Truth in Advertising: Crossing Lines


Our friends at Castlewood Treatment Centers keep knocking it out of the virtual park with ANOTHER great article!  This one covering the importance of HR 4341 – the Truth in Advertising Act.


Truth in Advertising: Crossing Lines

Photoshop isn’t evil. Photoshop in the hands of professionals isn’t intrinsically unethical. But these powerful tools can be used to cross an invisible line of truth. Knowing exactly where the line crosses is now being explored via a legislative bill currently before Congress. The Truth In Advertising Act, officially known as H.R. 4341, was introduced in March of this year by members on both sides of the political aisle. The bottom line is that this bill addresses just how much visual distortion should be allowed in advertising.

Originally, important concerns over truth in advertising related to how photographic images of real people are distorted to be thinner, taller, and more beautiful in order to sell a product or an idea. One line that was crossed is that the prevalence and impact of these enhanced images slowly has caused completely unrealistic expectations for individuals on how to look: how to look to be happy, how to look to be attractive, how to look to be…accepted. Children, teens, and young adults are at risk when bombarded with this unrealistic and impossibly high bar.

Research has documented over and over the deep impact advertising can have on the negative and positive response of young Americans in regard to alcohol, drug use, risky behaviors and eating disorders, such as binge eating. Truth in advertising is a critical step to move the line back into the healthy range of “truth”.

Truth in Advertising Act H.R. 4341

The six important findings that support, according to Congress, the need for a change in the definition of what constitutes truth in advertising are:

  1. Advertisers regularly alter images used in print and electronic mediato materially change the physical characteristics of models’ faces and bodies, often altering the models’ size, proportions, shape, and skin color, removing signs of ageing, and making other similar changes to models’ appearance.
  2. An increasing amount of academic evidence links exposure to such altered images with emotional, mental, and physical health issues, including eating disorders, especially among children and teenagers. There is particular concern about the marketing of such images to children and teenagers through distribution in teen-oriented publications, advertising displayed in public places outside the home, and online media.
  3. Such altered images can create distorted and unrealistic expectations and understandings of appropriate and healthy weight and body image.
  4. The dissemination of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders among men and women of varying age groups, but it has a particularly destructive health effect on children and teenagers.
  5. Academic evidence has demonstrated a connection between the use of very thin models in advertising and consumer attitudes toward a brand based on such advertising, as well as a material influence of the use of such models on consumer purchase intent, conduct, and reliance.
  6. In 2011, the American Medical Association adopted a policy encouraging advertising associations to work with public and private sector organizations concerned with child and adolescent health to develop guidelines for advertisements that, especially those appearing in teen-oriented publications, would discourage the altering of photographs in a manner that could promote unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image.

The Bottom Line of Truth in Advertising

Truth in advertising is not about stifling freedom of expression or creativity. Truth in advertising is about saving the health and the lives of many individuals who have the potential for, or are already suffering from binge eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia and other eating issues. Truth in advertising is also about celebrating the diversity of beauty and body image. Use it as a force for good!

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