Many consumers want to support brands that are engaged in solving the key social issues of the day. In 2018, both CVS and Dove took steps to address problems with photo manipulation in beauty images that reduce women's self-esteem. The brands announced that they would stop digitally manipulating advertising images in both traditional and online media and that they would include a mark or seal on images to indicate this decision to consumers. These types of certifications are known as "self certifications" or "selfie seals" because they are not awarded by an independent and objective entity but rather by the brands themselves. This study explores CVS's and Dove's self-certifications in terms of the prevalence of usage of the seals on digital content and the visibility of these seals to consumers. Despite the initial public relations blitz, the vast majority of digital content from both brands do not feature the seals. In consumer surveys about the seals, many women exposed to a branded social media post with a self certification do not see the actual seal, and many who do see the seal interpret it incorrectly. As a result, these seals may not be addressing an important social issue and could instead be reinforcing existing self-esteem issues. Recommendations for brands considering the use of seals are presented.

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Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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