Boots, Dove and Barry M pledge to end influencer editing

Dove, Boots, and Barry M are among the brands to have pledged to help stop the digital altering bodies and faces of influencers and models in social media campaigns.

The committment is in reponse to The Body Image Bill (formerly Digitally Altered Body Image Bill), which, if passed in parliament, will mean advertisers and influencers must clearly label any edited images they post to social media.

As the bill is debated in parliament, its author, MP Dr Luke Evans, has met with brands and agencies in an effort to get voluntary commitment to end body editing altogether.

Boots was among those to sign the pledge. Chief marketing officer Pete Markey told The Drum it recognizes its “responsibility to promote body confidence and to reflect realistic and positive body images.”

The beauty retailer already has a similar commitment relating to its marketing adverts, but in signing the pledge it will now extend this to influencers, who Markey said are “particularly important in engaging younger audiences in a positive and responsible way.”

PureGym was another brand that signed the pledge. The fitness brand, which has an existing policy not to alter images, said the pledge reinforces its "commitment to collective honesty, transparency, and inclusivity in our marketing.” Stephen Rowe, chief marketing officer at PureGym added: "We [PureGym] understand the importance of promoting realistic body images, which helps people of any fitness level to feel comfortable and inspired in our gyms, and is why we have never altered any of our images and never will."

Rowe urged other brands to sign the pledge and said: “By working together we will have a much greater impact and can help to promote a more responsible portrayal of body images across the fitness industry.”

Signatories pledged:

“We are committing to the accurate representation of body proportions of any person who appears in our direct advertising or promotional material.

“As a [national/international organization/brand/charity] we have taken the positive and proactive step to #RecogniseBodyImage by signing up to the Body Image Pledge, put forward by Dr Luke Evans MP.

“To that end, we are committing to not digitally alter the proportions of body parts or shapes which appear in any of our branded imagery. Importantly, this extends to our social media too.”

Marks and Spencer, Next and Unilever have also publicly declared their support for Evans’s campaign, although they haven’t signed the editing pledge.

The Body Image Bill has been tabled for a parliamentary debate for a second time after Evans’s first attempt failed to make it through.

Evans’s office told The Drum that the second tabling is unlikely to get passed during this session ahead of parliament closing in May, but that he will resubmit for a third time.

Evans hopes the backing of the pledge by major advertisers will propel the bill during the next parliamentary session.

While the bill makes its way through parliament, Evans has petitioned the government to recognize body image in the Online Harms Legislation, which would require the social media platforms to regulate in this space.

“The government’s Online Harms Bill, which is making its way through parliament, is a real opportunity to recognize body image for the first time in UK law,” Evans said.

The pledge follows Ogilvy UK’s ban on working with influencers that edit or distort their bodies and faces. Industry response to Ogilvy was mixed, with some industry commentators believing The Body Image bill would be a more effective way of policing editing. Christina Miller, UK head of social, VMLY&R, for example, said the bill would be an “effective solution” that would still allow freedom of expression and transparency.

“In my role as a GP before becoming an MP, I saw first-hand how social media use has a real, tangible and dangerous impact on eating disorders and body confidence issues,” Evans said. “I’m asking people to support my campaign by signing the online petition and bringing it to the attention of the government.”

The Drum has polled both influencer marketing execs and influencers themselves for opinions on The Body Image Bill – the general feeling is that it’s a positive step, but there were questions over how it would be regulated and concerns about causing harm to an influencer’s own self-esteem.