Most advertisements, if not all, are Photoshopped.
The advertisements that discretely land in our peripheral vision with our every turn are usually undeniably airbrushed. And yet, even knowing this, we all idolize, idealize and fantasize about the people we see in media. And it’s unlikely this will be changing any time soon.
However, an act was introduced last March to spark progression toward mediating these issues.
The “Truth in Advertising Act” was introduced by representatives Lois Capps (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-PA).
The idea of the act is to direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study the use of altered images in advertising that change the physical characteristics of people in photos, Capps said.
“We would intend that the Federal Trade Commission develop recommendations and a framework to address (the issue),” Capps said.
In short, the purpose of the act is not to ban Photoshop in advertising, but to raise awareness and further research for strategic planning.
“Research is showing that the development of young girls today in our country, particularly, is very much influenced by advertising and that there have been some consequences that have not been good for young girls,” Capps said.
Art and Design professor Mary LaPorte makes sure her advertising students are well aware of this issue, she said.
“This has been going on for a really long time. That is, crafting the ideal beauty standards by using visual imagery,” LaPorte said.
After the bill was introduced last year, there was a press conference in Capitol Hill where the representatives paired with Change.org to urge Congress to pass the bill by showing approximately 28,000 signatures from an online petition, Capps said.
“To have lawmakers today be concerned about the health hazards of this practice in our advertising industry, I think, is kind of like barking at the moon, you know? How can you really change that? In our culture, advertising is so massively pervasive, it’s a whole life phenomenon. It’s not something that’s going to change for a long, long time — at least not, I don’t think by government legislation,” Laporte said.
However, the bill received “a great load of support,” Capps said.
According to her website, the bill received support from the Eating Disorders Coalition, the American Medical Association, the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, Women in News and Media, Eating Disorders Resource Center and Beauty Redefined Foundation.
But the bill was never signed. Any bill that isn’t passed and signed into law by the end of every Congress (two years) is essentially dead and must be reintroduced to the new Congress, Capps’ press secretary Chris Meagher wrote in an email.
They have not yet reintroduced the bill, Capps said.
In the meantime, Capps and Ros-Lehtinen sent a letter to the FTC making many of the same requests outlined in the bill, including the request to hold a public workshop on the issue, Capps said. The FTC just responded last week by saying it will consider it.
“Maybe this conversation is going to get me going to get it reintroduced because it’s important,” Capps said.
There is no set plan to reintroduce the bill, but now that Capps’ office has received a response from the FTC, they will begin to move toward the next steps.
“I don’t think the public and the FTC are actually aware enough of what this problem may be. That’s why they need to start by looking into it. First say, sit up now, pay attention, there’s something happening that may have an effect on young girls at a very vulnerable time in their lives,” Capps said.
She used tobacco advertisements as an example of implementation of regulation. Cigarette companies are no longer allowed to target children in their advertisements due to legislation.
LaPorte believes the cigarette ad campaign was able to change because it affected both men and women equally, whereas the issue of Photoshopped advertisements is more prominent with — though not limited to — women.
Sociology junior Maggie McHale, who is the president of the Women and Gender Honor Society and the Feminist Activism club, said precautionary warnings should be placed on ads that use deceptively altered images of people.
“You know on cigarettes, how they have the warning sign like, ‘These could kill you’? For advertising, they should have to have a warning sign that said, ‘This isn’t real and you shouldn’t hold yourself to this level,’” McHale said.
Capps thinks it’s important for college students to recognize the bill because we are still being affected and influenced by advertisements. College students are still a part of the target of the legislation, she said.
The commodifying of women’s bodies in advertising and using sex and unrealistic beauty standards to sell things are typical problems in our society, McHale said.
“Advertisers don’t like to change. They want to make money. They want to sell products. So this has to be something that’s re-introduced because we need to get enough people aware of the dangers of it, rather than broadcasters or media or journalism saying, ‘Oh, we like the status quo,’” Capps said.
Whether the bill is passed or not, it’s acknowledging a problem and collating research that can be used to educate the public. In the words of LaPorte, it’s “banging a few drums,” which she said is the best way to go about it.