The Cybersmile Foundation ‘#TrollingIsUgly’ / Adam&Eve/DDB
The body positivity movement is growing, and advertisers are getting on board. Last week, we shone the spotlight on an upbeat ad from Curvy Kate which celebrated women feeling confident in their own bodies, encouraging us all to be kinder to ourselves.
Under the spotlight this week, though, is a very different campaign from The Cybersmile Foundation. The ad features body positivity activist and fitness Instagram star Chessie King, who posts a video of herself in her underwear in a declaration of self-love and body confidence. In the first shot, she’s happy, almost victorious – she says she finally feels good enough about her body to pose publicly in her underwear.
But as she gets more and more personal messages pointing out supposed flaws, her face and body becomes more and more distorted as she tries desperately to conform to what her followers want. Her waist gets smaller, her breasts bigger, her nose perks up unnaturally and her lips are disproportionately huge. The end result is deliberately disturbing, flashing back to her old, natural body which she took so much pride in.
The unusual format of the ad makes it visually hard-hitting – at least a third of the screen is taken up by black blank space with a smartphone in the centre, focusing the viewers’ attention entirely on the changing images and trolling messages. It’s directly targeted at the people who make these kind of comments, a clear statement of fact about the potential impact they can have: cyber bullying causes severe physical and mental health problems.
As well as featuring the comments, the ad shows Chessie’s increasingly frustrated reactions to them in emojis and writing scribbled over the screen. ‘I’ll never be able to please everyone’ is one of her final responses, and it encompasses perfectly the twin messages of this spot: first, trolls are trolls, and they will make mean comments no matter what you look like or what you do. The only thing that matters in how you choose to present yourself is what makes you feel comfortable. Don’t listen to anyone else.
But they also shouldn’t be saying those things in the first place. No-one should have to experience the emotional exhaustion of being bombarded with daily online vitriol. The physical health problems which often result as victims of online bullying strive to be thinner, curvier, more muscular, less muscular, according to what trolls say they need to be, are totally preventable – all it would take is for people to stop harassing them.
One of the most striking things about this spot is that Adam&Eve/DDB created it pro-bono, testament to the importance and timeliness of such a campaign. It reminds us that what might seem like an isolated comment to the person making it could actually be the hundredth negative message received by the person being trolled and it refuses to shy away from the profound impact that that can – and does – have on people.