Advertisers refute 'beauty industry perpetuates low self-esteem' claim

By Rosie Baker

Advertisers have rejected claims that the ad industry perpetuates low self-esteem by creating an unattainable image of women in the media and making false claims about products in advertising.
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Advertisers including Boots, P&G and L’Oreal reinforced their commitment to responsible advertising, showing diversity and substantiating the claims made in ads, at the evidence session for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image yesterday (30 January) at the Houses of Parliament.

In response to a question from conservative MP Caroline Nokes, as to whether the success of the industry was based on perpetuating a lack of confidence in order to then sell consumers products to alleviate it, L’Oreal group director of communications Louise Terry defended the cosmetics firm’s advertising as “aspirational” and “sincere”.

Terry says: “Its fair to say that images are airbrushed but never to make people thinner. We try to be sincere and try to get the line right between aspirational and going too far. We spend a lot of time on what is appropriate and we have a good industry watchdog that names and shames us when we get it wrong.”

Terry adds: “People are discerning. If they use a product and it doesn’t work, they probably will not use it again, but we get consumers buying our products again and again so it does do something and it makes them happy.”

Boots marketing director Elizabeth Fagan, adds: “We want all our comms to be engaging, inspirational and make people feel good. We don’t want it to be unattainable but want women to think ‘on a good day I could look like that’. Women don’t want to see unattractive or everyday people - they want to be aspirational.

MP Jo Swinson also criticised the advertising industry for failing to look at advertising proactively as a whole, instead being reactive to complaints and only looking at individual adverts in silos. She maintains that issues of diversity in the ad industry can’t be investigated if the Advertising Standards Authority only looks at ads on a case-by-case basis

Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the Advertising Association, commented that the UK’s self regulation process is comprehensive and allows the industry to look at individual ads, but take action collectively by developing new guidelines in response.


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