First it was Dove. The soap company plastered billboards and bought thousands of glossy magazine pages filled with shots of women, who don't look like fashion models, in only their undergarments. The Campaign for Real Beauty, as Dove calls it, and its models, has drawn a lot of attention, both good and bad.
Dominique Freire says the changed shocked her. "I was pretty shocked because you are so used to seeing these glamorous, curvaceous, perfect women, and that was like a visual assault. So it made me look twice, and I wondered what they were actually advertising."
What they were actually advertising is firming lotion, a product 'real women' often use. Soon after Dove, Nike came out with its new ad campaign that celebrates women's muscular bottoms, tomboy knees and large thighs.
Nike advertising representative Nancy Monsarrat says the ads are meant to provoke a reaction. "We didn't think it was risky at all, but yes, absolutely, we thought it was provocative. I mean, when you say, 'I have a big butt,' you're gonna get somebody's attention."
In America, where the tall, skinny model has been a hallmark of advertising for years, the moves to break the mold have some people applauding.
Consumer Shameka Wombley says the timing is right. "I think that's its been a long time coming, so I think that a lot of other companies out there will see the effect that that will have on the women of today, and I think that we will buy into it, and we will say, 'Hey, they're real, and I want to support that product because they're keeping it real'."
But Jean Kilbourne, who studies the images of women in advertising, says an ad campaign will not change the way women are perceived. "We have a very long way to go. This is not going to be undone by a single campaign."
Some women say they do not think these so-called 'real women' resemble the average woman.
Consumer Wendy Doernberg doesn’t think it represents every woman. She says, "It didn't seem to necessarily represent the general population. Those women all seemed to look like the same person, not necessarily all the cultures and sizes and flaws that we have in our society."
But Kelly Manion says it is a good start. "It's just great for women to see that it doesn't have to be a stick-thin model to be up on a bulletin board, shown to the world."
Grady Crittendon offers his perspective, "Hopefully, it will change with the next generation, and maybe it will actually change the mindset of [people like] my sister and the young women coming up now that you don't have to be rail-thin to be healthy… or attractive."
Elissa Gross thinks some of the ads are not sexy, "People look at these women for firming lotion and you're thinking, 'That looks like my mom, and she's wearing white cotton underwear and that's really unsexy,' and so these curvy women aren't even being portrayed as sexy at all."
Elissa’s friend Kelly Manion thinks otherwise. "OK, yeah, I definitely, totally disagree with that."
Whether you find the models sexy or not, the companies are modifying an old maxim of advertising that 'sex sells,' by pitching products to women who hope to improve their looks in a realistic manner, rather than trying to emulate a fantasy.