Do photo edits matter? Leaked studies conducted by Instagram last year concluded that social media destroys the self esteem of its users, especially teenagers and young adults. Now the industry is taking heed of this with the first advertising agency, Ogilvy in the UK, putting the kibosh on influencers that digitally retouch their image.
In addition, the UK government is trying to pass the Digitally Altered Body Image Bill that requires an influencer to disclose whether or not a photo is edited or retouched. The Ogilvy imposed ban starts in May of 2022 and is scheduled to be fully compliant by the end of the year (2022). Specifically, contrast and brightness editing are OK but skin and body shape retouching is not.
One of Ogilvy’s clients, Dove was one of the first to showcase non-traditional influencers nearly 7 years ago. With the headlines that they made by using “regular” and “untouched” models, other brands and cultural icons have followed suit like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and numerous other mainstream film and television projects. This has now percolated through to a majority of the industry including Lululemon and other “fitness” and lifestyle brands to accept all body types.
Despite more images of the spectrum of body shapes, social media is still found to have a deleterious effect on its own users. In addition to body shaming, many influencers have also gotten in trouble for taking images that defy common safety and common sense protocols.
Disclosing that pictures are edited are important to not only widen the diversity of the advertising and influencer pool but also to uphold safety standards. US Commercials and certain reality type shows (like MTV’s Jackass) already have disclosures on them due to the tricks and stunts in them that could only be done in post production or by a full team of professionals. As influencers become the new media companies and make a real vie at eyeball attention, this is only a logical transition.
Ogilvy UK is hoping to take the lead and move the industry in this direction as well. With the initial studies providing “the writing on the wall,” many think that this is a move in the right direction. Opening up the influencer world to accept all kinds of people, body types, looks, and shapes is better for the industry as a whole.
In addition, with so many ‘challenge’ type videos coming out, (remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) it’s hard to say what is fake and what is not. Regardless of how doable a trick is, people are now emulating what they see on social media. And with more cord cutters, it seems obvious that we need to at least have widely distributed and viewed videos (i.e. influencer content) with some sort of “Jackass” type disclaimer.
Just like the FTC’s Truth in Advertising guideline, disclaimers that the images that are being seen are either not real or just avoiding them all together may grow the industry to encompass more influencers, more brands, and create an overall, bigger pie. As we saw in professional baseball at the turn of the millennium, Balco and the steroid scandal put a damper on the sport. If fans had known at the time, they most likely would have reacted differently. With disclaimers at least we know that this is a camera trick or retouched photo and not some influencer trying to trick us into thinking they are someone that they are not.
Is this overkill though? Is social media something that needs regulation? Or have we gotten to the point where we can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube? Do you retouch your photos? Or would you argue that we need some regulations to protect young impressionable minds? Weigh in by sending us an email!