It’s recently been announced that Rimmel’s mascara advert featuring Georgia May Jagger has been banned for failing to make its use of false eyelashes clear to viewers.
But it’s not the first time Rimmel has gotten itself into a sticky situation. Back in 2007, a Rimmel mascara ad featuring Kate Moss was banned following complaints from viewers that her eyelashes were false.
This time round, the Advertising Standards Authority concluded that, in the advert featuring Jagger, the vertical smallprint stating “shot with lash inserts” was not clear enough. Moreover, the ASA said that the images in the ad were misleading.
But aren’t all beauty ads misleading?
Advertising, due to its inherently biased nature, has always been taken with a pinch of salt. And now with photo manipulation technology thrown into the mixture, adverts (in particular those promoting beauty products) are to be taken with an ample dose of cynicism.
If the ASA aren’t happy with how clearly an advert states its use of false eyelashes, shouldn’t they also tackle the use of airbrushing and digital retouching? A professional photographer recently told me that pictures of (already underweight) female models are elongated by 10%. No wonder there’s pressure to be thin.
However, while it’s undeniably wrong that adverts should set unrealistic standards for women, surely the fakery involved in beauty adverts comes with the territory.
As the seemingly perfect images of these Rimmel adverts prove, beauty adverts are highly concerned with presentation – as are their target viewers. People who invest in make up clearly have an interest in looking good, so why would they be drawn to an advert that doesn’t?
Make up is all about enhancing a person’s image in order to please, attract or make an impression on whoever’s looking, just as adverts are all about enhancing a product’s image in order to please, attract or make an impression on viewers.
Have adverts for beauty products always been this way?
Take a look at these vintage Maybelline mascara ads:
Improbably long eyelashes? Check. Unbelievably flawless skin? Check, check.
The similarities between the modern and vintage ads are apparent, and prove that adverts for beauty products have never been too concerned with realism. Of course, it could be argued that the unrealistic element of the old Maybelline ads are merely due to their illustrative style (which, as a point of interest, is frequently emulated nowadays by brands like Benefit, or Benefit’s more modestly priced counterpart Soap and Glory).
But, the point remains that adverts for beauty products have always been pretty unrealistic - ‘pretty’ being the operative word. It may be that technology has changed, but the basis of beauty product advertising has not.
The abovementioned Maybelline mascara adverts date back to the late 1950s / early 1960s, however Maybelline was actually founded as early as 1915.
Here’s a brief history of the Maybelline Company:
- Maybelline was created in 1915 by Thomas L. Williams, a young Chicago chemist who named the company after his older sister Maybel.
- In 1913, Williams noticed Maybel using Petroleum Jelly (aka Vaseline) to enhance her eyelashes and eyebrows.
- Williams suggested to his sister that she add carbon dust to the vaseline in order to darken and define both her lashes and brows.
- Two years later, in 1915, Williams introduced Maybelline Cake Mascara, which Maybelline cite as “the first modern eye cosmetic made for everyday use,” all thanks to Maybel’s Vaseline (which probably explains the etymology of the name Maybel-line!)
The launch of Maybelline was shortly followed by another major development in the history of cosmetics; 1916 was the year that false eyelashes fluttered into existence.
The origin of false eyelashes:
- False eyelashes were created by American film director D. W. Griffith on the set of his silent film: Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages.
- It’s been said that, in collaboration with a wigmaker, Griffith created the false eyelashes by weaving human hair through a thin strip of gauze, which was then attached to the eyelid with gum.
- Griffith invented false eyelashes for this film because he wanted leading lady Seena Owen’s eyelashes to brush against her cheeks when she blinked and for her eyes to stand out.
Almost a century has passed since their invention and false eyelashes are still creating an impact – both in adverts and in real-life.