US watchdog bans photoshopping in cosmetics ads
By Sebastian Anthony
In an interesting move that should finally bring the United States’ fast-and-loose advertising rules and regulations into line with the UK and EU, the National Advertising Division (NAD) — the advertising industry’s self-regulating watchdog — has moved to ban the misleading use of photo-shopping and enhanced post-production in cosmetics adverts.
The ban stems from a Procter & Gamble (P&G) CoverGirl ad that photo-shopped a model’s eyelashes to exaggerate the effects of NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara. There was a footnote in the ad’s spiel about the photo being manipulated, but according to the director of the NAD, that simply isn’t enough: “You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then — in the mice type — have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’” The NAD ruled that the ad was unacceptable, and P&G has since discontinued it.
So far, so sensible — but some further words from the NAD ruling pose some tricky questions about the continued use of any post production in advertising. Citing a similar situation in the UK, where ads featuring very enhanced versions of Julia Roberts (pictured above) and Christy Turlington were banned, the NAD questions whether photo-shopping is necessary when “professional styling, make-up, photography and the product’s inherent covering and smoothing nature” are already at use. In other words, it sounds like Photoshop is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Where does this leave other forms of advertising? The human face (and the multibillion dollar cosmetics industry) is obviously a touchy subject, but looking at the bigger picture, almost all television, film, and print advertising uses a combination of “professional styling” and post production to make something look better than it actually is. Will Burger King have to replace those impossibly juicy burgers that hang above the counter with something altogether less plastic and more real? What about those video game ads that don’t feature actual game play — and have tiny-font warnings to that effect — will they be banned too? Extrapolating outwards, what about photographers who photo-shop their work? Or people who photo-shop themselves before placing an image on a dating website?