The British Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints filed by a member of Parliament and banned from publication two L’Oreal advertisements that it deemed misleading.
The ads featured Julia Roberts for Lancôme and Christy Turlington for Maybelline, and the complaints objected to the digital technology used in the ads.
In the Maybelline magazine ad, parts of Turlington’s face were covered in Maybelline “The Eraser” foundation and other parts were uncovered. The sections with foundation had fewer wrinkles. Small print at the bottom of the ad said “Illustrated effect.”
The ASA determined the ad was misleading because the image had been digitally manipulated and was therefore not representative of the results the product could achieve.
L’Oreal acknowledged that post-production techniques had been used and that the image had been digitally retouched, but noted that crow’s feet and expression lines were still visible on Turlington’s face. In addition, the image was “consistent with the public perception” that Turlington is a “beautiful woman with a naturally fantastic complexion,” the company said.
The ASA was not persuaded and added that “[t[he information Maybelline provided regarding the digital re-touching of the image was insufficient to establish whether the difference between the ‘blocks’ was an accurate representation of the results the product could achieve.”
The Roberts ad was a two-page magazine ad for “Teint Miracle” Lancôme foundation and featured an image of Roberts’ face. The company conceded that the image, taken by well-known photographer Mario Testino, utilized flattering light to reduce the appearance of imperfections, but it also noted that Roberts has “naturally healthy and glowing skin.” Lancôme said the ad was “an aspirational picture” of what could be achieved by using the product.
While the ASA acknowledged Roberts’ beauty, “the image was produced with the assistance of post-production techniques,” and Lancôme did not provide information about what effects those enhancements had on the final image.
“On the basis of the evidence we . . . received we could not conclude that the ad image accurately illustrated what effect the product could achieve, and that the image had not been exaggerated by digital post production techniques. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading,” the ASA said.
To read the ASA’s adjudication in the Maybelline ad, click here.
To read the ASA’s adjudication in the Lancôme ad, click here.
Why it matters: In finding that both ads breached the advertising standards code for exaggeration and misleading ads, the British regulators signaled their intention to take a hard stance on airbrushing and postproduction techniques.