Leave a Comment: Consumer Responses to Advertising Featuring “Real” Women

Amanda Mabry-Flynn, Sara Champlin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Advertisements frequently feature models that are considered “ultra-thin.” Modern developments in technology and image production have created ways to make models appear even smaller by altering images in post-production processes. The high prevalence of ads with “impossibly gorgeous” women has an impact at the societal level, by reinforcing the idea that women are primarily defined by their attractiveness to heterosexual men, and on the individual level, where exposure can have detrimental effects on women’s mental health. In response to concerns expressed by some consumers about the overuse of ultra-thin models, a few brands have launched advertising campaigns featuring “real women” who are more diverse in body shape and size. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the mixed reactions consumers have expressed toward two real women campaigns: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and aerie Real by American Eagle. Consumer sentiment was investigated via comments sections of online news articles, YouTube videos, and social media platforms Reddit and Twitter. Four themes were identified encapsulating positive (e.g., featuring more diverse models is better for women and society in general), negative (e.g., the problem of ultra-thin models is fictional, made up in the minds of sensitive women, and therefore these campaigns are completely unnecessary), and skeptical (e.g., the campaigns are not diverse and inclusive enough; the motivation behind real women campaigns is profit-driven and disingenuous, making the efforts less meaningful) reactions. Findings provide insight into how people use online spaces to engage in dialogue about the positive and negative outcomes of real women campaigns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMediating Misogyny
Subtitle of host publicationGender, Technology, and Harassment
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783319729176
ISBN (Print)9783319729169
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Advertising
  • Consumer response
  • Online comments
  • Photoshop
  • Real women
  • Thinness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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