It happens every single night from 9pm, you’re sat on your coach, watching the Love Island girls model their Missguided wardrobe, wondering why everyone on the show looks about 12 and how they’re keeping their abs despite snacking 24/7, and then the ad break comes on and SUDDENLY, you’re being sold a quick fix to get bigger boobs and a flat stomach.
It’s an intentionally targeted message, literally an advertisement for plastic surgery shown in between 15-minute segments of girls with stereotypically perfect bodies in bikinis. It’s the best marketing tactic for anyone wishing to sell cosmetic procedures, and despite the obvious exploitation of it all, ITV2 are continuing to air plastic surgery adverts alongside the show.
Not for long, at least if feminist campaigning group Level Up have anything to say about it. They’ve joined the series of health professionals speaking out against the ‘exploitative’ adverts, alongside the head of NHS England Simon Stevens and the British Association for Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS).
‘The show is great, but no one can deny that it does only promote a narrow standard of beauty,’ says Janey Starling, campaign manager at Level Up, ‘and it's so inappropriate and exploitative to have those adverts playing in the ad breaks because it’s a tv show based on women walking round with perfect bodies in bikinis- and then in the ad break its telling you how you can get that body.’
And it’s not just feminist groups that are concerned, Simon Stevens spoke out about earlier this week, stating that adverts like this, within this context, play into an environment of insecurity and low self-worth that can impact young people’s mental health.
‘You’ve got explicit adverts being aimed at young women around breast cosmetic surgery,’ he told Andrew Marr on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, ‘that is all playing in to a set of pressures around body image that are showing up. The time has come to think long and hard about whether we should be exposing young people to those kinds of pressures.’
Starting a campaign against the adverts, Level Up are asking people to contact ITV2, from writing letters to a simple tweet, asking for the adverts to be banned during Love Island. They join BAAPS in their quest to put a stop to exploitative cosmetic surgery adverts, who released a statement earlier this week calling for an all-out ban on cosmetic surgery advertising.
While they may seem like an unlikely ally, BAAPS has spoken out previously about reality shows glamourising cosmetic surgery procedures. ‘Such programmes, which are frequently aimed at young people, showcase stars who, more often than not, project and normalise unrealistic standards of beauty,’ they wrote in a statement released on their website, ‘even undergoing multiple procedures following public criticism about their own looks, which is further sensationalised in the media to reveal their surgically-obtained assets.’
They see first-hand ‘the damaging effects of this cultural phenomenon on an increasingly vulnerable population, whereby the decision to seek out treatment is trivialised whilst individuals face intense psychological pressure to conform.’
It says a lot, that an organisation of surgeons who literally provide this service, are against said service being advertised on TV. It shows that this isn’t about condemning plastic surgery, or shaming people who get it, but ensuring that it isn’t glamourized and that young people aren’t preyed upon by cosmetic surgery clinics.
‘If you’re not allowed to advertise medicines on television then why is there an exception for this?’ asks Janey, ‘we are 100% in support of a woman doing whatever she wants to feel good about herself, but fundamentally these adverts are shown on such a huge platform, and in the context, they’re shown, they send a very targeted message and its very clearly exploitative.’
And it’s not just young people that receive it, but all of us living in a society where unrealistic beauty standards are thrown at us and upheld every single day. We don’t need to be sold breast augmentation or lip fillers when we’re trying to relax and escape into the ridiculous world of Love Island on a dreary Tuesday night.
So, while ITV2 continue to show the unethical adverts, we’ll be tweeting at them asking why the hell they’re going against the advice of actual expert… we might favourite a few memes while we’re at it- honestly the memes are the best outcome of this series...