Advertising titan bans influencers from retouching their photos

The advertising giant says banning retouched images in its influencer network is the right thing to do. Source: Collabstr

Ogilvy UK has banned staff from working with influencers who digitally alter their faces or bodies for brand campaigns, in a bid to tackle the insidious harm social media can cause to the body image of young people.

It means the advertising titan will no longer work with influencers who retouch their appearance — but will allow edits to the contrast or brightness of the photograph — with inhouse technology being used to detect the edits.

The ban, which encompasses all parts of Ogilvy’s UK Group at this stage (Ogilvy Australia is watching it closely), will be rolled out in two phases, the company says.

This month, teams are consulting brands and influencers on the new policy ahead of May’s rollout, with a December deadline to end all editing of sponsored or paid-for content in the influencer space.

Ogilvy’s head of influence Rahul Titus told The Drum it comes down to corporate responsibility in a world where young people can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.

“We have a duty of care as marketers, as agencies and brands to the next generation of people so they don’t grow up with the same stuff we are seeing now,” says Titus.

He continues that influencer marketing is “supposed to be the authentic side to marketing, but now it churns out such staged content that is so harmful to anybody looking at social media”.

Titus continues that it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction: “a lot of research” had gone into the blanket ban.

“We’ve been working with our behavioural sciences team and talking to a lot of influencers and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make it work,” he says.

“We need to educate our clients to give influencers the freedom to express themselves a little bit more.”

The ban will also serve Ogilvy’s quarterly diversity audits — implemented in 2020 — Titus continues.

“We are hoping that by improving influencer diversity, the type of influencers that brands work with will change to be more representative of the population,” he says.

Ogilvy is hoping that, by taking a stand, other big agencies in the industry will follow suit — eventually.

“We are talking about reversing 10 years of social media behaviour and that’s not going to happen in two months,” Titus says.

“We know that what we are putting in place we will not see any immediate benefits for the next five years. It’s too big a project and that’s OK.”

Titus says the ban is “absolutely the right thing to do”.

“Clients want it, the industry wants it, influencers are generally happy with it — so why haven’t we done this before?”

The news comes as the federal government allocated $24.3 million for people with eating disorders and their families in the 2022-23 budget.

In Australia, more than 58% of Australians aged 19-30 years old compare themselves to people on social media, according to research from the Butterfly Foundation.

In 2019,  48% of respondents said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their appearance, while 96% said they were using social media “daily”.

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