Even in far distant Hong Kong the profession of stereotyped young and healthy Caucasian people in the beautiful world of modelling is now increasingly opening its doors for entry by the less than perfect but nonetheless wholly human representatives of our big international family. The South China Morning Post Hong Kong’s leading newspaper has editorialized this developing phenomenon to herald and acclaim a sea change beginning in the application of advertising messages away from the super pinnacles of perfect appearance to ordinary human beings among us of which there are many who share the planet with us, are not perfect but who nonetheless are in fact a rightful proportion of the market and are increasingly selected for advertised promotion and sale of products, services or whatever. The following is the editorial :-
“Advertising has as much power to challenge perceptions and conventions as to reinforce bias and stereotypes. Unfortunately, businesses that have the money to reach out to their target customers via advertisements often opt for the latter. The fashion and cosmetics sectors are a case in point. Their publicity models are usually perfect-looking, unlike the common man or woman on the streets. Stereotypes remain in norm. It is therefore a refreshing change that more companies have embraced inclusion and diversity in advertising. Victoria’s Secret, for instance, recently hired its first transgender model to promote a new line of clothing. Spanish brand Zurita has advertised its new products on the China mainland using ethnic Chinese models with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The company will donate 25 per cent of proceeds from the sale of the featured collection to a China mainland factory dedicated to providing jobs and training for people with intellectual disabilities. American fashion chain Tommy Hilfiger stands out with campaigns featuring models in wheelchairs or with artificial limbs.
There are those who brand such efforts as cosmetic gestures or public relations stunts. Increasingly, international brands will cast one or two models of different ethnicities as a token to shield them from being labelled racist. In any case, they are the minority. The use of white models with “ideal” body types remains the mainstream in the advertising industry. The recognition of individuals being different and imperfect is still underappreciated.
That said, the growing trend of using models with different backgrounds is a step towards nurturing diversity and inclusion. In the world of business, those who embrace equality for the disabled and the LGBT community are in a better position to attract and retain talent. Likewise, global brands stand to improve their image and gain more customers when their publicity transcends social and cultural barriers.
Advertising thrives on pluralism and innovation. It helps change perceptions by breaking away from stereotypes. It is good that more firms have abandoned the conventional and that, hopefully, can promote a wider acceptance of diversity.”