast’s new Optima shakes, I’ve noticed the anorexic models have been replaced with heavier women that are convincing as users of a diet aide.

For years makers of diet aides and beauty products have flaunted underweight models in both print ads and television advertising. It has been a long time coming, but despite the blasting Dove received, Slim-Fast has thrown caution to the wind and now features plus sized ladies in their ads as well. I give kudos to Dove, and now Slim-Fast, for realizing those of us that would buy their products do not look like we just leapt from the pages of Vogue.

While shampoo, body lotion, and underarm deodorant can be endorsed by anyone – size not having any bearing on the subject – weight loss products have a different level of credibility they have to establish and maintain to get the attention of consumers.

I, for one, have had weight issues all my life. The times I have been thin, or proper weight for my height, I have had to struggle and suffer every step of the way to get there. As a heavier person, I can attest that the last thing I want to see when I need to lose weight is an anorexic model explaining how she drinks diet shakes two times a day and has a sensible dinner. A heavy person on a diet only wants one thing when those ads come on – to put down the rice cake and punch that skinny model in the mouth.

Being overweight is hard enough, both physically and emotionally, and advertisements of beaming prom queens boasting that they are gorgeous because they drink diet shakes is additional salt in the open wound I could live without. A majority of those commercials are shown during the daytime hours. The audience advertisers are trying to reach is the overweight stay-at-home mom that is looking for a solution to her weight issue.

Men do use those products, but typically women are the consumers in the weight loss category. NVE Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Stacker products, has also nixed the professional athlete commercial spots and now uses real people that have lost large amounts of weight taking the Stacker capsules and drinking the fruity Stacker drinks.

While someone should have recognized a long time ago that the average consumer isn’t the insanely gorgeous couple in the Calvin Klein photo ads, I can’t help but feel offended that while Dove was getting their bashing, no one else stepped up to defend Dove’s position. Dove has a purpose behind their plus-sized ads and has done a lot for the self esteem of girls and ladies that aren’t what society deems “beautiful”.

So what’s the purpose in other companies doing the same? The obvious answer is financial gain, but I hope that at some point these other companies can look at the big picture and start a project of their own that will reduce the number of overweight people developing life threatening eating disorders, undergoing dangerous weight loss surgeries.

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