Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The real you is sexy

In this day and age, young women are bombarded by images of photo-shopped models. These photos feature in advertisements, magazines and in films and TV.  The fact that these images are everywhere presents the idea that ‘everyone’ looks like this, and that if you don’t, then you are abnormal and therefore do not fit in. However, standing up in the fight against this mis-representation of women in media, is the lingerie company Aerie.

Aerie is an American lingerie/pajama shop that stocks a large array of brightly coloured underwear and lounge wear, with its main target audience being women aged between 15 and 25.  Their spring advertising campaign of 2014 sent ripples throughout the fashion world when it made the bold claim of, ‘no more retouching our girls, and no more supermodels’. Apart from the odd magazine cover, no large scale fashion company or media outlet has ever attempted this. In a world where the advertising for every clothing store is emblazoned with a tall, skinny model, this campaign jumps out, immediately grabbing consumer’s attention.

The main technique that this advert uses to promote their company is to draw the customer in. They do this in a variety of ways. Firstly, they directly address their customer with a letter, which then leads into  the most prominent of their persuasive techniques - ‘social proof’. This is the idea that we are more likely to agree with a statement or behavior if others are already doing it (Cialdini, 2007).  This is demonstrated by the repeated use of the pronoun ‘we’ and the word ‘our’, and then cemented when they bring the customer in at the end with ‘you’.

The letter that puts their point across is surrounded by photos of attractive young women in Aerie underwear. This is demonstrative of the ‘physically attractive-admirer altercast’ (Pratkanis, 2007).  According to Pratkanis (2007), using attractive people in advertising is more persuasive, as people admire them, and want to feel like them; the easiest way to do this is to buy the same products that they buy.

A further method that is used in this advert to persuade the customer is highlighting the presence of social media. All of the adverts in the campaign feature the text, ‘#AerieReal’. The hash tag means that you can tag the advert in tweets, and discuss it with others that have also done so. Okazaki and Taylor (2013) state that social media, ‘represents a powerful personalization tool, as it enables individuals to both produce and distribute content by their own participation’.  By including the hash tag, Aerie have put the advert into the hands of the customer, making them a part of the anti-airbrushing revolution.

How could you (as a young woman) say no to the company that just wants you to feel good and sexy as you are?


Cialdini, R. B. (2007). Influence: The psychology of Persuasion. New York: HarperCollins.

Okazaki, S., & Taylor, C. R. (2013). Social media and international advertising: theoretical challenges and future directions. International Marketing Review, 30(1), 56-71.

Pratkanis, A. R. (Ed.). (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. The Science of Social Influence: Advances and future progress. New York: Psychology Press.

Lucy Berkeley

1 comment:

  1. Id say that the use of social media is also encouraged as it will feed into social proof and that contrast is created between this company and others. Nevertheless your analysis of an important issue is good.


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