The Faces Behind The Secret #PlusIsEqual Campaign Revealed

By now, you've most likely seen the much buzzed about #PlusIsEqual ad, with its lineup of beautiful plus-sized bodies silhouetted against a studio backdrop. Perhaps you came across a billboard while walking around New York City, or maybe you spotted it gracing two pages in the September issue of Vogue (and, as pointed out, the only two pages featuring plus-size women in that issue's 832 pages). Many have suggested that Lane Bryant was behind the hashtagged silhouettes, and although it originally refused to comment, we can confirm today that those suspicions were correct.

Fresh on the heels of its last successful campaign, #ImNoAngel, Lane Bryant is officially launching #PlusIsEqual to push back against an antiquated industry that still prizes thinness over body diversity. Billboards have already been erected and will continue to sprout up around NYC, especially in areas where prominent New York Fashion Week shows will be held. As more #PlusIsEqual ads appear across the city, Lane Bryant hopes that people will be inspired to participate in the conversation and use their social accounts to be part of a new form of social justice that will roar across the internet on September 14 — an action that Lane Bryant CMO Brian Beitler dubbed a “thunderclap.” And to accompany this virtual social storm, Lane Bryant is hosting an event in Times Square at noon on the 14th, and it has invited you to join the body revolution.

To get more insight into this potentially radical campaign, we sat down with Beitler and Lane Bryant's CEO Linda Heasley. Read on to find out why they created #PlusIsEqual, what they learned from #ImNoAngel, and why you should continue telling them exactly how you feel about their campaigns.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
Can you give me a little background on why Lane Bryant decided to create this campaign?
Brian Beitler, CMO: “We were really excited about what #ImNoAngel did for getting a conversation going about an issue that has been longstanding, which is that the majority of women are not represented equitably or appropriately or fairly in our culture, our media, our fashion, and our magazines, generally. What we hoped #ImNoAngel would do would be to light a spark and ignite a fire. We think #PlusIsEqual is the anthem that should carry forth the message and the fire that #ImNoAngel lit — this idea that all women deserve to see themselves represented equally across our culture, in all the various forums as a sexy woman, as a bold and confident woman, as a compassionate woman. The reality is that America needs a better representation of women across the board.”

Do you feel that the models you have chosen actually represent those women that have been forgotten?

BB: “Yes, we feel those women are a step forward in being able to strongly represent that all women, regardless of their size or shape, can be fairly represented. We don't think that style is defined by size. We don't think that sexiness is defined by size. We don't think that confidence is defined by size. We tried to chose women that could confidently and proudly project that image to America.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
Do you think you will continue the campaign if it proves to be successful but not profitable?
BB: “Our hope is that we are going to get both, always. This campaign is bigger than the brand. This idea is bigger than the brand. We felt that as the leaders in the plus-size industry that we had to boldly start the conversation because we were in a position where we could do this. We see #PlusIsEqual as a campaign that will live for a long time. Hopefully, not forever, because ultimately we feel that we should live in a world where labels don't exist. As long as a label exists, we will continue to work to remove the labels. What was important was to start by proudly and prominently and clearly communicating that plus should be equally represented in our culture, in our fashion, in our media.”

How would you define success for this upcoming campaign? Is it going to be based off social reach, or dollars spent in stores brought in from that?

Linda Heasley, CEO: “It is multimedia. It is going to be social reach, it is going to be what we are doing in the stores. It is going to be out of home, as we did with billboards, et cetera. We also took some print out as well, and then it is going to be released on cable. It is a combination all the way through. We just went through with our field teams last week what we expect them to do. Social is clearly a critical part to this.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
If the campaign proves to be socially successful but it isn't translating into dollars in stores, will it continue to push #PlusIsEqual? Or is that something we would see change and fade away if it doesn't see enough money from it?
LH: “We didn't measure this in terms of money. It is very much about building a brand. What I love about both campaigns is that we have very powerful messages for women. It transcends any brand. It is really about getting the message out [that] it is time to represent. It is time, and timely, for a change. That is really what both of the campaigns were about, they were about change.”

Are you continuing to use a lot of the same women so people can get that familiarity with people so they can identify those are the Lane Bryant models, like Victoria's Secret's Angels?

BB: “So, the women are less about creating Lane Bryant models, because it is not about identifying with one shape or one woman. It is about being able to accurately and fairly represent who women are across the board. We anticipate that we will continue to introduce new models into the Lane Bryant stable. We hope to be able to find new women that are up-and-coming as well as maintaining a presence for those who we feel strongly represent what we want the brand to stand for. It is a different approach than VS. We don't feel that it is about picking VS girls or Lane Bryant girls. We think that that demeans the intent of what fashion is all about. Fashion is about self-expression and representing yourself proudly and boldly, and we will continue to look for women and models who we think can do that.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
Is there anything that you learned from the #ImNoAngel campaign that you were able to implement into #PlusIsEqual?
LH: “One of the things we learned from the #ImNoAngel campaign is the resonance with all women. There is this camaraderie that we all feel that we are hoping to instill with this next campaign as well. It is about being the best we can be, and all women are uniquely and individually beautiful. I was touched by the resonance of that message, and we hope to have instilled it in this one as well. And to have fun. This is a business that is fun, as Brian said earlier, so we want people to have fun and to celebrate.”

BB: “Yeah, with #ImNoAngel, our intent was never to shame any size or any woman, but clearly with that campaign there were women who felt that was the intent behind it. Our goal was we knew we would always go forward, but we wanted to move to a place that we felt could be equally embraced by women of all sizes. There is certainly no shame in #PlusIsEqual; it is a call to action that all women deserve to be represented the same way across all media and the same culture.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
Do you have any plans to have any more of these advertisements in future fashion magazines as well?
BB: “We do. We think that fashion magazines are still appropriate and a well-consumed part of the culture. What we hope is that those magazines will also bring stronger representation into their editorial. This is not just about Lane Bryant buying ads; this is about brands embracing the women of America. Not only represented on the pages of ads, but that we will also see the editorial reflect the reader base at large. We think they stand to grow as a function of that and we stand to grow as a function of that.

“We think the conversation about positivity is a critical one for our culture and for women at large, and in particular for young women. If we truly are going to move to a world where women in general are fairly represented, we've got to raise strong, bold, confident young women, and that can only happen if they feel bold and confident in all ways through education and the intellects of their minds, through the quality of their talents and capabilities, and also through the way they look at themselves from a fashion and beauty perspective. If any one of these areas is unhealthy or diminished, we limit the potential for [women] to reach their full potential, and so as a brand our belief, quite simply, is that we need to move away from a world of shame into a world of positivity. Very few people can make changes of any sort operating from a place of shame where they don't love or like themselves. The whole mission and purpose behind this brand is to help women have a sense of confidence and a sense of self-esteem and a sense of self-beauty and self-love. Our pathway for delivering that is through our fashion, because we truly believe all women deserve great fashion, and fashion can be a great pathway for instilling confidence in ourselves.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Lane Bryant.
I feel like when you are doing that “thunderclap,” you need to do that back to Vogue, even though they were a place you advertised in, because they are one of the problems in this as well. There is a huge lack in diversity in magazines and on websites. The fact that that was the only two pages in the entire magazine and it was an advertisement…that was a shame, and it shows how much work still needs to be done.
BB: “Within the industry, there is still a ton of work that needs to get done around body positivity and around fashion in general for all women. There is work with the magazines, there is clear work in the design industry, there is clear work in the retail community. Retailers at large tend to treat the plus-size client as a second-class citizen. They put them on a separate floor, they put them in home goods, they don't treat this woman as someone who wants to engage and buy fashion. We do, and that's our mantra, part of this process of helping us get to the next place. The industry at large, along with media and culture and Hollywood, needs to embrace a better representation of these women. We also feel that we have to find that confidence, our clients and plus-size women need to find the confidence within themselves to stand up and say, ‘I am ready to be seen. I want to be seen. I am talented and I am capable and I need to be seen.’ Putting themselves in positions where you can't turn away: That is what we hope this campaign does, is allow everyone to shine a light on themselves so the rest of the world can see we are ready to be seen.”

Anything else you'd like to add?

LH: “I would love your readers to send us their thoughts. Just tweet it to get online and let us know.”