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Aerie’s new campaign pledges not to alter photos of its models

Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

They're drop dead gorgeous. They have their hair and makeup done for them. A professional photographer catches them in the best light. And that's enough.

The new ad campaign for Aerie, a lounge wear and lingerie brand targeted to young women, has pledged not to use retouching tools such as Photoshop in the company's advertising.

The retailer, owned by American Eagle Outfitters, revealed its new strategy on morning show Good Morning America last week.

The models are uniformly beautiful, but the ads no longer alter them to inhuman proportions. The shadow of a muscle or an extra bit of skin is not smoothed away; skin tone appears as is; and while some of the models are still skinnier than most, not all have perfectly flat stomachs or size AA busts.

The retailer's website has also changed; when bra shopping, for example, girls will see models that are the cup size they searched for (rather than the same picture of a supermodel with a variety of sizes listed next to her image). It's not a perfect system: each cup size uses the same model whether the chest circumference is a 30 or a 38 (a big difference.) But it's still worlds away from the approach many other mainstream lingerie brands take.

The change has set off a wave of positive press for the brand, and conversation on social media. The company is encouraging fans to spread the word by posting their own pictures on Instagram and Twitter. Given the amount of goodwill that beauty brand Dove has earned over the years with its criticism of Photoshop (even though it's a standard that changes for parent company Unilever's men's brand, Axe), the chatter around these new changes is sure to earn Aerie plenty of free advertising.

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