CGI in ads grows more popular

A general view of a furniture collection during a store opening at the 4th Ikea chain store in Berlin Lichtenberg on December 13, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. As CGI becomes more popular, there's a bigger and bigger difference between the images you see in catalogs and what things actually look like when you take them home.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday... Let's just say there's going to be a lot of shopping going on over the next week or so. But whatever you buy might not look quite as perfect as it does in the catalog, or online, because many of the product photos companies put out aren't real.

IKEA, for example, says more than a quarter of the images in its catalog are computer generated. There’s reality and then there’s fashion reality -- in which every line, spot and wrinkle is photoshopped away.

Brian Duck, an owner of Atelier Management, an agency for fashion photographers, stylists, and makeup artists, says we should get over ourselves already. After all, the rabid re-touching that goes in the post-production departments of fashion magazines is no secret.
 
“People should realize every image they look at is completely altered," he says. "I’ve shot models, big models where everyone knows they’re gorgeous models but you have to fix their ears. It sounds awful but it just is what it is. Advertising is not education. It’s not politically correct. Advertising is about to get your eyes on that page, to sell that product."

And cellulite doesn’t sell, which is why shiny magazine spreads are so expensive and skinny models can command such high prices. Tyrone Christopher, editor of Idoll,  a magazine for the modeling industry says it's well into the billions, when counted on a global scale. 

So given that computers can create perfect-looking super models -- plus the fact that we’re using them to make everything in ads look better already -- is it possible that one day we’ll swap people for pixels altogether? Christopher says it’s unlikely.

“If you’re a designer and you want to showcase your item, you want to bring out the true nature of the garment. And it takes life to do that,” he says.
 
According to Christopher, it takes real people to attract consumers and influence consumption and Duck agrees.

“I think people would rather see a person. A person that’s retouched, and perfect, but I think they’d rather see a person, “ he says.
 
Duck says even though most of us have to terms with the painful truth, that we’ll never appear in the pages of Vogue, we can still identify with the supermodels who do. Retouched or not, at least they’re human.  

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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