Ban Photoshopping; Save the Children

Save me From Photoshopped Advertisements

Save me From Photoshopping

Days after heavily photoshopped photos of Twiggy appeared in the British press the UK’s Liberal Democrats called for a ban on the use of retouched photos in advertising aimed at the under-16 market.

Jo Swinson, the Lib-Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire, said, “Today’s unrealistic idea of what is beautiful means that young girls are under more pressure now than they were even five years ago. Airbrushing means that adverts contain completely unattainable images that no one can live up to in real life. We need to help protect children from these pressures and we need to make a start by banning airbrushing in adverts aimed at them.”

Miss Swinson, who oversaw the policy paper, singled out ads featuring Twiggy for Olay Definity anti-ageing cream and actress Jessica Alba for Campari; photos used in both examples were heavily airbrushed before publication. An original photograph of Miss Alba for the 2009 Campari calendar suggests that she was made to look far slimmer in the published version.

Before and After; 2009 Campari Calendar

Before and After; 2009 Campari Calendar

Miss Swinson added, “The focus on women’s appearance has got out of hand – no one really has perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect figure, but women and young girls increasingly feel that nothing less than thin and perfect will do. Liberal Democrats believe in the freedom of young people to develop their self-esteem and to be as comfortable as possible with their bodies, without constantly feeling the need to measure up to a very narrow range of digitally manipulated shapes and sizes.”

The party will call on the Advertising Standards Authority to ban all altered or enhanced images in advertising aimed at the under-16s. Images aimed at adults will have to indicate clearly the extent to which they have been airbrushed or digitally enhanced.

As part of a new policy on women’s issues, the Liberal Democrats also suggest all images should be accompanied by messages indicating if they have been airbrushed – the term used when photographs are altered to make the subject look thinner or free of blemishes (retouched).

Retouched for Marks & Spencer Campaign

Retouched for Marks & Spencer Campaign

The party also wants cosmetic surgery advertisements and information leaflets to carry success rates. We at AHM think success rate info should be provided with marriage licence applications.

Photoshopped images have been used in fashion magazines and advertisements for years but no one batted an eyelash over them until it became obvious the images of celebrities were being altered. Critics of the retouching process must feel that ads featuring altered images are more compelling if they feature well known or idolized people, but are they? The consumers themselves insist not, judging by a poll conducted for AdweekMedia among members of LinkedIn.

Respondents were asked whether the presence of a celebrity in an ad made them more likely or less likely to buy the product, or left them neither more nor less likely to do so. Just 8% said seeing the celebrity made them more likely to buy the product, vs. 12% saying it made them less likely. A landslide 78 percent said it didn’t affect them one way or the other.

Men are more likely to be put off by celebs in ads than women (15% vs 11%) while older respondents are even more deterred by celeb advertising. Twenty-four percent of the 55-and-older respondents said seeing a celebrity in an ad made them less likely to buy the product while only 4% said it made them more likely to buy. I guess wisdom does come with age.

There will always be those susceptible to 21st century snake oil salesmen but it seems most of us can see beyond the artificial glamour of fashion and beauty advertising and purchase products based on more substantial reasons. But what about the children? Our next article in this series will show where image alteration is being grossly misused to the detriment of kids, and it’s not in the fashion and beauty industries.

Research: Angelina Pieros

Sources:, Campari,, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph

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