No, this isn’t an article about MC Hammer and his bright yellow jumpsuit, but rather a recent decision of the French Health Ministry. Notice should be taken by businesses who trade and advertise in France.
Similar to the ‘Be Real’ and ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns run by, or in partnership with, Dove moisturiser, the French Health Ministry is backing “real body” campaigns. This follows an initiative of the French Government to modernise its health system and attempt to overcome the negative and unrealistic body messages often portrayed and glorified in glossy magazines and on social media. In France, eating disorders and anorexia is the second biggest killer of young people after road traffic accidents and the government wants to try and prevent misleading adverts from being broadcast to impressionable 15-24 year olds.
As of 1 October 2017, any adverts in French newspapers and magazines (both printed matter and digital/online versions) which feature photographs of models, will not be allowed to be modified or edited unless they contain the notice “RETOUCHED PHOTOGRAPH”. Adverts which do not abide by this obligation can face a fine of up to €37,500 and up to 30% of the cost of producing the advert.
In the UK, there is no equivalent. However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does have guidelines to regulate advertising and deal with any associated complaints. If an advert is misleading, over-exaggerated or dishonest, it will not be published or, if it has already been released, it will be banned. Rather than enforce a monetary punishment, the ASA prefers to work alongside advertisers that fall foul of the regulations, giving guidance on future adverts. There are sanctions, however, for those that do not wish to work with the ASA or regularly offend, including raising complaints with Trading Standards or Ofcom to get a business shut down, or publishing a statement about the offender giving them bad publicity (i.e. making the public aware that the advertiser does not comply with the regulations).
At the moment, it’s not clear quite how the French Government will police and enforce this new regulation, but anything that prevents altered or exaggerated images must surely be a step in the right direction.
For clients that advertise in France, it has been made clear that the obligation to disclose the retouching of images rests on the advertisers rather than the photographers, so going forward, be honest or give the photo editing a rest.