OK, Aerie, let’s get one thing straight before I start. I think you guys are great. Your underwear is cute, your stores are always clean and welcome and I still harbor a secret love for your mother brand, American Eagle, even though I haven’t purchased anything from them since 2006.
I respect your dedication to your customers, especially the young women who are your target audience. I think your “Photoshop-free” campaigns are great in theory; the first one you did was great, featuring girls who looked like real people and not like Sims. We see so much Photoshop in ads and campaigns now (and on Instagram, too!) that sometimes we forget what real people look like.
That being said, I think your choice of Emma Roberts as your current spokesmodel is a little ill-advised. I get it, I do. She had a following on “American Horror Story” as Madison Montgomery and got turned into a meme or two. She’s starring in the new Ryan Murphy show “Scream Queens,” which will probably be great for a season or two and then fall apart just like his other shows. She’s super pretty. Her aunt is Julia Roberts, America’s Eternal Sweetheart. Her Instagram channel is popular. I get it! I really do. She’s got the star power you need, but she still feels accessible because she’s not too famous.
The power of a “No Photoshop” campaign, though, doesn’t come from tapping a tiny, platinum blonde starlet. She looks like Photoshop. Her features are perfect. Her skin is perfect. Her body is petite and toned. There’s nothing wrong with Emma Roberts, and that’s exactly what’s wrong.
“Real doesn’t mean flawed,” Emma said about the launch. Nope, it doesn’t. We live in such a social media vortex now, one where we can filter out our zits and undereye bags on Instagram. Teenagers can Photoshop themselves in all sorts of crazy ways. Technology has changed the way we see ourselves and each other. As someone with legitimately bad skin, I compare my skin to my friends’ all the time when I see their selfies on Twitter and Instagram. I compare my body to Kylie Jenner’s. It’s impossible not to, and it’s equally hard to separate the real from the fake.
I would have loved to see someone who isn’t a tiny, Hollywood blonde as the star of this campaign. It’s nothing against Emma Roberts, who is probably a lovely human and looks gorgeous in the photos. It’s just so boring.
Emma Roberts doesn’t have zits. She doesn’t have scars. She’s got access to Hollywood dermatologists, colorists, trainers and makeup artists we “normal people” can only dream about, and I’m sure she takes advantage of them. I sure as hell would, wouldn’t you?
The photos for her Aerie campaign are very pretty, and I’m sure they’ll sell a ton of underwear and sleepwear, but I can’t help but think they’re a snooze. A beautiful blonde in her underwear isn’t exactly groundbreaking. If you’re going to go sans-Photoshop, show your customers someone with cellulite. Show them someone with uneven skin tone. Show them the dark roots or the thighs that touch. Show us a girl who feels like someone we know, someone who doesn’t fall into the typical, tired old Hollywood realm of beauty. Real doesn’t mean flawed, so give us real.