Truth in Advertising Act Takes on Photoshopped Ads

by Cherise Luter

Studies have shown that continued misrepresentation of realistic beauty standards has short and long term negative effects on the public, especially kids — but the great question has been “What do we do about it?” Seth Matlins, a former CMO for Live Nation, has taken on that challenge by creating the Truth in Advertising Act, a new bill making its way through Capitol Hill. The legislation is aimed directly at advertisers guilty of Photoshop abuse (and we can name a few).

Matlins is the founder of Feel More Better, a website on a mission "to make the world an easier place for women and girls to be happier." Matlins’s move into the political sphere was inspired by British Parliament member Jo Swinson’s 2011 push to remove unrealistic advertisements in the U.K, including two L’Oréal ads featuring the airbrushed faces of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington, which were "not representative of the results the products could achieve.” In the end, Swinson was successful in getting the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the ads. Her story moved Matlins to take up the same fight here in the U.S.

Jezebel reports that after three years of diligence, Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Lois Capps co-sponsored the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 written by Matlins, in partnership with the Eating Disorders Coalition. Representative Capps compares enhanced fashion and beauty ads to the now illegal Joe Camel cigarette ads of the past, saying, “Just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women. And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops.”

But what does the bill actually do and how will it be enforced? Here are four need-to-know facts about the H.R. 4341: Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.

Not Just About Airbrushing

If enacted, the new law would regulate all types of enhancements, including changes to shape, removal features, changing bust lines, removing wrinkles — pretty much everything Versace did to Lady Gaga.

No Photospreads, Ads Only

Matlins says the focus will be on advertising only — editorial and artistic works are not included. So, the cover of Vogue can be Photoshopped, just not the Target ad inside.

FTC Is In Charge

The bill places the enforcement power with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), since protecting us from evil media is their job, anyway. They will be in charge of creating the rules and making sure they are followed.

Rules Can Be Enacted Without Congress

The FTC can adopt some or all of the bill’s terms without Congressional action, but the measure must have a lot of support to make that happen. You can show your support through the Truth in Advertising Act's petition.