Impact of Skinny Models on Eating Disorders and Women's Purchasing Behaviour

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The Impact of skinny models on Eating Disorders and Women's Purchasing Behaviour

Literature Review

The literature review focuses on literature regarding the links between the use of skinny models in advertising, the purchase decision, women's feelings of self worth, dissatisfaction with their own body and eating disorders.

Models and the Ideal Body Shape

Research in an article by Fay and Price (entitled "Female Body-shape in Advertisements") found that the body shape of contemporary models in advertisements has reduced since the 1950s. Over the past 15 years the media had represented a very thin body, which was found to be clinically underweight.

They point out that "The particular set of physical characteristics perceived as beautiful and desirable is a social construct that can vary dramatically across cultures and across time within a culture."

In the journal "in pursuit of identity" reference from Gordon 2000 states "the proliferation of photographic and electronic media images of thin and in most cases emaciated looking women has in the last decade been and increasingly powerful factor in promoting contemporary body ideals to the female audience"

Impact on Advertising Effectiveness

Research by Sharron J. Lennon (physical Attractiveness, Age And Body type) recorded sixty college aged students responses to photos of female models who varied in body type and found that the thinner models were seen as more attractive than heavier models.

Dittmar & Howard 2004 cite (Kathle & Holmer, 1985) who found that the physical attractiveness of a model in an advertisement "increases consumer's positive attitude toward the product and their willingness to purchase"

Dittmar & Howard in their journal investigating the impact of model's body size in advertising effectiveness make the point that social comparison theory suggests that exposure to idealised images leads consumers to compare themselves with models often leading to discontent. Advertising then provides the remedy as it attempts to associate the "purchase of the goods with the consumer becoming more like the idealised image".

(Clayton, Lennon & Larkin, 1987) examined the effects of age and body type or the wearer of garments and the fashion detail of the garment on perceived fashionablity, using 90 college aged female respondents, the results indicated that age and body type did influence judgements of garment fashionability.

Recent research from the University of Bath carried out by Professor Brett Martin showed that two thirds of women preferred thin models. They tended to think the thinner models were more "elegant", "interesting", "likeable" and "pleasant" and therefor were more likely to approve of the product the models were advertising.

However Dittmar and Howard 2004 in their study compared advertising effectiveness between adverts showing thin, average sized and no models and found them all to be equally effective.

And more recently the company Dove ran an ad campaign, using real women as models representing larger body shapes the BBC reported that the ad boosted sales by 700% "suggesting women are tired of skinny models"

Thus the research is contrasting, perhaps indicating changing ideals to include a healthier body image Research by Wagner et all showed it was possible using "education intervention to reframe media norms and weaken the credibility of ads that "glorify the ultra thin female body" Suggesting that is would perhaps be possible for marketers to easily influence the beliefs about the ideal body, by simply changing the media norms relating to how the female body is portrayed.

Image Congruency

Another factor that may explain the contrasting research finding is image congruency theory

Brett 1995 also suggests a factor that affects the consumers perception of the models weight as women who preferred thin models tended to be thinner.

Those who believed that weight was not controllable – who were...
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