Wanted: Real People For Ads

For decades, advertisers have used supermodels to sell their products. Now, some companies are trading in fantasy for reality.

Since introducing its most recent rollout of its "Campaign for Real Beauty," Dove has received a lot of publicity. The most recent ads promote a new line of skin-firming creams and feature six "regular" women of varying sizes and ethnicities cheerfully posing in plain white underwear.

In this "Paris Hilton culture," Adweek magazine advertising critic Barbara Lippert tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, it was time for the pendulum to swing back.

She says, "100 years of fantasy and people can still believe it. Still believe their thighs will be more toned. Every now and then, it it's good to be shocked by reality."

The average American woman is 5'4" and weighs somewhere around 140 pounds. But the average supermodel is 5'11" and 117 pounds. And even though some women are self-loathing and some people don't like to see what's not perfect, Lippert says, there is more good than bad to come out of these ads.

"Anything that provokes this much controversy on both sides of the fence has to be working," Lippert explains. "Men are saying, on one side: 'Women don't want to see that. They want to see supermodels,' because they (the men) want to see supermodels. On the other side [men are saying:], the women are too ugly, not fat enough, and too fat. Everyone has a different response. It's great."

As for the women's response, Lippert says the campaign has had a wonderful effect on them. She says, "This is the democratization of beauty. And it is not 'reality' advertising. The reality shows are giving us more Barbie dolls, same look."

But with these ads, she says, women can see themselves in the billboards. Lippert explains, "You can say: There's me; there's my sister. There's a wonderful feeling about that and it's not hurting anybody. Why are people so up in arms?"

This week, Nike is launching an online and print campaign for exercise gear, also using the idea of "real" women. Nike's ads show close-ups of different body parts that declare: "My butt is big" and "I have thunder thighs."

"I would say it's a universal butt," Lippert says. "It's abstracted; it's not attached to a supermodel; and it's a butt that's been worked out. They're talking to universal people who want to work out, who want the clothing, who want the shoes."

The ad critic notes this is not the first time Nike has used the idea of real women. They have gone back and forth for years, using the idea of women's empowerment.

"These ads have been around for 20 year, but the beautiful supermodels always cancel them out," Lippert says. "For now, this is going to start a real movement of women." Dove's business went up by the double digits, she points out.

Lippert notes the Dove campaign started in Europe and was so successful it was adapted for the U.S. However, it was received much better in Europe.