Ultimo has become the latest in a long line of brands to feature "real women" in its advertising campaigns.
The non-airbrushed ensemble of 14 women, aged between 20 and 53 and fitting into dress sizes from eight to 18, will model the underwear label's new womenswear line: Ultimo Couture
Michelle Mone, the canny Scotswoman behind the label, says the campaign is all about "championing different shapes and sizes". Only, given that the models who have fronted Mone's underwear line include Claudine Keane, Rachel Hunter, Mel B and Kelly Brook, it's obvious that there's a specific physique she favours.
Mone is simply cashing in on the trend, rather than crusading for people to expand their definition of beauty.
Dove led the way with their "Real Beauty" campaign, which used real women with real lumps and bumps to advertise its firming cream. Wonderbra later unveiled a billboard of thousands of "real" women flaunting their cleavages.
Soon Coleen McLoughlin was on a mission to find real women to front advertising campaigns; German magazine, Brigitte, banned professional models from its pages and Debenhams released an unairbrushed picture of a bikini model.
There's no doubt that these campaigns earn trust and respect, but do they attract customers? If I'm going to buy a firming cream, I want to see it modelled by a cellulite-free, silken-skinned, long-legged beauty. Yes, I know she doesn't exist, but I want to buy into the pipe dream; not the reality.
Likewise, if I'm going to splash out on a dress, I want to see it donned by a six-foot Brazilian supermodel, not a mousy school administrator from Dunbartonshire. Clothes look better on models and the better clothes look, the more likely we are to buy them. Simple. Besides, I don't need to know what a real woman looks like -- I see her every day.
The illusion of perfection that we are sold in advertising campaigns is the nature of the beast. The advertising industry has always smeared Vaseline on the lens.
Would you want to eat in a fast-food restaurant that featured "real" photographs of its food? We're fully aware that we're going to be served a pathetic patty, limp lettuce and soggy bun, but the embellished photos lure us into the proposition.
Why don't homeware commercials feature young couples screaming blue murder at each other as they attempt to assemble their flat-pack furniture?
Why don't ads for family holidays show Mum and Dad, burnt as red as lobsters, trying to placate three screaming children who point blank refuse to spend another day at the kids' club?
The premise of advertising isn't to convey reality. Its purpose is to sell a fantasy. Granted, these pseudo-principled campaigns might earn brand respect, but when it comes to selling product, it's about aspiration, not accessibility.