New research on the effect of models in advertisements was recently made public by Elle Magazine in Canada. Ben Barry, founder of the Ben Barry Agency explains how he decided to focus on this topic for his doctoral thesis.
Ben traveled across the United States and Canada where he surveyed and facilitated focus groups with women 14 to 65 and dress size 0 to 18 with various ethnicities being represented as well.
The findings go against almost everything brands and designers have been telling “us” at PLUS Model Magazine and are more along the lines of what we know to be true from our conversations and surveys of plus size women.
Women want to see a reflection of who they are, but a realistic and attainable version. Not a fantasy that is not even REAL! When PLUS Model Magazine released the editorial “Plus Size Bodies, What’s Is Wrong With Them Anyway?“, the response was viral and global. Why? Because it spoke to the core of what women have been saying for years but have fallen on deaf ears.
Ben writes “The general assumption that models are merely “clothes hangers” is rather pervasive in the multi-billion-dollar fashion industry, but they play a much more influential role: They are the bridge between the consumer and the brand. They not only demonstrate how clothes fit and flatter the human body but also convey a brand’s image and identity.”
Ben goes on to say, “Yet, in spite of this, companies seldom cast models who reflect their markets. The typical model is size 2, whereas the average woman is size 14.“
These findings corroborate what every plus size woman knows to be true. It’s who we are and what we live and breathe. Many have criticized PLUS Model Magazine’s “in your face” attitude about diversity and plus size fashion but reading this is exactly why we need to put the focus on the women these brands and designers are selling to.
Ben also says, “My study found that women increased their purchase intentions by more than 200 percent when the models in the mock ads were their size. In the subgroup over size 6, women increased their purchase intentions by a dramatic 300 percent when they saw curvier models. Conversely, when women saw models who didn’t reflect their size, they decreased their purchase intentions by 60 percent, and women over size 6 dropped their purchase intentions by 76 percent.”
This is absolutely true, we have been speaking with up and coming companies about the feedback we get on advertising ads and websites from plus size women. When they use a very small plus size model, the comments are not positive, there is no traffic and the women are not buying or even getting excited. When clients use a plus size model that is a size 14 and larger, especially a size 16 or 18 the numbers go through the roof. What does this tell you?
I can only hope every brand and designer reads this article and has an aha! moment. If you want to sell, you have to market properly, it’s just that simple.