Fake News: new guidelines to curb images that harm minds

Jude Kelly, John Rankin and Adelaide Damoah

Jude Kelly, John Rankin and Adelaide Damoah

What you see can be as bad for you as what you eat — and the creative industries must bear more responsibility for the over-processed, highly addictive visual diet that is affecting the mental health of millions of people around the world.

This is the message from M&C Saatchi and MTArt Agency, which has come together with UK photographer John Rankin and Jude Kelly CBE, Women of the World (WOW) founder and former creative director of London’s Southbank, to launch the Visual Diet movement. The project sets out guidelines to help those in the creatives industries to take greater care of the visual landscape by focusing more on diversity and body- and mind-positive imagery and less on the inauthentic ‘perfection’ achieved through retouching.

The new guidelines were unveiled at a panel debate yesterday, which saw Mimi Gray, M&C Saatchi’s head of visual content, joined on stage by Rankin, Kelly and artist Adelaide Damoah to explore the troubled — and, in the age of social media, increasingly troubling — relationship between our daily visual diet and our mental health. During the session, Damoah removed her thick, Insta-ready make-up to show 1,000-plus Lions delegates that “there’s nothing wrong with being open and vulnerable and authentic, and showing the world your true face”.

Kelly said the advertising industry had been having intelligent conversations over the last decade about self-regulation, diversity and changing society’s perception of ‘normal’. “But over the same period, social media has had an intoxicating and I’d say toxic effect on how ordinary men and women see themselves. We need to have a powerful worldwide conversation about what should be done about that.”

Rankin observed that imagery, like anything else, can be “healthy or harmful, addictive or nutritious” — and never more so than in the social-media age, with its obsession with hyper-retouched, click-bait imagery. “I feel like my medium has been hijacked by people that are misusing and abusing its power,” he added. “The way we create advertising has got to be smarter and more responsible. We have to think about who’s going to see it and what effect it’s going to have on the people who do.”

Harriet Palmer