MPs: ‘Advertising shares blame for low body confidence’

Brands that demonstrate “social responsibility” by promoting positive body images will be able to carry a kite mark from the autumn, one of several initiatives contained in a report by an all party group of MPs.

Rachel weiz

The mark will be administered by the youth charity Central YMCA, which co-authored the report with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Confidence. It will be awarded to businesses that take a responsible approach to advertising and aim to promote a positive body image.

The charity will also launch a PR and marketing campaign to raise awareness of the impact “negative” images such as airbrushed models has on young people.

The report investigated the causes and consequences of body image anxiety and claims that over half the UK public suffer from negative body image, which is an underlying cause of health and relationship problems and a major barrier to participation in school and progression at work.

It found that media (43.5%), advertising (16.8%) and celebrity culture (12.5%) together account for almost three quarters of the influence on body image in society.

Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP and chair of the APPG, has been vocal in her condemnation of cosmetic brands’ use of airbrushing. Several complaints about L’Oreal ads have led to bans. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron backed a report by Reg Bailey, chief executive of Christian charity Mothers’ Union, which called for more to be done to stamp out overtly sexual images in ads.

Swinson says: “Body image dissatisfaction in the UK has reached an all time high and the pressure to conform to an unattainable body ideal is wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of many people. Our inquiry took evidence from academics, the public, industry, charities and other experts, whose submissions formed the basis for the recommendations in the report. I welcome the work of Central YMCA and other organisations in taking these recommendations forward.”

Last year, a report by the Advertising Association and its research unit Credos found that female consumers are out off by heavily airbrushed images in ads.

The report also:

  • Calls on advertisers to develop campaigns that better reflect of their consumers and the general public
  • Clearer guidance from CAP/BCAP codes on what constitutes a robust evidence-base to inform decisions about the harmful or misleading nature of advertising
  • A separate code of regulations governing cosmetic surgery advertising.

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