Israel is leading the way in the advertising industry as it passed legislation that bans the use of underweight models in advertising. The legislation, aptly called the “Photoshop Law,” also requires that advertisements disclose to the audience if the images of models have been digitally altered to make them look thinner. Not only will this affect advertising that is created in Israel, but also any campaign created abroad that seeks to advertise within Israel.
The law will prohibit models that have a body mass index of 18.5 or less from appearing in advertisements. This number is based on internationally accepted measures and also matches designations set by the U.S. Department of Health.
While many are extremely happy about this law, and have been lobbying the Knesset members of the Israeli parliament for years to pass this type of legislation, it will be seen whether advertisers adhere to it. There are no criminal consequences; it can only be enforced through civil litigation. It would likely be a very difficult process to prove in court that a company violated the “Photoshop Law”, but the point of the law is for deterrence. A Knesset spokesman said that they hope this sends a message to advertising companies from continuing to influence Israelis with images of unhealthy-looking models as the standard of what beauty is.
Israeli statistics show that about 1,500 children and teens are diagnosed with eating disorders in Israel annually. But this is not just an issue in Israel; the numbers of teens with eating disorders around the world has skyrocketed over the years. Over the years, models have grown skinnier in advertisements that are shown across the world. There have even been instances of these models dying from complications arising from anorexia. The Knesset hopes that advertising agencies take responsibility and stop promoting such an unrealistic and unhealthy look that younger audiences try to emulate because they believe that is what is “beautiful.” Israel also hopes that this law will spur other countries to institute similar measures against showing underweight models in advertisements.
Some models and agencies in Israel aren’t happy though. They complain that some models are naturally thin and unable to gain weight, which will affect their work because they will be prevented from booking jobs, because they naturally have a body mass index under 18.5.
Israel is not the only country that has taken action against this sort of “false advertising.” Consumers around the world have expressed outrage over advertisements that clearly are digitally modified and consumer protection groups have also taken action. UK’s version of the National Advertising Division banned L’Oreal ads that featured Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington for being overly airbrushed. In the United States, the National Advertising Division went after CoverGirl, after they digitally enhanced Taylor Swift’s eyelashes in an advertisement for mascara.
This is a big step in the right direction for advertisements that are more “real” and other countries should start listening to their citizens and following Israel’s lead in banning too-thin models and preventing digitally altered images from attempting to portray to young people that these unrealistic body types represent the world population.