Twiggy’s ‘airbrushed photo’ complaints are good business for PR


There have been over 700 complaints about the airbrushing in a Procter and Gamble advert for Olay Definity.

Now there are calls for regulation against misleading advertising because, complainants say, the touch ups on Twiggy show her appearing more youthful than perhaps she is in real life. You can read about the complaints here.

I’m not here to comment on this case study or the morality of using Photoshop. I want to look at what any changes in regulation might have on the marketing industry.

Will increased regulation on the use of Photoshop techniques clamp down on airbrushing? Could regulation impact on the advertising industry and, instead, play into the hands of the PR practitioners?

PR consultants will still be able to provide touched up images of models both via print publications and social media, (largely) regardless of the advertising regulations, by editorialising their key messages, using subtle media relations techniques and third party endorsement.

Media outlets clamour for access to ‘property’ such as Twiggy and it is very easy to negotiate the inclusion of PR messages into major interviews.

Likewise, the same messages could very easily be editorialised in, say, a clip interviewing Twiggy, or whichever model it might be next. And her image can be used in countless other ways using this medium. The upshot is that ‘airbrushing’ is very difficult to regulate outside of the advertising world.

The outcome is that increased regulation on airbrushing in advertising will have a beneficial impact on the PR industry which can work loopholes in much more subtle and nuanced ways.

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4 Responses

  1. Stephen Newton says:

    You seem to be arguing that public relations finds it easier to indulge unethical behaviour as it’s harder to regulate. That may be true, but should the industry push that as a USP?

  2. admin says:

    I’m not pushing it as a USP, merely highlighting that regulation will only serve to move benefit the PR industry in terms of new income streams.

  3. Stephen Newton says:

    Fair enough. But in this case exploiting those new income steams would involve supplying airbrushed images that would not be acceptable were an advertiser to use them. Is that ethical?

  4. Hi Stephen, paragraph three says I am not here to comment on the morality of the story. Merely commenting on the likely outcome of such a move on our industry. Cheers, James

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