Are brands using real women in adverts just to make sales?

Are brands using real women in adverts just to make sales?

Who would have thought that in the heyday of photoshopped, celebrity endorsed magazines and ad campaigns, it is ‘real’ women – cellulite flesh, blood and all – that could be making the biggest sales for brands across the world?

Now that real women are making their way into the media, is there a problem with the fact that the main motivator for businesses may well not be their ethical and social responsibility, but the fact that they have clocked an opportunity for increased sales? 

It’s a difficult question to answer, but ultimately I can’t help but feel that more responsible and empowering messaging for men and women, whatever the motivation, is nothing but a good thing. 

After all, I’m pretty sure my son only eats his sweetcorn in the hope he will turn into the jolly Green Giant, but as long as he’s getting the nutritional benefits I don’t really mind.

In the last year, Getty Images has seen the search for pictures of ‘empowered women’ increase by 772 per cent. Meanwhile brands, including Dove and Always, pioneered the quest to empower women through their branding and SheKnows Media, a women’s lifestyle digital media company, presented the first #Femvertising Awards last year.

More than 300 business leaders and entrepreneurs, will share their experiences and gain valuable insight into the challenges and benefits of achieving gender diversity.

In the pursuit of ‘real’ women, real blood was even used in Bodyform’s summer ad campaign showing women scaling the heights of all sorts of sporting arenas with bloodied toes and broken teeth. 



The bold and embracing tagline “no blood should hold us back” – was for me a little cringe-worthy, but I like where they’re going with it. 

I have to say that the Always one really made me smile.  It makes sense that these brands in particular are showcasing such a strong image for women with what has historically been such a limiting fact of life.

I was also particularly struck by Barbie’s Imagine the possibilities advert, which is probably my favourite thus far.  As a mother of three children, including a little girl who’s making her way in the world with so many external influences, it’s wonderful to see this particular product, which has historically been such a potent symbol of objectification and body image, turned into something positive for young girls, as a method to explore their hopes and dreams and talents.

Of course, alongside all of these messages that aim at promoting strong, confident, capable and interesting women who are allowed to be both successful and flawed in their struggle for success in whatever field of personal and professional life they choose, there remains a lot of strong influences that challenge our self confidence. 

For every advert that tells them they can do anything, there’s an Instagram feed that pressurises them into thinking they should have already conquered the world.  They should be slim, but not skinny, have beautiful skin, be fit, be the perfect mum, be running successful businesses, have inner peace and eat the most perfectly presented free-from foods that organic food suppliers can provide.

Consumerism hinges on competition and inciting a sense of demand, so there will always be an element of it in certain quarters that taps into peoples’ insecurities, whether they are men or women. 

While one would always hope that any message being put out into the ether was one created by people who genuinely believe in it, not least because a genuine message always seems to shout louder than one that’s not, in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it matters if empowering messages about women come from a place of capitalist interest. 

The important thing is that the more positive messages there are in the world for both men and women, the better it is for our society as a whole. 

So with this latest trend, I can’t help but look forward to what the future holds.


About the author

Abi Wright is  the co-founder and managing director of Europe’s largest spa travel company,, working with more than 750 venues in the UK and abroad. 


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