#AerieReal Has Real Results
The #AerieReal campaign launched in 2014, and has been changing the industry ever since. Aerie is the sister store to the popular clothing store American Eagle. Aerie sells underwear, bras, swimwear, etc. In 2014, the company decided to stop using airbrushed models, and to begin using less traditional, more average girls in their photos that had not been retouched or photoshopped. This encouraged customers to shop there, as the faces representing the company were familiar and welcoming, instead of unrelatable.
The campaign was originally led by a small group of famous women, like Aly Raisman and Samira Wiley. This, almost to be considered a celebrity endorsement, was a successful way to draw more attention to the company and the campaign right off the bat. Celebrity endorsement is a very popular advertisement and public relations technique. From here, the campaign blew up. Aerie eventually hired 57 disabled or ill models for their new bra line to show more inclusivity and has been making great strides forward for women. This campaign has triggered many other companies to start their own version of unique (or average) modeling, like Target, and has also caused some companies to be losing stocks and popularity, like Victoria’s Secret. It has become a popular trend to use realistic models, or those with noticeable disabilities, but Aerie was the first to run a campaign like this.
The #AerieReal campaign has been extremely progressive for all women as a whole. This country severely suffers from very concrete stereotypes and gender roles, and the objectification of women. Companies like Victoria’s Secret have caused extremely unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies, and has promoted the idea that the role of women is to visually please and be flawless. More mainstream modeling or advertisement conform strictly to emphasized femininity. Emphasized femininity is the social contract that women’s default purpose to serve, please, engage with men. It follows the stereotypical gender roles of women being petite and pretty, as well as able to perform for men in a hegemonic masculine form.
Hegemonic masculinity is a similar idea to emphasized femininity, as it is the default. Hegemonic masculinity is the concept that men should be rough and tough, strong, rich, and powerful. The majority of advertisement companies cater to these two concepts, and consistently perpetuate these ideas and issues. Typical ads use some form of male gaze, and display men of hegemonic masculinity with/or women who are displaying emphasized feminine qualities. A severe example is this Tom Ford fragrance ad.
The ad very blatantly is geared towards masculine men. The ad is completely objectifying women, to the point of not even showing her face, meanwhile having nothing to do with fragrance. It shows the emphasized femininity in that the models role is to offer pleasure towards a man. Hegemonic masculinity is also demonstrated here in how the target audience of the ad is men who are attracted to the objectification and power offered.
Here is an example of an advertisement by Victoria’s Secret, top competitor of Aerie.
This ad, in a more subtle way, also demonstrates the qualities of the above ad by Tom Ford. The line reads “The Perfect Body.” Pictured are 8 women, all perfectly tanned and toned, hair and makeup perfect, very skinny, standing in their underwear in not casual stances. They are contorting their bodies to appeal in a sexual way, but interestingly, towards women. This ad’s target audience is obviously females, as it’s a bra store, but it is very interesting that it is so sexual. It seems as if the ad is implying that you need to look like this, need to have the perfect body, and you will if you buy their products. Wearing what they are wearing will help you look like them. But why would you want to? For men. The subtle objective of ads like these are to make yourself look as perfect as possible to attract men. Therefore, it still shows that women are expected to be there at the hands of men for their well-being, and that is the role. This ad very much displays hegemonic masculine and emphasized feminine qualities.
Interestingly, this Victoria’s Secret ad is extremely similar to the Aerie ad from the beginning (pictured again below).
There are a few major differences however, which also reflect the differences of the company. First of all, there is a mix of women in this ad. They are short, tall, curvy, skinny, black, and white. They are so much more realistic and relatable to the majority of women. Also, they way are standing is important to notice. They are standing with each other, hugging, and smiling. They are standing like normal people and not trying to appeal to anyone in particular through their body language. This is extremely different to how the ladies are positioned in the VS ad. The women in the Aerie ad are not being objectified. The Aerie ad is not perpetuating the issues of society in regards to masculinity and femininity, and treating their models and consumers as equals, as humans.
The #AerieReal campaign has been a small but impactful step forward for society and advertising. It has allowed all women an opportunity to express themselves on the same platform they never could before, and has inspired this trend among competitors. It has even been so influential, that competitors are having to come up wth new strategies due to suffering sales. It was considered revolutionary in 2014 when this new technique was used by Aerie, and due to its success and support, has only caused positive changes in the company and others.