Creative Profiles

Dad vs. Ads: Seth Matlins Takes on Media Manipulation for Truth In Advertising

He started a forum for women and girls. He fights for the Truth in Advertising Act. Meet one of the coolest dads we know.

Feel More Better

Magazines and advertising are full of digitally manipulated images that can do a number on women’s and girls’ self-esteem. Marketer Seth Matlins doesn’t want these impossible beauty standards messing with the mind of his 8-year-old daughter (or his 7-year-old son, for that matter). So he’s helping take the fight against unrealistic ads all the way to the U.S. government.

Seth’s career as a marketer was impressive. He worked as a consultant for Fortune 100 businesses and represented some of the most iconic brands in the world, from Evian to LiveNation.

When he began looking at the world through the eyes of his children — specifically his daughter, EllaRose — that changed the game for him.

“There would be so many incremental obstacles thrown in the way of my daughter’s happiness that as someone fully committed to her happiness, I felt I had to do whatever I could to knock those out of her way both individually and culturally,” he says.

In a flash of inspiration, he found a way to start taking on those obstacles.

“I’m sitting at the dinner table (and) the words ‘Off Our Chests’ came to me as an idea,” he says.

He and his wife, Eva, created a site called Off Our Chests (later rebranded as Feel More Better) where women and girls could share and express themselves without fear or inhibition. Topics ranged from growing-up pains and body-image issues to mommyhood and divorce. The site’s motto was “leading a fight against whatever hates on your happy.”

“We were trying to disrupt self-help for women,” Seth explains. “We were trying to bring a voice to these conversations that allowed other women to add their voice to the conversation.”

At the end of 2013, Seth and Eva decided to stop updating Feel More Better. But the site’s archives are still up for readers to explore.

Stop the Photoshop Insanity

Seth’s work with Feel More Better laid the groundwork for another effort to improve the lives of girls and women.

“I read a story out of London about a British MP who had taken down two makeup billboards,” he recalls. “She took them down because she said they were so Photoshopped that they provided a false, nonrealistic expectation of what women should look like.”

That made Seth think: Was anyone taking a similar legislative stand here in the United States?

He started Googling, but could find absolutely no one. So Seth decided to do something about it.

In August 2011, he wrote an article for the Huffington Post called “Why Beauty Ads Should Be Legislated” that linked girls’ and women’s unhappiness with their bodies to unrealistic images in the media. He also introduced a campaign that would become the Truth in Advertising Act. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., introduced the measure in the U.S. House this spring.

Meanwhile, Seth keeps fighting on other fronts. He’s launching the Truth in Advertising Pledge: Advertisers, agencies/creative directors and talent can pledge to either provide a disclaimer on photo-manipulated ads or to not run ads with images of people that have been materially changed. He also plans to launch a gender literacy campaign.

How can you support the cause? Seth gets real with us about the power of the things we create and share.

“Commit to understanding the issue,” he says. “Choose to either not create unrealistic ideals or, if you do, understand the health consequences and make sure people know. Let’s be mindful of our contribution, be mindful of the side effects, and let’s go create more good.”

How to help

Learn more about the Truth in Advertising Act and help the spread word!

For all you game-changers out there looking to make a difference in the world, Seth suggests Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant. “It’s phenomenal,” he says, “It has individual relevance, cultural and organizational relevance. It’s just a spectacular book.”

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