Truth In Advertising: Act Seeks To Place Warning Labels On Enhanced Photos

NEW YORK (CBS2) — Critics of a controversial trend in advertising are proposing legislation that would force companies to inform customers when the models in their ads have been photoshopped in order to improve their appearance.

Seth Matlin is the founder of, the driving force behind the “Self Esteem Act,” which seeks to make consumers more aware of the digital enhancement that occurs in advertising.

Matlin believes that digitally enhanced advertising creates unrealistic expectations for young women and that advertisers are giving young girls the impression that they will never be good enough. He argues that by focusing on physical beauty, and by photoshopping already beautiful models, entire segments of the population are being excluded.

“Real women come in all shapes sizes and colors and we can’t leave them out of any conversation,” says Matlin.

Matlin’s proposed solution is the “Self Esteem Act”. He says that the act, if passed, would place “truth in advertising labels on ads or on editorials that have materially changed the human form by photoshopping or airbrushing.”

Studies confirm a crisis of self-esteem among teens. For example, nearly 50 percent of 11 to 17-year-old girls say they want to lose weight because of magazine pictures. And according to Jess Weiner, an author who writes about self-esteem issues for girls, “when teenage girls looks at beauty magazines…she knows it’s fantasy she knows it’s somewhat make-believe but developmentally she also feels a lot of pressure to live up to those images.”

However, the act is not without its detractors. Opponents claim that the “Self Esteem Act” would raise a serious freedom of speech issue. Nat Ives, an editor at Ad Age, says that,”nobody wants the government to tell them what to say and they will say that this is forced speech that they have the right to express their product accurately however they want.”

This would not be the first time that a government exerted control over the beautification of models in advertisements. In the past the British government has banned certain advertisements due to over the top digital enhancement.

Does the media create unrealistic expectations for young women? Would you like to see Truth In Advertising labels on print ads? Weigh in, in our comments section below.


  • moeditor

    What’s next? No makeup or hair color?

  • Mayor Koch's Tomb Inc.

    Let’s see in 1958 I was a photographer making black & white photo’s
    of accident victims ,we used a green filter to make red bruises look
    darker,it held up in court this modern photoshop is nothing more then new forms of seamless retouching the same that as we used with pencil,ink ,knife blades and airbrush way back when.

  • jerseyjoey

    The big picture is Truth in doing business period, something that corporations and merchants alike have thrown under the bus in the name of the dollar. Truth in advertising is just the very tip of a rotten ice burg here, the whole greedy stucture should be held accountable for the product or service they sell and if it cause harm in any way they should pay to make good and whole as law is supposed to do for us.

  • Bklyn

    Stop with the spin that you’re putting on the interpretation angle. There is nothing truthful about these photoshoped and enhanced photos and a label reminding teens that they are BS is appropriate. This label would in no way harm the first amendment.

  • The Realist

    Nat Ives, an editor at Ad Age, says that,”nobody wants the government to tell them what to say and they will say that this is forced speech that they have the right to express their product accurately however they want.”
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    If the photo is altered, then the product is NOT expressed “accurately” at all.

  • Pahl Scharping

    At what point photos/images to be ‘warned as enhanced’. Choice of media? Choice of lighting? Choice of software? Choice of lens? Choice of POV.? Even the fabled Ansel Adams ‘enhanced’ the images he printed with the qualities of the paper and chemicals he chose, the film he used, the burning and dodging techniques he used, etc. etc., etc. Which colors of mediums would you leave off of a painting because it would ‘enhance’ the image. COME ON PEOPLE. What YOU see in the image is all that counts.

    • doc in NJ

      forced to agree with you. I’m a photog hobbyist, and I can see where something like this would eventually lead.

      If you think your daughter / friend / whoever is gleaning an improper INTERPRETATION of the photos, say something to them. But the preteen girl with an aberrent self-image secondary to Marie Claire photos is as unlikely to see-the-light with an “image enhanced warning label” as she is to stop smoking due to the Surgeon General’s Warning on cigarettes,

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