Proud2Bme | 5 Ways to Challenge Damaging Media Campaigns

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5 Ways to Challenge Damaging Media Campaigns

By Dana Land--In 2013, Proud2Bme member Benjamin O’Keefe wrote about Abercrombie’s damaging advertisement and sizing practices. Two years later, Abercrombie has taken action to improve the images in their new advertisements. The new campaign contains less sexual subtext and more diversity.

The motivations behind the change may stem from a genuine concern about the consumer, or from a changing market. Either way, the change is a step in the right direction.

When Benjamin saw a problem with Abercrombie’s advertising practices, he did not sit by and hope someone else did something—he took action, creating an online campaign that garnered over 80,000 supporters, and petitioned Abercrombie to become more inclusive of other body types. Six months later, they added more sizes to their clothing line. Now, with enough pushback against their visual advertisements, they changed their marketing strategies.

There are still many other companies with problematic advertising practices. The past Super Bowl saw a wave of sexism and greatly lacked in body positivity. In response, Miss Representation created a movement called #NotBuyingIt to help fight back against the sexism and body misrepresentation in advertisements.

So, what other ways can students fight back against damaging media campaigns?

1. Boycott products that use problematic advertisements.

The best way to convince a company to realize that their advertisement is harmful is to hit them where it hurts—their profits. By boycotting their product, they have to change in order to keep their profits flowing. For example, SkinnyPop’s tagline is “Guilt Free Snacking.” A bag of SkinnyPop costs five dollars at most, and one person boycotting may not bring immediate attention, but by spreading the word one person can turn into 100—and there’s no end to how much the movement can grow. Those five dollars add up and create a dent, leaving the company no choice but to respond or be seen as a company that doesn’t care about its consumers.

2. Fight against the advertisement itself.

NEDA fights back against damaging advertisements through its Media Watchdog program. You can fill out the online form to alert NEDA staff to dangerous products and advertisements. A NEDA representative might then contact the company to inform them why their ad or product is harmful. They also take submissions for advertisements worthy of praise and attention. From their webpage, you can see NEDA’s current letters to offending companies and participate in a forum to discuss potentially damaging advertisements and campaigns.

3. Support positive and effective campaigns.

Currently, Lush is getting a lot of pushback for their latest body-positive campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to bring attention to how damaging packaging can be to the environment. The advertisement shows multiple women of varying body types. The campaign does not contain any sexual content; just non-sexualized nude bodies, with all reproductive organs covered by soap. Lush was pressured to remove their incredibly body-positive advertisements, but with all of the positive feedback, they decided to leave it up. This was incredibly meaningful to the women who saw their body type finally presented in the media in a positive light. To fight against problematic media, we must also fight for supportive media.

4.  Spread awareness to those perpetuating problematic media.

When copywriters sit down to create an advertisement, they go off of what is currently popular on social media to reach their target audience. When they see that the most shared social media is made up of one sexualized body type, they put out content in line with that imagery in hopes that their target audience will respond to that advertising and consume their product. If you notice someone in your life perpetuating damaging content, send them a little note about why that may not be the best media to share. To fight big companies, sometimes it is best to start at home, with those who are close to you and willing to listen.

5. Become proactive in the creation of media.

You are responsible for the media you create. By being aware of the type of content you put out, you shape what content the advertisers have to work with. The more body-positive campaigns advertisers see becoming popular, they faster they will realize that being body-positive is the best way to reach their target audiences. When you adjust the content and social media that you share, you are also helping yourself and those who view your content. Your positive media could influence those who see it to contribute to the trend by sharing positive content as well. You can be a trendsetter, paving the way for others to share and support body-positive, empowering media!

How else can young people fight against damaging media campaigns? Share your ideas in the comments below!

About the blogger: Dana Land is a junior at DePaul University who prefers to share hand-me-downs with her friends rather than shop at the mall, unless it is a Lush shopping spree. She spends her time spreading eating disorder awareness and naming the plants that are slowly overtaking her apartment.

For more on activism, check out:

Down with Sexist Dress Codes! An Interview with the Students Behind Not ‘A’ Distraction

#IAmMoreThan Campaign: Undoing the Trend of Perfection

5 Things We Learned from our #ProudChat with Teen Voices


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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

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