Study from The Numbers Lab reveals ads set unrealistic expectations with women twice as likely to be left feeling ashamed of their body

Adverts are influencing how British people see themselves, according to a new report by strategic quantitative research agency, The Numbers Lab.

The study, entitled ‘Project Eden’, looked at diversity and inclusion in advertising, revealing that a third (32%) of people believe ads influence how they see themselves. A similar volume of people (33%) believe ‘ads set unrealistic expectations and put pressure on people’.

Women are twice as likely to say that they feel ashamed of their body based on what they’ve seen in an advert – with 23% of women stating this is the case vs. 10% of men.

One in five respondents (20%) also believe that ‘the people brands put in their adverts tells us who the brand thinks are valuable and important’. However, fewer than 10 percent of people have recently seen adverts that they feel “represent people from all walks of life across the UK”.

In terms of what people want to see roughly two fifths (38%) would like ads to present a more realistic portrayal of people in the world, followed by ads that do not resort to stereotyping (36%) and the inclusion of more people with different body types and size (35%)

This follows a new Advertising Standards Authority ruling having come into force in June that banned harmful gender stereotypes of all kinds.

The study also reinforces a clear commercial imperative for brands to act, as one in five (20%) Britons claim ‘sexist brand advertising puts them off buying from that brand’ with this more pronounced for women – 25% vs. 15% for men.

Majbritt Rijs, Managing Director at the Numbers Lab said: “In recent years we’ve seen everything from public outcry against “Beach Body Ready” and the photo-shopping of media and celebrity images, to companies such as Mars and Nike making a real commitment to diversity and inclusion. The advertising industry is clearly at a crossroads but this research lays bare both the moral and commercial imperative to take the path of inclusion.

“Ultimately consumers will switch off from brands that do not represent them or the world around them, but more than that if we exclude certain people, or pigeonhole people based on their gender, sexuality, age or race, we are sanctioning exclusionary behaviour, while reinforcing the notion that some people have a good or rightful place in the world and others don’t.”

The report is based on contributions from 2,000 British consumers from across the UK.

Source: Numbers Lab

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