‘Ad Age’ readers react to Nike’s ‘real-women’ ads

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That sound you hear is thunder thighs clapping.

A resounding 87% of respondents to AdAge.com's poll were adamant that marketers should use more images of real women in their campaigns as Dove and now Nike has done with its ads celebrating big butts, tomboy knees and thunder thighs. The effort, first reported by Advertising Age, touched a nerve with consumers and was picked up by media outlets from The New York Times to NBC's "Today Show."

"I actually get so tired of seeing the perfect woman on an ad that, whatever the product is, I lose interest," said Wallicia McCaskill, marketing specialist for the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., Washington. "I don't want to be constantly reminded that America wants me to look like the billboard lady."

Jay Little, manager-direct sales for Arthritis Today, Atlanta, e-mailed that "to see `regular' women in mainstream advertising is just what the doctor ordered." He later elaborated, "All of the women in my life are `regular' women. To hear them complain to me about their body image is saddening, especially when they look beautiful to me and many others."

Katherine Lewis, PR Account Coordinator for San Diego-based Bailey Gardiner, wrote that having been raised by what she called a "feminist, bra-burning, MTV-hating mother," the ads were a gift. "It's about time that we, as marketers, recognize the social responsibility we carry," she wrote.

But not everybody felt the Nike and Dove campaigns were a step in the right direction. Reader Bianca Alonso-Mendoza of Miami wrote, "No one would argue that we should feature C-students in educational ads, or (minor-league) players in baseball commercials. So why should advertisers like Dove and Nike promote, nay, extol, mediocrity when it comes to the body?"

Andrea Learned, president of Burlington, Vt.-based Learned on Women, wrote: "Brands taking the real-women approach will need to be transparent about the process of identifying and working with the women. ... Otherwise, can't anyone just say `This is the butt of a real woman from Smalltown, USA,' when it really is a model's? Show the actual women and the stories behind the glossy `real women' campaign, or risk losing the trust of even your existing customers."

* Read more opinions on the Dove and Nike ad campaigns, Pages 16 and 18.

"I get so tired of seeing the perfect woman on an ad that, whatever the product is, I lose interest"--Wallicia McCatskill

"Why should advertisers ... extol mediocrity when it comes to the body?"--Bianca Alonso-Mendoza

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