Olay says it will stop skin retouching in its ads by the end of the year


Olay Regenerist video.

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Procter & Gamble skincare brand Olay said Wednesday it will stop retouching skin in its advertising by 2021.

As part of the commitment, which Olay announced at an event in New York City on Wednesday, the company will kick off a new print campaign called “My Olay” featuring unretouched images of Busy Phillips, Denise Bidot and Lilly Singh. Olay works with ad agency Badger & Winters, which made Olay’s recent Super Bowl ad featuring all women.

Olay’s “Skin Promise” mark will appear on ads in the U.S. and Canada to show that the skin on women featured has not been retouched, the brand said. The “Skin Promise” will expand to all of the brand’s ads on print, digital, out-of-home and with influencer partners by 2021.

Kate DiCarlo, Olay’s senior communications leader, said during a panel at the announcement that the brand had tested out the new no-retouching policy in its Super Bowl ad. “We tested ourselves with the Super Bowl shoot; Our Super Bowl shoot was also unretouched,” she said. 

Brands have been criticized in the past for editing photos in ad imagery. Just over ten years ago, Olay came under fire in the UK for a magazine ad for a beauty product featuring English model and actress Twiggy, which the company admitted had been retouched. Unilever and its agency Ogilvy & Mather came under similar scrutiny after claims that it too had retouched photos of models as part of “Real Beauty” ad campaign for Dove (Unilever later told Ad Age that photos in one campaign had been altered to “remove dust and do color correction,” but not to change the “women’s natural beauty”).

But in the years since, some companies have been moving away from altered photos in their ad imagery. CVS Pharmacy said in January 2018 it would require disclosure for beauty imagery that has been “materially altered” by the end of 2020. It also introduced a “Beauty Mark,” or watermark to show imagery that had not been materially altered, referring to changing a person’s size, shape, proportion, skin color, eye color, wrinkles or other characteristics. Olay says its new standards align with those of CVS’s “Beauty Mark.”

In 2018, Dove launched its “No Digital Distortion Mark” for all branded content globally to represent that images are not distorted to make changes like removing wrinkles or cellulite (though it says it can remove a few things like lipstick or food particles from teeth). The company made its Dove Real Beauty Pledge in 2017 to declare that it never makes alterations to distort the physical appearance of the people in its ads or brand visuals.

Other companies have seen success with Photoshop-free ad imagery, including American Eagle’s Aerie, which started running campaigns with unedited photos models in 2014. The brand’s body-positive messaging helped it gain ground from competitor Victoria’s Secret.



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