Friday, July 29

Retouched Advertising

Retouching photography in advertising has long been a hot debate, especially in beauty campaigns.  Many brands have been built on beautifully retouched photography and many other brands have also been built on the fact that they don't retouch their beautiful women.

Well it appears that one particular brand may have crossed the line.  Admittedly retouched adverting for L'Loreal featuring (the original pretty woman) Julia Roberts and (one of the original super models) Christy Turlington was just pulled (in the UK) for allegedly going too far.  The argument is that both of these women are incredibly beautiful enough to not be retouched, and that the retouching actually exaggerates the results anyone would get from using the products.  And that the beauty industry, by the way, creates unreasonable expectations by showing unattainable beauty --- or at least that's the argument presented.

Wow, that's a lot.  Is it all true? ... Some of it I am sure.  Is that the way that marketing works? ...  In some ways I suppose.  Is it a natural by-product of the beauty industry? ... Perhaps.

Bottom line?  We should be honest.

We should show results that are attainable.  As brands we should show ourselves in our best light, certainly, but we should be honest.  Going too far is going too far and is not what marketers should do (nor do I believe it's what most marketers really want to do).  I don't think the brand managers probably even did it consciously.  It looks like a process that just got too carried away.  It's one of those "a little more, a little more, a little more" and before you know it .... It's a very slippery slope.  And a very fine balance that has to be struck.  I'm in the beauty business, and face it every single day.

But I do think it's good that it was second-guessed and then removed.  What's your experience?  Jim.


  1. Good piece on this issue. I know the two ads were pulled in the UK by their watchdog group and that's what started this discussion. I would really be interested in seeing if they do anything about the ads here in the US.

  2. It's such a slippery slope. How do you decide what is too far? Do you allow some but not too much? What's too much? Crazy hard to measure and enforce! Jim.

  3. Labeling this as a "slippery slope" seems like such perfect terminology to me. The decision of when something is enough ultimately comes down to the value judgment of whoever has final approval of the images. But especially when that individual has a vested interest in, let's call it "emphasizing", the benefits of their product or brand, is airbrushing ever really NOT too far? It's automatically exaggerating the results of the product, so it would seem like some degree of false advertising to me. Definitely a gray area!

  4. I think people sometimes yearn to become beautiful women as advertisement.
    Therefore the advertiser keep to stimulate the audience by more and more beautiful pictures.
    However I want beauty company not to use retouched function and comparing the result of sales once.
    I'm wondering if it's really working or not.

  5. I think this is why Dove's campaign for real beauty was such an emotional hit. Got tons of attention and buzz. Although I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that it did nothing for sales. It's tricky ... women are motivated by seeing other beautiful women and are constantly in search of the fountain of youth. The industry creates an illusion, in some ways, that women want to see and are motivated by. And in some cases, it delivers ... just not in an exaggerated way. Jim.

  6. Great points, Jim! Thanks for your article and stimulating a lively discussion. Here is my take on the matter:

  7. Your article is a WOW! Thanks for sharing! Jim.