Echoing Dove’s recent videos, Kellogg’s recently released the above commercial and accompanying campaign for their Special K brand, that aims to remind women they are “more than a number” (specifically, the size of their jeans). It features, like the Dove videos, dramatic music, emotional confessions and a potentially inspiring ending.
Yet is it problematic that the message comes from a brand that, according to their Facebook page, is in the business of women’s “weight management”?
Or one that, just last year, released a commercial called “Drop a Jean Size”?
It’s also worth noting that the concept of the video – the measuring tape with compliments instead of numbers – seems to have been taken from body positive activists, and that this is not the first time Special K has been accused of stealing ideas from that community.
The bigger question though, is if Special K, or any brand, is trying to make money off of women’s insecurities (while stealing ideas from other women) does that completely negate the potential positive impact of their ads? Even if Special K themselves have contributed to creating the world in which jean sizes matter so much (and have an invested interest in keeping that world around), can one of their own advertisements actually help people escape it?
At the end of the day, Special K isn’t interested in challenging the appearance-obsessed system we live in – if anything, they want to perpetuate it. They don’t sell jeans, they sell food to women (specifically) as part of a “weight management journey.” Which means, when they say feeling amazing makes you beautiful, they really want us to hear: our food helps women lose weight and that makes you more beautiful. It’s no coincidence that the women in the video aren’t exactly of all shapes and sizes.
As Amanda of Redefining Body Image points out, the message on the tape measures is diluted by that lack of body diversity:
I’m really angry at this, not just because they took my work but because they watered it down and thinned out the radical message of being able to be defined by more than a number or weight or whatever REGARDLESS of your size. My body positive measuring tapes were longer than standard size tapes because I took the time to think about what people needed this message most and it isn’t the people featured in that video, it’s the people on the margins who are hidden and never told they can be anything until they look like the women in that video.
So even though there are some feel-good elements in the ad, it’s impossible to ignore how ultimately manipulative it is.
Imran is the Director of Social Media and Outreach at MissRepresentation.org. Follow him on Twitter @imransiddiquee