ModCloth backs anti-Photoshop legislation
Fashion advertising, as you have probably heard a gazillion times before, is aspirational. The average consumer has little to no chance of replicating the beauty of models seen on various types of screens or on the pages of magazines. That’s particularly true when the advertiser uses Photoshop to enhance its images. So, what happens when a retailer eschews retouching but continues to connect fashion with lives lived happily? Well, if its ModCloth, it sells a lot of clothes online. This retailer, it also turns out, comes out in support of legislation that would regulate the use of retouching in ad photos.
Several days ago, ModCloth came out in support of H.R. 4445 (AKA The Truth in Advertising Act), which would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate the use of Photoshop in presenting deceptive body images in advertising and on the web. The proposed law, as a Slate article points out, would not ban the use of retouching in advertising, but would require the agency to establish guidelines for how it may be used.
Opponents of the legislation see the law as not only a potential overreach of governmental authority, but question whether it will be effective in ending deceptive advertising practices. While retouching has been used for decades in advertising, there has not been a lot of research done on its actual effectiveness in driving product sales.
ModCloth, which defines its fashion sense as “vintage, retro-inspired and indie,” made headlines last year when it decided to feature clothing on its website by clothing type instead of body size.
- ModCloth – Instagram
- Legislating Realism – ModCloth
- Anti-Photoshop Legislation Could One Day Be a Thing, Thanks to ModCloth – The Fashion Spot
- Retailers see minuses in plus-size sections – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree or disagree with the premise that the use of retouching often amounts to deceptive advertising? If your answer is yes, what is the fix for the situation?
Join the Discussion!
14 Comments on "ModCloth backs anti-Photoshop legislation"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
President, The Ian Percy Corporation
We all know that almost anyone can create any image they want in a most realistic way. We do it with pictures and we do it in words. Most international propaganda pretty well relies on this strategy as do our own political elections. The oft circulated pic of the shark leaping at the helicopter is a poster child for this phoniness. This takes you to just one of many variations.
To me this manipulation is pure and simple dishonest, unethical and borders on fraud. Of course opponents will call this government overreach … they are the ones committing this fraud. I thought the cop who gave me a ticket the other day committed overreach too! I mean come on … there was no harm done.
Principal, Your Retail Authority, LLC
President, The Ian Percy Corporation
Well worth 2 cents Lee — as the ancient adage goes: “the truth will find you out.” More now than ever. That’s the role of the “public police.” I swear that between real estate agents and professional speakers the average age of PR photos is 20 years! Actually meeting some of these people is quite a shock. Maybe I better send Rick Moss a more current photo.
Defining “overstepping” is where we find the contention. Did Volkswagen overstep in deceiving customers about the mileage? Did tobacco producers overstep? Our presidential candidate’s accusations of each other? Maybe Colonel Nathan R. Jessup was right: We can’t handle the truth!
Senior Vice President, Dechert-Hampe (retired)
And did the ice cubes in the 7 Up ad really spell out “S-E-X”? And if they did, did it sell any more 7 Up? Or was anyone harmed as a result? Are we really so concerned about the ill effects of advertising images (not deceptive advertising — just enhanced images) that we need Federal regulation when we aren’t willing to examine the effects of violence in video games on teen crime rates because it is a First Amendment issue?
VP Planning, TPN Retail
The Dove Real Beauty campaign set the bar for truth in advertising. However, fashion isn’t CPG. Better, I like the French regulations about models — they can’t be too skinny. French models need to have a doctor’s certificate that they have a BMI of 18 or more. This kind of guideline helps everyone — it levels the playing field for advertisers, helps consumers’ mental health and, of course, fosters the physical health of the models themselves.
Founder, CEO, Black Monk Consulting
This is a debate over the nuances of sin, not a referendum on sin itself.
Advertising? Deceptive! Who would have thought such a thing?
Do retouched images constitute the largest part of the deception? Probably not.
Is advertising misleading? That’s kind of the point.
Pass a rule that you can’t retouch photos and ads will suddenly be full of computer generated images and other non-photographic graphics. It could cause a resurgence in the popularity of line drawing. Who knows?
If anyone out there believes what they see in an advertisement, based solely on a retouched picture, no legislation will protect them. Insist on pure “truth in advertising” and you’ll need a new platform to fund media and a new basis for sales and marketing campaigns.
Caveat emptor! Today’s consumer is better informed than any other consumer in human history. They are also responsible for exercising an appropriate level of skepticism.
I’m more worried about the truth of the claims than I am about how they are illustrated. If you want to protect the consumer I’d start with the words, not the images.
On the point of little research being done on effectiveness, I was surprised when I went to the Advertising Research Foundation site to search for such research. I found none. I think one answer to the question is a concerted effort to fund and back this research. In addition to ARF, many university journalism schools with advertising segments and labs would be great, low-cost sources to run such research. At the Missouri School of Journalism, for instance, they have the PRIME lab which has a variety of sensors to connect to subjects before showing them advertising to see how the mind and body reacts to ads.
Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates
Regardless of what you think of the issue, props to ModCloth for getting a bunch of free publicity!
Everyone in the industry knows that every effort is put in place to, not necessarily deceive, but to put in the best possible light, products for sale. Words and image are carefully altered for make-believe. Warnings can be placed in ads, but that just makes more clutter, and would probably be ignored.
So what about mandatory “smart consumer” classes in high school? The could teach how to become an informed shopper, knowledgeable about how to critically decide on what are the decision points while shopping. At this time, information could be shared on how to judge what’s “real” in advertising.
Retail Strategy - UST Global
Have to wonder if the existing laws on fraud and misrepresentation are “good enough” and do we really need more laws on this subject? If there’s an appetite for legislating even more stuff, perhaps the first focus for truth in advertising could deal with the use of the word “sale price,” rather than how retouched a photo is.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Or perhaps to be known as the “FTC Full Employment Act.” I’m pretty sure truly deceptive advertising can already be prosecuted under existing legislation, and if that makeup doesn’t actually make you look like a supermodel, really, so what? Nanny-State legislation like this — borderline frivolous — only serves to undermine the case for regulation on important issues.
CEO, President- American Retail Consultants
Deceptive advertising is a result of what is done in an ad and how it is presented to the reader. Banning or strictly controlling the use of a particular software will not change the intent of an advertiser to mislead their reader/viewer. In today’s digital environment, this is simply not a feasible solution. This would have horrific consequences to digitally created images in video games, children’s cartoon-like characters, etc.
Director, SaaS Marketing, Zebra Technologies
First we will all have to agree on what is visually deceptive, beyond computer enhancement, as there are many techniques to manipulate images. Lighting? Make-up? Background? Apparel selection? Then let’s put together a government entity to enforce each of these according to standards based on the voices of those who complain the most. Or, each retailer can use their advertising and imagery to sell their products to the audience they are trying to please (dangerously slim, ultra-slim, normal, healthy, plus-size, etc.) and let the consumer select, via their spend, which they prefer. Let’s see how that works for a while.