An average-sized man is just as appealing as a bulked-up Adonis, according to Australian research that examined viewers' responses to different male body types in advertisements.
Men and women had rated images of slender or slightly chubby masculinity at least as highly as those with well-defined six-packs, said the study leader, Phillippa Diedrichs, suggesting successful campaigns did not have to portray only rock hard biceps and rippling abs.
The results will widen the debate about media presentation of unrealistic body types, which has until now focused almost exclusively on ultra-thin female models and whether they cause eating disorders among young women.
Ms Diedrichs showed mock-up advertisements for jeans, skin-care products and cologne - featuring muscular male models and men of more average dimensions - to more than 600 students in their late teens.
Neither sex responded more positively to the musclebound bodies, and the males even found ads that showed just the item - with no accompanying model - more effective than those posed by classic hunks.
Some participants in the University of Queensland study ''may have attributed the models' muscularity to vanity or homosexuality, characteristics which they may have found unpleasant or discomforting'', Ms Diedrichs wrote in the journal Body Image.
''The average-size male models [may have seemed] less concerned with their appearance.''
The results echoed Ms Diedrichs's 2008 findings that so-called ''plus-size'' female models sell products as effectively as their emaciated catwalk colleagues, and ''directly challenge industry concerns that average-size models do not appeal to consumers''.
Just as female models had become thinner ''the ideal body for men has also been transformed, and is now characterised by a mesomorphic body type, with large defined muscles, low body fat and a v-shaped upper body'', Ms Diedrichs said.
These trends had occurred while in the general population men's and women's bodies were growing larger and fatter.
Marika Tiggemann, a professor of psychology at Flinders University, last year found physique was men's greatest body image worry - ahead of penis size or excessive body hair - putting them at risk of health problems or injury from steroid use or punishing workouts.
Mission Australia's annual youth survey, which polled 48,000 teenagers last year, identified body image among the top three concerns of 26 per cent of respondents - only fractionally behind drug use and suicide.
Christine Morgan, the head of eating disorders and body image advocacy group the Butterfly Foundation, said extreme dieting or avoidance of particular food groups had doubled in men and well as women since the 1990s.
A spokeswoman for Kate Ellis, the Minister for Youth, said the government would respond next month to the report.