Perhaps you have already heard that the above CoverGirl advertisement has been withdrawn from publications by CoverGirl’s parent company Procter and Gamble because the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled that the ad was misleading. I have to say that I applaud both this ruling and the fact that Procter and Gamble withdrew the ad from publications. One of my pet peeves about the beauty industry is that ads for cosmetics and skincare are so air brushed and unrealistic looking that they set-up unattainable goals for real women about how they should look and can look.
Here’s the scoop on what happened with the CoverGirl ad:
There’s a certain Taylor Swift ad for CoverGirl mascara that you won’t be seeing in American magazines any time soon.
In the ad, for CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara, Ms. Swift’s eyelashes have been enhanced after the fact to look even fuller, and, as a result, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled this month that it was misleading.
In response, Procter & Gamble, the owner of the CoverGirl brand, “permanently discontinued all of the challenged claims and the photograph in its advertisement,” the ruling said.
In a statement, Procter & Gamble said: “Our scientists work very closely with our advertising teams to ensure that benefits are accurately portrayed, and P&G’s policy is to feature visuals and claims that accurately reflect these benefits. As soon as we were aware that the N.A.D. had concerns, we voluntarily discontinued the advertising — a move that the N.A.D. itself regarded as entirely proper.”
This is the first time the advertising division has brought a claim like this against a cosmetics company, said Linda Bean, a spokeswoman for the advertising group. …
In the Procter & Gamble case, the advertising division looked at both the express claims made in the ad and what was being implied, Ms. Bean said. The express claims were that the mascara would give eyelashes “2x more volume” and that the product was “20 percent lighter” than the most expensive mascara.
But, she added: “The photograph stands as a product demonstration. Your eyelashes will look like this if you use this product.”
The fine print under a photo of Ms. Swift read that the lashes had been “enhanced in post production.”
Andrea C. Levine, a lawyer who worked on the case and who is the director of the National Advertising Division, said on Wednesday: “This isn’t a question of airbrushing. It’s a question of actually demonstrating what your lashes will look like when you use this product.”
Lawyers at the advertising division routinely scour print publications, broadcast, television and social media to find misleading advertisements. They also help settle claims of misleading advertising that competing companies bring against each other.
“The rule is that an advertising has to be truthful, accurate and not misleading,” Ms. Levine said. “What the picture says, the small type can’t take it away.”
The UK is well ahead of the US in cracking down on misleading photos and ads for make-up. Back in July of 2011 ads from L’Oreal and Maybelline were banned in the UK for being overly airbrushed. British ads are regulated by an independent body called the Advertising Standards Authority which works to make sure that the ads are truly presenting consumers with truthful, not misleading, information. In the US the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) oversees advertising yet airbrushed ads are very rarely withdrawn or even commented upon by the authorities. Let’s put it this way – cosmetic companies have a lot, and I mean a lot, of wiggle room when it comes to how they can promote their products both with the images and the words they use. Buyer beware.
- Check out my earlier post Buyer Beware: Skincare Claims to Look Out For
- Read How to Save Money on Beauty Products (particularly the sections on beauty advertising) by The Beauty Brains
- Point, Shoot, Retouch, and Label? – The New York Times
Photo from The New York Times