Ads with plus-sized models come with a downside, according to a new study published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. They might be associated with an increasing obesity rate.
The study findings indicate that the images published in advertising campaigns are featuring fewer underweight models deemed to be physically flawless, replacing the conventional trend with models displaying larger body types.
The paper, entitled “The (ironic) dove effect: Usage of acceptance cues for larger body types increases unhealthy behaviors”, puts into perspective how the lifestyle and eating behaviour of the public are allegedly being influenced because of the shift in advertising focus.
Authors Brent McFerran, and Lily Lin, carried out 5 experiments to gain information of the reactions of the participants to cues implying obesity was acceptable.
The researchers found out that obesity was increasingly being viewed as socially acceptable, thereby causing the participants to either intend to consume unhealthy food, or to actually eat the food in question. Furthermore, they were less motivated to adopt healthy lifestyles.
Interpreting the results, the authors suggest that in attempting to increase acceptance, the opposite effect is being achieved such that consumers are becoming more concerned of their appearance. They also mention an increase in body anxiety. Therefore, the authors suggest that policy makers as well as advertisers keep in mind the portrayal of individuals’ bodies in the media. They recommend the development of new strategies that do not convey the idea that a certain shape is good or bad.
Their point is that neither acceptance nor stigmatisation is helping, and that, rather, a middle approach should be taken, for instance, using images depicting individuals of healthy weights while not focusing on body size will be the way to go.