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When I first heard that an advertisement featuring Natalie Portman was banned, my mind immediately went dirty (of course), and I assumed it was due to her not wearing enough clothes and/or being positioned in an inappropriate manner, or something of that nature. Portman is not the kind of actress generally associated with such antics, so I was a bit excited to read about the budding scandal.
It turns out I was a bit off the mark.
Portman’s advertisement for Dior’s New Show Look Mascara doesn’t even feature her body, so if she had happened to be naked or positioned overly sexy, it didn’t really matter. The ad was actually banned due to claims of false advertising.
The advertisement is a close up of Portman’s flawlessly beautiful face, with incredibly long lashes, perfectly separated and curled to accentuate her captivating golden-brown eyes. The advertisement claims that the mascara has a "volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash" and "an unrivaled lash creator effect."
A single formal complaint was filed – by Dior’s direct competitor, L’Oreal, no less – with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), an independent watchdog organization in the U.K. The complaint states that Portman’s face – including her eyelashes – have been photoshopped, which presents a false understanding and expectation of what the mascara can actually do for potential customers.
According to the UK newspaper The Telegraph, “Christian Dior admitted using Photoshop to digitally lengthen and increase the curve of Natalie Portman's eyelashes and replace lashes that were missing or damaged, but insisted the retouching was ‘minimal.’”
Even though L’Oreal is essentially tattling (and likely because someone else called them out for doing the exact same thing), they are correct. Dior cheated. However, it’s not like Dior is the first company to try and pull one over on us in order to sell more products. Most companies (Lancôme, Maybelline, and Victoria’s Secret, just to name a few) have done this do some degree.
Although photoshopping seems like an obvious ethical advertising no-no, since it’s not the natural outcome of the product, ethics don’t appears to have a lot of clout in the advertising world. Besides, where should the line of what is okay and what is not be drawn? Couldn’t selecting beautiful supermodels be considered false advertisement, too, since most of us don’t look anything like that and, therefore, also won’t look quite that stunning in the product?
Advertising is a foggy arena that is not likely to get clearer any time soon. If we start banning all ads that have some form of false advertising – or at least ads that suggest extremely rare results (such as Subway touting that it’s a “diet food” because one guy lost 100+ pounds while eating it), then we may find ourselves nearly void of advertising. Hummm…maybe that isn’t such a bad idea after all…