Male models in advertising

Issue date: 21 May 2010

CAR logo Findings presented at 4th Appearance Matters conference
22 -23 June, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road, Bristol, UK

Much has been reported in the media about the use of waif thin female models in fashion advertising and the influence this can have on the health of women who strive to be thin in the belief that ultra thin is beautiful. However recent research suggests that in fact average sized female models are well received in advertising campaigns and promote a much healthier body image.

A researcher from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England has investigated if the same theory applies to male models.

Phillippa Diedrichs will present her paper 'GI Joe or Average Joe? The effect of average –size and ultra-muscular male fashion models on body image and advertisement effectiveness, 'at the CAR Appearance Matters Conference in June.

Phillippa Diedrichs recently joined CAR from The University of Queensland in Australia. She was inspired to come to the UK after attending the Appearance Matters conference two years ago.

Phillippa explains, “Policy makers and governments have suggested that including a more diverse range of body sizes and shapes in media images may be an effective strategy for promoting positive body image.

Previous research suggests that attractive, average-size female models may provide a healthy alternative to ultra-thin fashion models. The potential for using average-size male fashion models to improve body image and appeal to consumers, however, has not been well examined. To address this we examined the impact of average-size and muscular male fashion models on men's and women's body image and how they perceive advertisements.”

We showed 619 young Australian men and women advertisements that featured male models of different body sizes, including muscular and average-size models. We asked them to rate the effectiveness of the advertisements and to report how they felt about their own appearance.

Phillippa continues, “Men and women rated average-size male models as equally effective in advertisements as ultra-muscular models. For men, seeing average-size models was also associated with more positive body image than viewing no models, with no difference to ultra-muscular models. Similar results were found for women.

“These findings contribute to a growing evidence base for the health and advertising benefits of using average-size models in media imagery. Furthermore, they provide support for recent calls to increase size diversity in media imagery to promote positive body image.”

For more information about the Appearance Matters conference and to register online go to or e-mail


Editor's Notes

The 4th Appearance Matters conference will be held in Bristol, UK on 22-23 June 2010 at the Wills Memorial Building, Bristol, UK. Appearance Matters is organised by the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

Appearance Matters 4 is a two day international conference highlighting current research and good practice around appearance-related issues including visible difference, ethics, information provision, education, the media, resilience, identity, weight, provision of care, psychosocial interventions and areas for further research.

Conference keynote speakers include Professor Alex Clarke, Royal Free Hospital London and Professor Lina Ricciardelli, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

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