Earlier this year, Opinions.ie surveyed 1,000 adults online across Ireland aged 18+ as part of our Body Confidence Series. We asked our panel their opinions on Media Habits, Body Image, Reality TV and Cosmetic Surgery and Procedures.

Out of the 1,000 responses, we grouped the consumers into various segments such as ‘Reality TV Viewers’ (28%), ‘Instagram Users’ (41%), ‘Followers of Bloggers/Influencers on Social Media’ (27%), ‘People who have had Cosmetic Surgery’ (8%) and ‘Considerers of Cosmetic Surgery’ (24%).

In a separate Opinions.ie survey conducted in May this year, we found that 57% of mobile phone owners in Ireland admit to being addicted to their phone. Jump on public transport any given day and the vast majority of commuters will have their heads down, phones in hand and absorbed in the small screen, liking pictures on Facebook, clicking through Insta Stories and watching video content on YouTube. With 64% of our panel agreeing that checking their phone is the last thing they do before they go to sleep, and the first thing they do when they wake up, it’s clear that our phones are becoming an extension of ourselves. In this digital revolution we are becoming increasingly dependent on our phones and in that, are bombarded with a stream of videos, images and pictures on a daily basis.

The growing use in smartphones and social media has also brought a change in marketing. Influencer marketing is on the rise, and an especially valuable tool for targeting younger cohorts. The reach that ‘influencers’ have versus traditional advertising channels is something that can’t be ignored, and if done right it can work really well for all parties involved. Among the 27% of the sample following bloggers/influencers, one third of this group have purchased a product from a social media influencer, and a further third have considered purchasing a product. Among Reality TV viewers, over 70% of this group have either purchased or considered purchasing a product based on a social media influencer/blogger post. It’s evident that followers are the new currency.

Take Love Island for example. Whether we want to admit it or not, the show had many of us glued to our TV screens over the summer. Beautiful, attractive, preened individuals all looking for a taste of fame…and some looking for love! Over 40% of those aged 18-24 watched it this year, and each year we see a slew of familiar faces popping up on social media feeds promoting '#ad' '#spon' piece on teeth whitening, hair growth pills or weight loss tea.

Our research found that almost three quarters of the total population said appearance is very or fairly important to them. This increases to 85% among both those who watch Reality TV & those who follow Bloggers/Influencers on social media. That’s not to say Reality TV or Bloggers are solely influencing this, we live in a world where image is everything. Across the board, 39% believe the idea of the ‘Perfect Body/Appearance’ is most influenced by Media, followed by peers of the same gender (28%). 60% of population say they compare their body or appearance to others; and this figure jumped significantly when we looked at it among the various segments; 82% of 18-24 year olds, 80% of Reality TV viewers, 73% of Instagram users, 87% of people who follow bloggers/influencers, and 92% of those who have had cosmetic surgery.

In the quest for perfection;
  • 30% of the total population have bought fake tan, rising to 59% of women
  • Over one fifth of the total sample have purchased at-home teeth whitening kits
  • 12% of the population have purchased weight loss tea products
  • This rises to 18% among 18-35 year olds, and 22% among those who follow bloggers or influencers
  • 32% of Instagram users have purchased false eyelashes
And it’s not just the products above that people are using to enhance their image. Cosmetic surgery and non-surgical procedures and treatments are fast becoming the norm. We found that almost 8% of people surveyed have had a procedure or treatment; the most popular being Laser Hair Removal (20% of this group), Chemical Peel (18%) and Botox (16%). Of those who haven’t had plastic surgery, 26% would consider it (12% among males, and 41% among females). This rises to 35% among 18-24 year olds, 40% among Reality TV Views and 41% among those follow bloggers or influencers. The ‘Kylie Jenner’ effect is apparent among the 18-24 year olds, with lip filler being one of the most desired procedures among this age group, along with liposuction and breast augmentation.

Much talk happened over the summer with Bloggers Unveiled (for those unaware, Bloggers Unveiled was an anonymous Instagram account that acted as an unofficial watchdog for the Blogger/Influencer community in Ireland). Many high-profile bloggers were exposed for questionable actions like photoshopping/filtering images, misleading their followers and not being transparent when a post was sponsored or paid for. While it got quite nasty in the end, the account certainly created lots of social commentary and highlighted the need for greater transparency within the community. The ASAI (Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland) held an event for bloggers and influencers in April 2018, focusing on advertising standards and best practice. This followed the release of new guidelines in 2017.

There are glimmers of ‘real’ and ‘truth’ peppered throughout the social media sphere, but even with a grown-up head on our shoulders, it’s hard to know what to think about your body and appearance; the messages are confusing. On the one hand, we’re told to be body confident, embrace our flaws, stand tall. And yet on the other hand, we consume thousands and thousands of images every day; and often unbeknownst to us, they have been filtered, edited and moulded to fit a covetable aesthetic. It’s important for us all to see that for the most part, social media is filtered; both literally and metaphorically. Personally, I think influencer marketing has its place and function in the market, and can certainly be an effective tool, especially in reaching a younger audience. However, transparency is key, and it’s essential that all parties involved are honest and mindful of their following.

Results taken from research conducted by Opinions Market Research Agency in May and August this year among a sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ in Ireland with quota controls set on age, gender and region to reflect the population. Opinions.ie are a boutique market research agency based in Donnybrook, D4 with their own online panel of 10,000 consumers across Ireland.