#IAmPerfect was the response to an ad campaign titled The Perfect Body featuring a line-up of Victoria's Secret models.
Three British students took issue with the campaign, resulting in the online advert being retracted, but not an apology from the lingerie giant. The ad, for a bra called Body, perpetuated low self-esteem among women who did not fit into a narrow standard of beauty, argued Leeds students Frances Black, Gabriella Kountourides and Laura Ferris. Using a Change.org petition, the women said Victoria's Secret should take responsibility for the message it sent to women, rather than promoting "unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty".
According to the campaigners, the advert failed "to celebrate the amazing diversity of women's bodies by choosing to call only one body type 'perfect'." They asked for the ad's message to be changed, and for an apology from the company. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had attracted more than 29,000 signatures. US underwear company Dear Kate responded in turn, posting their own version of The Perfect Body, showcasing a variety of body types.
Victoria Secret should have realized at least a segment of their consumer base would be offended by the ad campaign, says Jerry Wind, Wharton School Lauder Professor and Professor of Marketing. "There's a general consensus that you should be respectful of your customers. To the extent that the audience reacted negatively shows a lack of respect to its clients." It's best, says Wind, to study reaction with a target audience, before release. However, "the fact that they responded is good - it shows they're listening to the customers".
For their part, consumers armed with social media hold a different power than in the days of writing a letter to headquarters. "Those who were concerned did the right thing," said Wind. "They got on the social networks with the assumption the company is listening to this and react and that's exactly what happened." While Victoria Secret did change the online ad, the in-store ads are unaltered from the original. Victoria's Secret did not respond to the BBC for comment.
Reported by Micah Luxen
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