By now, you’re probably pretty used to seeing ads for make-up that feature impossibly perfect skin, with the implication that using said product will make your skin 110% wrinkle free and glowing, no matter how old you are. It’s just marketing, and hopefully you know it’s not true. But in the UK, L’Oreal was told that two of their ad campaigns featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington were banned for being too full of shit.
Liberal MP Jo Swinson, who has waged a long-running campaign against “overly perfected and unrealistic images” of women in adverts, lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority about the magazine campaigns for L’Oréal-owned brands Lancôme and Maybelline. The ASA ruled that both ads breached the advertising standards code for exaggeration and being misleading and banned them from future publication.
L’Oréal’s two-page ad featuring Roberts, who is the face of Lancôme, promoted a foundation called Teint Miracle, which it claims creates a “natural light” that emanates from beautiful skin. It was shot by renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino. The ad for Maybelline featured Turlington promoting a foundation called The Eraser, which is claimed to be an “anti-ageing” product. In the ad, parts of Turlington’s face are shown covered by the foundation while other parts are not, in order to show the effects of the product.
Swinson complained that images of both celebrities had been digitally manipulated and were “not representative of the results the product could achieve”.
L’Oréal UK admitted that Turlington’s image had been “digitally retouched to lighten the skin, clean up makeup, reduce dark shadows and shading around the eyes, smooth the lips and darken the eyebrows”. However, it claimed there were still signs of ageing, such as crow’s feet, and that the image “accurately illustrated” the achieveable results.
The company, which provided the ASA with pictures of both women “on the red carpet” to show that they were naturally beautiful, admitted that digital post-production techniques had been used on Roberts but maintained that the changes were not “directly relevant” and that the ad was an “aspirational picture”.
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