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Study: Ads With Thin Models Boost Brands, Lower Self-Esteem

  • Ad Age , Thursday, July 31, 2008 12:31 PM
Ads featuring thin models make young women feel worse about themselves but better about the brands featured, according to a study by business professors at Villanova University and the College of New Jersey. Women in a sample of 194 college students aged 18-24 express more negative feelings about their sexual attractiveness, weight and physical condition after seeing thin models than before.

The professors are still preparing a written report on results from a second phase of the research, which finds that despite the negative effect on their body image, women prefer ads showing thin models and say they are more likely to buy products featured in those ads than in ones showing "regular-size models," says Jeremy Kees, a business professor at Villanova.

Seeing thin models also makes college-age women far more likely to turn down a snack pack of Oreo cookies offered as thanks for their participation in the study, or to opt for a reduced-fat version. Women who had just seen thin models were nearly four times more likely to say no to Oreos than women who hadn't, and 42% more likely to opt for reduced-fat cookies if they do indulge.



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