L'Oreal seeks to retouch its own image after ASA ban

The cosmetics company has had ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington banned after MP Jo Swinson complained they were overly airbrushed.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 15 Aug 2011
What price beauty? About the cost of an ad campaign featuring two of the world’s most desirable faces, apparently. At least cosmetics company L’Oreal won’t be needing any extra blusher today, after two of its ads were banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, thanks to Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, who complained that the images in question were ‘overly airbrushed’. Ouch.

The ads featured Julia ‘face of Lancôme’ Roberts promoting a foundation called Teint Miracle, which claims to create a ‘natural light’ – a sort of subcutaneous glow. The other starred 90s glamazon Christy Turlington, who was promoting a product with a faintly Kafkaesque ring to it: ‘The Eraser’. Creepy.

Swinson, though, pointed out that both images, which sought to demonstrate the difference the products could make by showing parts of the models’ faces with ‘no make-up’ on at all, were, er, ‘not representative of the results that the products could achieve’. Ie. unless one of the active ingredients was actually bonafide miracle, chances were that 43-year-old Roberts’ baby-like complexion probably hadn’t just been achieved by dabbing on a bit of slap – despite L’Oreal’s protestations that the image featured nothing but her ‘naturally healthy and glowing skin’. Hmm.

What gives it even less credibility is that, when the ASA asked L’Oreal to provide it with the original images so it could assess whether or not the models in question had, in fact, happened upon the secret to eternal youth, it refused. Apparently, it had agreements with both models which meant it couldn’t show the original images to anyone. Not even the advertising watchdog. Not even if it would mean wasting thousands on an ad campaign that didn’t run its course. Again: hmm.

Now obviously, retouching does have its place. And L’Oreal was, presumably, in a difficult position. On the one hand, it wanted to recruit models which would appeal to its target market. On the other, though, it had to help them retain their images. But it does call into question exactly how much responsibility companies have to tell the truth to the customers who are shelling out for its products. And actually, a little more transparency might do it good. After all Dove’s ‘real women’ campaign doesn’t seem to have gone down too badly…

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