Air-brushing it under the carpet

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As a twenty-something with a penchant for the latest beauty ‘must-have’, this story caught my eye today. L’Oreal has been forced to pull ad campaigns featuring Julia Roberts and supermodel Christy Turlington after the advertising watchdog ruled that the images had been overly airbrushed.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the adverts were ‘exaggerated’ and ‘misleading’ and banned them from future publication.

Now, the airbrushing argument has been around for years, but this isn’t a debate about whether airbrushing should have been used – it’s an argument about being transparent. L’Oréal was unwilling to disclose pre-production images of Julia and Christy, meaning the ASA wasn’t provided with enough information to evaluate what impact the digital changes had on the final images. As a result, the ads were banned.

After recent events concerning News International, it’s clear that companies operating within the media need to gain the trust of the public if they’re going to succeed. It’s hard to see a place for companies in today’s market that aren’t completely lucid. For companies like L’Oreal, which rely on a media-created brand image to sell products, trust and accountability is absolutely key. Without these two qualities, a company can very quickly go under, à la News of the World.

As someone working within the communications industry, I really feel for L’Oréal’s press officers as they attempt to manage the situation and rebuild consumer faith in their brand. As we all know, once the trust has gone, it’s that little bit harder to get back.