What Women Want: More Relatable Images in Cosmetics Advertising (Survey)

A still from Dove’s celebrated  2006 Evolution ad campaign

A still from Dove’s celebrated 2006 Evolution ad campaign

Thanks to Insta filters and photo-editing apps, anyone with a smartphone can tap or swipe their way to a flawless-looking face. When it comes to beauty advertisements, however, women are looking for something a little more real, suggests new findings from Mintel. In its recent Color Cosmetics US 2015 report, the market research firm explored a common gripe that women have with colour cosmetics ads: a lack of authentic imagery.

The prevalent use of Photoshop and airbrushing has led to consumer skepticism: Four in 10 U.S. women surveyed felt that ads impart unrealistic expectations, making it challenging to know how a product would actually appear or perform. In addition, 26 percent of survey takers believed the looks shown in makeup ads were created with products other than those advertised.

Consumers expressed a desire for more authentic images. When asked what they’d like to see in a brand spokesperson, the top three responses were: someone who has not been retouched; someone who represents their age; and a real woman as opposed to a celebrity.

There’s an opportunity for brands to be perceived as more relatable, Mintel notes. Here are four already heeding the call for more realness in beauty advertising:


Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Still creating buzz (and sometimes backlash) more than 10 years after its inception, this ad campaign was named the best one of the 21st century by Ad Age. The idea originated with market research collected from 3,000 women in 10 countries, which found that only two percent of interviewees considered themselves beautiful. The latest iteration of the campaign, Choose Beautiful, launched in the spring:



The skincare brand’s “Works for Me” campaign focuses on the stories of five real-life women, encouraging them (and others) to nurture their natural beauty and find their ideal skin.


L’Oréal Paris

A L’Oréal Paris ambassador across the pond, 70-year-old Helen Mirren reportedly requested her images not be retouched for her ads. Some critics still speculated there was doctoring because she looked that great, but the Advertising Standards Authority of Britain (which has banned ads for excessive Photoshopping) gave this campaign the all-clear.



The brand recently unveiled its glossy “Love Your Age” campaign for Advanced Génifique Serum, promoting women as beautiful at every stage of their lives. In this video, each celeb ambassador (Lily Collins, Lupita Nyong’o, Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz) declares her age and encourages women everywhere to proudly do the same using the hashtag #loveyourage. In Canada, the brand will soon reveal collaborations with beauty influencers (including bloggers) for the age-positive campaign.