Beauty advertisements have long been overstepping the mark. From Cara Delevingne’s suspiciously long eyelashes in Rimmel’s swiftly banned mascara advert in 2017, to the endless line of airbrushed faces used to promote anti-ageing creams, marketing teams have long been toeing the line between reality and fantasy.
Now, the Advertising Standards Authority is cracking down on the industry’s current most valuable form of marketing – the influencer. The standards watchdog has this week passed rulings on three influencer posts, in which the subjects used a filter to exaggerate their appearance, and thus the efficacy of the product being promoted.
The first two images were posted by dubiously named tanning brand Skinny Tan, and featured Elly Norris. Norris was not paid for her posts (although they did send her the products for free), and Skinny Tan reposted them in light of the positive comments she made. In the photos, Norris used an Instagram in-app filter called “Perfect Tan”, which airbrushed her face and, ironically, gave her an artificial tan.
The second case follows a similar story: influencer Cinzia Baylis-Zullo posted a photo as part of a promotional campaign with Tanologist Tan, including a video of her applying the product. “Hi guys, I wanted to tell you all about how I’ve been tanning my face recently using these Tanologist face and body drops,” she starts, from behind an airbrush-effect filter.
The ASA ruled that the use of filters in these cases breached the CAP Code clauses relating to misleading advertising and exaggeration, as the use of a filter delivered a misleading impression of the performance of the product in question. In the future, brands, celebrities and influencers are advised not to apply filters to content that promotes a beauty product, if said filter is likely to exaggerate its effects.
Both complaints were raised by make-up artist Sasha Louise Pallari, who last year launched the #Filterdrop campaign online, which aims to encourage brands and individuals to ditch the filters, especially when promoting a beauty product.
“#Filterdrop was created as an extension of everything I believe in for beauty,” Pallari said in an Instagram post. “I’ve worked in this industry for almost 10 years and with this campaign I’ve changed how it will be seen online.”
“Six months ago I spoke to the ASA about the damage of these filters as I felt there needed to be stricter guidelines around how products and cosmetics were advertised online. It felt like I was holding my breath each time I was updated that this case was being taken further to each stage. On 22/01/2021 I received an email stating that “the outcome of the rulings chosen mean it is now advised that brands/influencers/celebrities are not to apply filters to photos which promote beauty products if such filters are likely to exaggerate the effect the product is capable of achieving, even if the name of the filter is referenced in the Instagram story.”
With those rulings now in place, it feels as though a slice of the facade has been stripped away – we are a fraction closer to achieving transparency in advertising (which is exactly what an influencer post is, whether they were paid for it or not).
“There are a lot of important things that need to be changed online but this was still one of them and I would do anything to go back and tell 12-year-old Sasha she was going to do this,” said Pallari. “I used to drastically edit my pictures. I used filters. I spent every waking minute of my days wishing I looked like someone else.”
“This is still only the start. I started this campaign eight months ago and the amount we’ve achieved together has been mind-blowing. Every single share, comment, like and action has meant I’ve kept going when parts of this process have been so difficult. Going forward, this means that every single time somebody promotes a skincare or beauty product online, we have the highest chance of seeing real skin, real texture, real nose shapes, different lip sizes, the true product colour. The amount of people that will no longer compare themselves to an advert that isn’t achievable without a filter is going to be prolific. We did it. I’m so proud.”
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