Makeup Ads Banned in UK for Too Much Photoshop

I just read on PetaPixel that the "Advertising Standards Authority, the ad industry watchdog in the UK, has banned an advertisement by Lancome featuring Julia Roberts for being misleading, stating that the flawless skin seen in the photo was too good to be true."

I'm curious to know how fellow photographers and retouchers feel about standards and regulations governing our practices where advertising is concerned. How would it effect the way we do our jobs or how we look at things aesthetically, creatively and socially?

"The spread, shot by Mario Testino, shows 43-year-old Roberts glowing and fresh-faced, the result of having used Lancome's Teint Miracle foundation. The ad claims the foundation 'recreates the aura of perfect skin.'"

"The ad authority also went after the cosmetics company for altering photos of natural beauty Christy Turlington in an ad for Maybelline's The Eraser foundation, which contrasts parts of the model's face covered in foundation to parts left untouched."


I understand that their primary concern centers around exagerated product claims but I can't help but feel there is the deeper issue here, concerning the unrealistic perception of health and beauty that advertisers and the media places on people. Would it be such a bad thing if we had someone looking over our shoulders while we did post production, going, "tsk tsk tsk"?

via [PetaPixel], [NYDailyNews]

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Patrick Hall's picture

How can you ban an advertisement like this?  The fact that Julia Roberts is even smiling at me puts it into the realm of fantasy ha.  What's next, wearing makeup is cause for deceptive advertising?

True, but did you notice the labels for the maybelline shot? "crow's feet" vs. "fine lines"??? That's messed up. The Lancôme one - whatever, but those labels are too much.

There is a covergirl ad out right now for mascara that has a disclaimer about the lashes being enhanced post production.  Ugh.

Sorry Patrick but Julia smiles at me every morning... kidding!

But I AM happy to see that fake makeup, artificial plastic surgery is being hunted down. Don't get me wrong, i love seeing who to retouch skin and stuff. Not the best at it (the worst) but I respect the artists who do. But if Lancome, Maybeline and others DIDN'T ask for perfect skin (so perfect that it's fake) would they still do it? I don't believe so.

I don't know any photographers around me that prefer the plastic fake look.

I read down to find some nice argument: "That the general public is so stupid that we need to protect them from the ways of advertising!". Yes. Advertising WAS in the 40's 50's informational. So you would advertise the benefits and advantages of the product because that's how people knew products existed. Things change but people still see ads like they did. People buy SUV's thinking "if ever I go off-road" but the tire aren't even good in mud (example: Cayenne, Audi's Q series, Rav4s....) Consumers ARE stupid by definition. They don't know the product, so you can (shouldn't...but you can) lie to them and they will believe you.

If we approach advertising purely on the fact that it's there to "sell you fantasy", we are going off track. Advertising WAS and should still be about informing that a new thingy is out. saying it's powerfull, beautiful, that you need it, you want it, that it's better than other is all ok. As long as it's true.

To sell fantasies, we have the film industries...

Not getting into the endless debate of how these unrealistic, overly photoshopped images contribute to the insecurities of young men and women in our society and the large implications of that. I think that they should be removed simply for the fact that it is false advertising. No one has skin that perfect, no one. And no make up can make it look even close to that. 

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't know, with great makeup application and solid photography lighting, I bet you could get a 'real' photo at this websize to look that good.  For Julia?  Maybe not...but there are talented people out there who can do it without photoshop

Fair enough. It just irks me that they are essentially suggesting to potential customers that this is what they could look like that if they use their product, which is, false advertising. Though this is applicable to many other advertisements, beauty or not. 

I have to agree with the ban.... These companies are saying: Buy this cream and you will look that perfect which is false advertisement. Even top model don't look that good... So put on an ad the real thing... Yes we can create fantasy with photoshop but if you want to sell a product based on the image, you should not be allowed to do any cloning. Small adjustment just like NewsPaper are allowed... that's it.

Patrick Hall's picture

But you realize what we are ultimately saying right?  That the general public is so stupid that we need to protect them from the ways of advertising!  I think that is a dangerous slope to go down.  Doesn't all advertising actually sell you something other than reality?  Slash selling guitars, Tiger woods selling Rolexs, Chase Jarvis selling Nikon cameras (or Ashton for that matter).  They are selling a glamorized version of the product that will never perform the same way it will when in your hands.  

To start censoring the advertising world seems like a really bad idea to me.  I mean what if the burger I just ate didn't have fake cheese on it to sell it to me and it actually looked like what came out of the wrapper?  McDonalds would be out of business :)

No Pat, it's not that people are stupid... People would be stupid to think that if you buy a guitar from Slash, you'll play immediately as good as him, but when the ad says that if you buy my cream, your skin will look as good as this, it could be anyone's faces but it actually says: You skin will get as smooth as this... then it should.  As for your McDonald comment, it's now in the law, they cannot use fake food in their ads anymore, they have to use real cheeze and real food. Yes I have to say, it's not looking as good in the box, but... that's not McDonald's fault really, it's each restaurant that let their employee work bad... I used to work at a Harveys' 22 years ago, and believe me, the hamburgers look just as it was on the ad :)

Unfortunately a vast majority of the general public are stupid. I've work in retail jewellery for years, the company do TV advertising. The amount of people that come in and say.. "OH, it looks smaller than on the ad!" is incredible. People have no concept of reality compared to what they see in the fantasy world of television (and/or film and magazines). It's a bit sad really!

I don't think that people can't figure the real size of the item, but it is wishful thinking. They want what they want wether it is rational or not. Then again I could be wrong, but I hope people aren't that ignorant. Maybe I give humanity too much credit.

I agree with you, and im afraid to say that if this is banned than all the world on advertisement should be as well banned, because of what you said, the public is stupid...we have thousands of other commercials that arent banned...

This isn't the same as Chase Jarvis selling a Nikon. It would be like Chase Jarvis selling a Nikon Camera, and having footage saying "Shot with a Nikon D5100", but neglecting to mention that there was massive amounts of post work done in AfterEffects to make it look how it did.

If this ad was for Rolex, and it was this identical image of her, but holding the watch, it wouldn't come under fire or be an issue, because it doesn't matter what she looks like, so long as the product being displayed is accurate.  However, this is an ad for the makeup, implying that when used, that product will give the results shown in the image.  That is a lie.

I cannot rationalize opposing censorship of lies.  I have no issues with manipulation and using sex to sell a product, so long as the product itself isn't being falsely advertised.  There are exceptions, of course.  The first thing that comes to mind is something like Axe products, that imply using their product will instantly have you surrounded by hot women.  That's done in such an extreme over the top method though, you know they're not serious about that claim.  The Lancome ad is not approaching it that way.  It's not trying to be over the top or absurd.  It genuinely wants to imply that using that product will yield those results.

With regards to your lower comment on the Apple commercial being sped up, I'm just as opposed.  They actively and consciously lied about how the advertised product performs, and as such, I feel they should have had to either have a footnote saying "This is sped up", or not been allowed to do it.

Motti Bembaron's picture

I don't want a piece of equipment to perform exactly as it would in the hands of the person advertises it. I would want it to perform exactly the way I want it to and therefore produce what I want it to produce.

The "beauty" industry has gone way too far in misleading the public and never paid the consequences, they just make more money. The best way organizations can fight those companies and their stupid adds (most are pure rubbish and lies) is to have X number of people using the product for a period of time.

Make the company supply the products used (cost them pennies and if they refuse ban the add). If after this set period they conclude that the product is garbage, announce it publicly and demand to stop the add. Might sound like a lot of work but nothing easy is worth while anyway.

Do that for a few years on hundreds of products World wide and companies will be thinking twice before misleading the public.

This, by the way, should not be the same as those TV shows that go after companies and try to prove them wrong. Most people are very cynical of TV networks thinking (and rightly so) that the networks have to come up with some reality-drams news shows to keep ratings. That should be done by organizations that are legitimized World wide and using "normal" fox like you and me (you, anyway) to conduct the testing.

Have a monthly publication either on TV, print or, even better, Social Networks and I bet that after a while it will become a bench mark place for many beauty products.

Are you insisting it is only wrong when it is false advertisement. Are you in accordance that other ads that have highly retouched models but are not claiming that their product will make the buyer look "perfect" are, in fact, acceptable?

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i totally agree with you Patrick. that would be so cool, cause so many "professional photographers" what be out of business, just because they think the no how to use photoshop. hey, more work for those of us who make a point to get it right in the CAMERA not photoshop. this is one of my pet peeves!! i hate porcelain skin!!!

the people that harp on about getting it right in camera are clearly technologically inept.

Chris, art is subjective. I personally love the look of "porcelain skin" even though I know that it is fake. There is no way to get something 100% right in camera because the definition of right is in the eye of the beholder. If you have ever had a shot published anywhere, I gaurantee it was retouched wether you know it or not. Have you ever adjusted the colors/contrast/saturation of an image? That is just as much a photomanipulation as anything else. Trust me...even if you don't think it needs to be changed it can benefit from it.

Maybe 50/50 the less detail you show the more flawless something appears. I don' think anyone can really be presented as flawless in this sort of close-up shot, but one can get extremely close.

I think that you sir underestimate the characteristics of the human being. If these images are to be banned then ban them along the "perfect ass" and "breast" that other woman have that are too good to be true... I think its an exaggeration all of this

Well yes, I agree that these particular images are banned, then all other unrealistic portrayals of the human body should be banned as well. It just so happened that these were the examples. 

And no, I don't doubt that people can have skin this perfect and be this beautiful (not to say that people who don't have perfect skin, limbs or mid-sections aren't beautiful) I just think that the industry has set their "beauty" standards to a very unrealistic bar. Even men and women who are beautiful straight out of camera get shopped. It's almost as if they're looking for imperfections, but why? 

"the industry has set "beauty" standards to a very unrealistic bar" Agree with you on this. But i also think that the industry is a bit relative. I saw photoshoped photos of people that looked like dolls, not human, they somehow in the way of the process lost their human look and became a figure of inanimate state. There are only some that do this, because you nowadays see in most post production tutorials that they leave some imperfections just because of the doll effect. Do you think that the Julia photo looks like a doll? I could say that it doesnt but im afraid that it´s because it a movie star and you recognize her...dont know.. :

Ken's picture

They haven't banned the exercise ads or the weight loss drug ads?  The ones that show 18 year olds that supposedly lost 50 lbs w/ no stretch marks? ;-)

I agree that they should be banned in regards to them being false advertising.
However, all make up and adverts like this are heavily photoshopped anyway... So where is the line I guess?

And a step further, who gets to decide that line? And what/who gives them the right to? 

I think it is just that, an "advertisement".  It is not supposed to be a demo shot of their product, it's supposed to be advertising.  Who cares if it's retouched to "perfection", it's supposed to catch your eye and get you interested in the product.  If the ad said, "This product will make your skin look EXACTLY like this photograph!", then yes, that would be false advertising.  But the fact of the matter is that this is just an advertisement.  It's supposed to look overly good, otherwise the advertiser who created this ad would not have done his job.

In the world today people wear make-up (or cover-up, etc, what-have-you) to make themselves look better.  In the world of photography, photoshop is used as a form of make-up to make people and things look better.  It's not always necessary but for companies promoting a product, they want to look the best.  I understand both sides of the issue but in this situation I find it to be a little over the top to "ban" an ad for "over-photoshopping".
(Disclaimer:  I do believe that today's media raises the bar everyday for young men and women as far as standards of appearance and whatnot.  I think it does pose problems, so please do not think I'm advocating a bias for either side of that issue.)

that's basically what this ad is all about... Buy this and your skin will look like this...

I suppose its almost the same thing with the Calvin Klein underwear, they have an image of some super-toned bloke on the front. But that irritates me more, as I dont think "Damn if i buy these ill look like him", i just think... Damn this is kinda gay just for some new underwear!

That is your interpretation of the advertisement, and no doubt, many others as well. However, like Mr. Flohr, I did not see those specific words on the advertisement nor did I interpret the advertisement as such. Many of these kinds of debates are based upon how the "individual" interprets the advertisement, and it should be the "individual's" responsibility to be able to accurately discern between reality and what is exaggerated for effect, not the companies.

As people we are too quick to point the finger and blame a conglomerate for our own weak judgement. I'm not condoning false advertisement by any means. False advertisement is a crime, and it should dealt with accordingly. I am stating that people should be mentally mature enough to know how decipher between fact and exaggeration. As for children who are not mentally mature enough and are still impressionable, the responsibility should fall upon the parent.

(Just added that in for anyone who might be thinking about playing the child card.)

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