The Effect of Model and Product Type on Advertising Effectiveness: Comparing Fitness and Fashion Brands

Natalie Lieberson


Previous research suggests that people high in social comparison and body dissatisfaction perceive advertisements with thin models poorly because such advertisements increase body-related anxiety. Other research has shown that people are more willing to purchase items modeled by thin models than natural models due to social desirability. The current study investigated whether the product type and model’s body type interact to impact advertising effectiveness. Participants viewed a fashion or fitness advertisement with either a thin, average, or plus-sized model. Then, participants reported how effective they thought the advertisement was, how much they compared themselves to others and their feelings regarding their body image. The results showed no effect of product type on the dependent variables, but there was an effect of model type on advertising effectiveness: Participants who viewed thin and average models rated the advertisement as more effective than participants who viewed a plus-sized model. Additionally, body satisfied individuals compared themselves more to the model, rating the advertisement as less effective. This research provides evidence that although it is commendable that advertising companies are using plus-sized models, utilizing these types of advertisements may be less effective in eliciting positive attitudes toward their brands.