The ASA gives Rimmel falsies a proper wigging

At last, a palpable hit in the regulator’s ongoing skirmish with the beauty industry over authenticity in its advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a campaign for Rimmel mascara, on the grounds that it uses ‘falsies’ to achieve misleading results.

The campaign for 1-2-3 Looks was devised by JWT and, in the TV versions, featured model Georgia May Jagger swaggering down a catwalk and getting on a motorbike. The voiceover claimed “adjustable lash volume from light to dramatic…three hot looks in one mascara”. And the ad, which includes two print versions, showed Jagger’s eyelashes growing longer in three stages.

The trouble is the effect was not achieved by the mascara, but by three sets of separately sized lash inserts. The ASA concluded that Coty UK (owner of Rimmel) “did not make it clear that the lash inserts used were of different lengths.” The ads were neither honest (CAP 3.1, substantiation) nor truthful (BCap 5.1.1, misleading advertising). There were a lot of other things the ads were not as well, but two of the four fundamental tenets of the advertising code will do for now.

So, bang-to-rights you may conclude. But it was not ever thus. The beauty industry has a habit of confusing truth with fantasy (it is after all in the business of peddling dreams). And the ASA has not always been so vigilant in cracking down on it. I refer to a previous post on the curious case of Cheryl Cole’s preternaturally bouncy hair extensions, which made their appearance in a campaign for Elvive shampoo and conditioner. Like the Rimmel ads, the client ran a small on-screen disclaimer that all was not what it appeared to be (in Rimmel’s case the warning was “shot with lash inserts”). Unlike the Rimmel ads, the ASA chose to give Cheryl and Elvive a clean bill of health.

The ASA will no doubt counter that different technicalities were involved. But the two situations have an uncanny similarity. Part of the thinking in cracking down on one campaign but not the other must surely be that the climate of opinion is changing. See, for example, the evolving debate over airbrushed models in advertising.

At all events, it looks as if the beauty industry will have to up its game: sloppy, misleading assertions will no longer do.


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