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ModCloth is first retailer to take no-Photoshop pledge

Aug. 14, 2014 at 8:32 PM ET

The use of edited photos in advertisements has always been a moral and social issue, but now it's a legal one. The Truth in Advertising Act was introduced in March as a bipartisan bill asking the Federal Trade Commission to regulate altered photos in advertising, and the people behind the bill created the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, with one big brand already signed on.

E-retailer ModCloth became the first brand to officially make the pledge. “We’ve always believed in celebrating and showing real women in our marketing,” ModCloth chief marketing officer Nancy Ramamurthi told TODAY.com.

IMAGE: ModCloth
ModCloth
Women of all sizes are featured in ModCloth ads.

Since the company was founded back in 2002 by Susan and Eric Koger, ModCloth has always used real women, not professional models, to showcase the fashions created by the many indie designers featured on the site. And they say they’ve never used Photoshop to modify them.

By signing the pledge, a company agrees to the following terms:

1. To do our best not to change the shape, size, proportion, color and/or remove/enhance the physical features, of the people in our ads in post-production.

2. That if we do materially change the people in our ad(s), we will add a “Truth In Advertising” label to these ads to ensure consumers, in particular children and teens, do not confuse an advertising “ideal” with what’s real.

3. Not to run these ads in media where children under 13 might see them.

The pledge will be self-regulated, but representatives for ModCloth say they hope their participation will encourage others to join in. The company's decision to represent real women wasn’t something that was really talked about, Ramamurthi said, until it dawned on employees that the rest of the industry needed a wake-up call.

IMAGE: ModCloth
ModCloth
E-retailer ModCloth believes in using real women in its advertisements.

“It’s an important issue that we were playing around with, and we thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if there was legislation around it?” Ramamurthi said.

When the Truth in Advertising Act was introduced, ModCloth representatives went to work tracking down who was behind it. That’s how the company connected with Seth Matlins, a former ad man working to combat distorted representations of beauty in hopes of creating a better world for his children.

“It was just such perfect timing.” Ramamurthi said. “We’re so aligned in how we’re thinking and approaching the issue. It was a no-brainer to sign on and participate.”

A recent Gap tweet showing an exceptionally thin model sparked outrage on the internet, and though that particular photo reportedly wasn’t airbrushed, it raised concerns about how the industry perceives beauty.

“I do believe that women of all sizes are beautiful.” Ramamurthi said. “So why not show that and reflect back the diversity of women in this country today?”

No other brands have made the pledge so far, but ModCloth, Matlins and other advocates remain hopeful and believe they have the ability to create change.

“You don’t have to be a size zero or have a thigh gap to be beautiful," said Ramamurthi.

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