Industry-backed media literacy programme Media Smart today launched new resources that use real-life advertising campaigns for Persil, L’Oreal and Aldi to help parents and teachers talk to children about how ads are made, and how they can affect our self-perception.

Created with the support of the Government Equalities Office, the free Get Media Smart: Body Image and Advertising packs provide a comprehensive introduction to the subject, with the aim of building emotional resilience in young people.

The materials have been launched alongside Picture of Health?, new research by Credos – advertising’s think tank – into boys’ body image, which found that 53% of secondary school boys say advertising puts pressure on them to look good, along with friends, social media and celebrities. It’s the latest in a programme of work designed to inform and encourage debate around representation in UK advertising.

Credos Director Karen Fraser said: “This new research shows boys are increasingly worried about their appearance. We have to recognise that advertising and the wider media play some part in shaping how young people feel about themselves – both positively and negatively. This work is about encouraging brands to further engage in the debate and make an even greater contribution to the health and well-being of young men.”

In a survey of 1,005 boys, the report found that many secondary school boys now view eating disorders (56%), dieting (55%) and extreme exercising (48%) as gender-neutral issues, according to new research that suggests negative body image can be a problem for young men just as much as for young women.

Accompanying interviews with teachers and parents suggested that it’s harder for them to spot body image issues among boys, while 56% of boys themselves said they find it difficult to talk to teachers about their looks, while 29% would even find it difficult talking to their parents.

Media Smart Chairman and chief executive of McCann Worldgroup UK Mark Lund said: “Using real-life ad campaigns is a great way to spark an open and honest discussion about a subject that can often be difficult to tackle. Media Smart resources have been downloaded over 12,500 times since last summer, and thanks to the support of our brands, agencies and media owners, parents and teachers are being offered top quality materials that make a real difference.”

Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “We live in a world where advertising surrounds us – on billboards, on our TV screens and on our smartphones. Those images can have a big impact on young minds, so it’s important we make sure children understand how the industry works.

This toolkit is a fantastic resource that can support teachers and parents to talk about body image and gender stereotypes in relation to the adverts we see every day. Through these conversations we can help young people to grow up with a positive view of themselves and empower them to take a more critical view of the world around them.”

Media Smart’s parent and teacher resources are available here.
Picture of Health? is available here.

body image credos media smart