#MediaMondayTip: How to discuss – and celebrate – Photoshop-Free campaigns with your girl(s)!

5 min read

Target and CVS are paving the way for ad campaigns that do not digitally retouch their models. CVS has gone so far as to say that by 2020, all beauty brands that are carried in their stores will have to state when a model’s appearance has been digitally altered. Target is running a swimsuit campaign in which no photo retouching occurs. Do campaigns like this make a difference for girls? We turned to the MEDIAGIRLS’ Youth Advisory Board, a group of strong-minded and thoughtful teen girls, to tell us their reactions. Spoiler alert: These campaigns do make a difference.

Kakazi: I think campaigns like this make all the difference. If girls can see other girls who look like them, it makes them more comfortable. Girls with stretch marks, regular waists and a couple pimples are normal girls. It’s good for girls to see other normal girls considered beautiful. In this way, they can work on any body image issues from the outside in by understanding that there need not be ANY body image issues since we’re all beautiful.

Risa: I think this makes a big difference for girls. Having hundreds, thousands, even millions of girls everywhere seeing these ads with normal women will make girls realize that they are gorgeous and normal just the way they are, boosting their self-esteem.

“Women who look like actual women should be a norm throughout every commercial, magazine, and runway.”
– Annie, age 15

Annie: In a world of impossible body standards showcased 24/7 in the media, it is incredibly important that we see representation of different body types, especially ones that haven’t been touched up or Photoshopped. While the CVS and Target campaigns are fantastic in this regard, the whole point of having “real looking” models is invalidated if we stop there. We can’t allow brands to congratulate themselves on running one body-type-diverse advertising campaign as something “special.” These types of images need to permeate our society until they become the norm, because it shouldn’t have to be astonishing to see non-edited depictions of women in the media. In order for girls to see a new definition of beauty, one where words like “skinny,” “tall,” and “perfect”— and “white,” for that matter— aren’t a requirement, modeling and advertising as a whole need to be redefined. Women who look like actual women should be a norm throughout every commercial, magazine, and runway. Campaigns like those of CVS and Target can only have an impact if they become a regular occurrence, not a token “diverse” advertisement that allows a brand to say, “Look how groundbreaking we are!” For this reason, we need to hold CVS, Target, and every brand accountable so that they continue redefining norms of beauty. When women and girls alike are exposed to images of models who look like them, they stop striving to be beautiful and realize that they already are. We can applaud CVS and Target for the movement that they are sparking— as long as they continue to fan the spark.

“Nobody enjoys the feeling of seeing someone in an advertisement and wanting to be like them, but no matter what you do, knowing you’ll never get there.”
-Hannah, age 13

Hannah: It is so important that brands are using less and less Photoshop. Brands are embracing what women really look like, not the Photoshopped versions of them that society wants us to be. In my opinion, this makes a huge difference for females because nobody enjoys the feeling of seeing someone in an advertisement and wanting to be like them, but no matter what you do, knowing you’ll never get there. The reason being is that it is impossible. Usually, (99.9999% of the time, not exact) humans can’t look like that, but society makes us think that’s what we all should look like to the point where sometimes, girls are starving themselves and hurting their health to look like the women in the advertisements. With big companies ditching Photoshop, girls and women can see true people on the advertisements and they don’t need to feel like they have to be something that they can’t, and feel good about their bodies without comparing themselves to impossible standards.

Olivia: I believe that decreasing the amount of Photoshopping that girls see daily is so important. Constantly seeing unrealistic body images affects girls whether or not they know it. Having these extreme expectations can really hurt a young girl whose body is still developing and growing. When we see these images, our unconscious impulse is to think about how our own bodies compare. It hurts to see that we look different than what society is telling us is ideal. These campaigns will hopefully make a difference in how girls and women views themselves and all of the women around them. Seeing our bodies being celebrated is a huge confidence booster for girls, and I hope that more and more companies continue to choose this path.

Sasha: I do think that Target and CVS changing their marketing to be more authentic will have an impact on girls because as we’re well aware, ads and media affect a lot of women and girls’ self-worth. Ads that are photoshopped perpetuate this idea of a naturally perfect body which is harmful to the majority of women and girls who don’t look that way. By changing their marketing Target and CVS are helping to make media more positive, and in turn hopefully make women and girls feel more positive about themselves.

Claire: We are bombarded, the moment we walk into a store, with messages about our bodies, whether it’s positive or negative. It breaks us down, and can seriously affect our self-esteem. CVS and Target showing real people without any Photoshop is a brave step toward a future that doesn’t shame a young girl for having stomach rolls, or not filling out her bikini. I think that it’s crucial they have done this, and that other brands follow their model, as girls and women are often told that their value is in what they look like. Trying on clothes at the store – at least for me – can be an extremely stressful endeavor. When you look nothing like the women modeling in those clothes, it can feel there is one type of body, one type of attractive, and one type of woman. None of these are true, and if we can get the message out there, it could be that a whole generation would feel better about themselves.

“We are bombarded, the moment we walk into a store, with messages about our bodies….It breaks us down, and can seriously affect our self-esteem.”
– Claire, age 13

Amari: I definitely think this makes a huge difference for girls. When photos in magazines, billboards, websites, and on social media are Photoshopped, girls create this unrealistic ideal image for themselves when, in reality, nobody looks like that. But now, with these new anti-Photoshop campaigns, society’s “ideal image” will slowly but surely change overtime to say that everyone is beautiful and you don’t need to change to be someone you’re not. In addition to CVS and Target, I also know that ASOS stopped using Photoshop on bikini models, as well. I think this is really great and hopefully more companies will start to follow in their footsteps.


CVS and Target’s campaigns are at the forefront of a new wave of the anti-Photoshop movement. Get a girl in your life thinking about these campaigns and the greater movement that they symbolize with these questions:

1. Can you tell if ads are digitally altered?

2. If so, how do you feel when you see ads that are digitally altered?

3. What do you think of the comments in this post? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

4. Do you think campaigns like this will make lives better for girls? How?

This piece was originally published on MEDIAGIRLS.ORG and is republished with permission. Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.

She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.

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