So, at last, the Advertising Standards Authority has started banning magazine make-up ads for being “unrepresentative”. After they banned a Twiggy ad for Olay in December, they seem to have continued to look at ads which are drawn to their attention, and today the news has broken that they have banned two foundation adverts by L’Oréal, one for Lancôme and one for Maybelline, for airbrushing their photos so much that they can’t possibly show the reality of what their product can do.
My favourite part of the Guardian article about this is this quote from L’Oréal about the Maybelline advert, which featured the model Christy Turlington:
“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 achievable results.”
I think it’s the blatant nature of all this that really gets to me, and it’s not just magazine and paper advertisers who are responsible for this. Watch any make-up advert on TV and you’ll see a tiny line of script at the bottom of the screen, which will usually say something like “enhanced in post production“. Since I had this little line of small print pointed out to me, I can’t help but see it every time, and it infuriates me every time. This means that the make-up company, whoever they are (this is certainly not limited to L’Oréal or Olay), are blatantly admitting that they have lengthened those lashes, produced that “flawless look” or “visibly reduced” those wrinkles digitally in the editing suite. They know that no make-up they produce can actually do what they say it can, and as long as they tell us that in their small print, then they appear to be able to get away with it.
And don’t get me started on their statistics – “70% of women told us they would recommend this product to a friend” – read the small print, and you’ll see that they surveyed only 1,000 women, meaning that just 700 women said this. When you consider that in 2007 the Office for National Statistics estimated that there were 31.0 million women in the UK, this is actually a vanishly small percentage, and is known as a non-representative sample, in statistical terms.
Now that Jo Swinson MP has led such a successful campaign against these two magazine adverts, I hope she will turn her attention to the TV ones as well. Most women aren’t that clued up, or don’t have the time or energy to study the small print. Not to mention the image of women that airbrushing and other post-production techniques give to young, impressionable children. Even L’Oréal admit, in the same article in the Guardian (see link above) that the enhanced image of Julia Roberts in the Lancôme advert is an “aspirational picture“. Aspiring to what? Unobtainable results, that’s what.
In a world where we are finally beginning to understand the terrible effect that the media and advertising can have on the country and the world (in the wake of the phone hacking scandal), I think it’s about time that post-production was banned all together, don’t you?