Super-skinny models may look great, but they don't necessarily entice women to buy breakfast cereal, the Kellogg Co. acknowledged Wednesday in announcing that it would shift the focus of the advertising campaign for its Special K brand.
The Battle Creek, Mich., company unveiled a new series of ads for Special K that it said is aimed at challenging the notion of the so-called ideal woman -- that size 6 goddess that so few women actually resemble.
With its new "Reshape Your Attitude" campaign, Kellogg says it is trying to encourage women of all shapes and sizes to understand that they, too, are beautiful. "Kellogg's wants people to realize that beauty is more than a dress size or pounds on a scale," said Kenna Bridges, manager of product publicity for the company.
"Real beauty is being strong, healthy and eating a well-balanced breakfast, including Special K, and accepting yourself the way you are -- goals every woman can achieve," she added.
This attitude is quite a switch from its recent Special K ads, in which an ultra-thin model preened in front of a mirror as she tugged on tight blue jeans or a form-fitting dress.
In contrast, a new 30-second TV commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl's pregame show last month features several "manly men" sitting in a bar and talking about their weight. "Do I look fat?" asks one man. Later, another one reflects, "I have my mother's thighs, I have to accept that."
Another TV spot, called "Role Model," shows an out-of-focus woman strolling through a nature setting as an inspirational-sounding narrator asks the listeners what is really important to achieving self-worth. "Would I have to be tall and thin, and have no hips, to make you want to be me?" the voice asks.
The Special K campaign, created by Chicago's Leo Burnett ad agency, also includes a series of print ads.
Kellogg's push to put body image into perspective is part of a trend in advertising, experts say.
One example is a new campaign by the British skin and hair care company the Body Shop, which features a new poster girl, a plastic doll called Ruby -- who's a size 18 and proud of it. The ad's tagline: "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do."
Paulette Cleghorn, the Body Shop's spokeswoman, said the realistic Ruby celebrates the concept of individuality and diversity, and is likely to give women a much healthier outlook on life.
Michael Rowland, general manager at Earle Palmer Brown, a Bethesda, Md.-based advertising firm, praised this new anti-supermodel advertising tact as an effective way to reach Americans who have on the whole become heavier over the past few decades. "You can't preach the unattainable to a consumer market and expect them to go for it," he said.
However esteem-boosting these new campaigns may be, some say the ads may be a hard sell to consumers. Advertising is, after all, about selling dreams -- the Cindy Crawford ideal, if you will. It's much tougher to re-educate the public to accept their imperfections, specialists say.
"Is this what women with a weight problem want to hear?" said Terry Coveny, executive creative director of the Bomstein Agency in Washington. "If everyone else is selling the dream, can they sell the reality and be effective?"