Bill cracks down on deceptive airbrushed ads to empower women

This image of a Japanese pop star does not depict a real person; scientists created it using computer technology.

Bill cracks down on deceptive airbrushed ads to empower women

CREATED Feb 15, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Do you really know what's behind the ads you look at? Well, one Arizona lawmakers wants to make it crystal clear.

State Representative Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) is pushing a bill that would force advertisers to tell you whenever a print ad uses "post-production techniques" such as airbrushing or Photoshopping to create a deception or illusion.

The idea behind HB 2793 is to give women a better self-image and convey to little girls that - unlike images on magazines and newspapers - real women are not perfect and should not have to conform to impossible standards.

Paul Bablove, the President and Creative Director of Tucson's Bablove Agency, said they fix almost every ad.

"True, when you're Photoshopping the visual, you're changing what it looks like, but you're not doing it to deceive. In fact, you're doing the reverse; you're doing it to clarify an image," Bablove said, adding that removing a shadow and taking out the background of a picture are some examples.

Bablove said there are some cases in which advertisers change something to make the product or the model look better, but in most cases the adjustment to the picture is to communicate more clearly with the consumer.

However, the bill is aimed at images of celebrities and models looking skinnier, younger, and prettier than they do in real life.

So 9 On Your Side asked the YWCA if this bill would help girls and women feel better about themselves.

"I could see why one might support this legislation, simply as a 'fairness in advertising' or 'truth in advertising' sort of issue, but I think I would much rather our legislature work on issues of jobs, education and the economy," said Janet Marcotte, the Executive Director of Tucson's YWCA.

Marcotte said the bigger issue is that women are taught, especially during the volatile teenage years, to derive their worth and self-esteem from their looks rather than their accomplishments. Ads are symptomatic of that problem, she explained, and require a much deeper solution than this bill. 

"What we love is to see women who feel better about themselves because they are economically self-sufficient and have much more to rely upon than their physical appearance," Marcotte said.

Bablove said he does not believe this bill serves any useful purpose, especially since disclaimers are often overlooked by consumers. He predicts that it would not impact him or the industry, as it's simply one more thing to add to an ad.

It's unclear whether this bill would only apply to advertisements created in Arizona, or all ads distributed in the state including national ones.

The bill requires the Attorney General to investigate and would impose on advertisers a fine of up to $25,000 per violation.