Procter & Gamble Receives Stern Poke Over Covergirl Mascara Ads

Oh, lash inserts. When combined with photoshop, it seems like you don’t even need the mascara in question to make a mascara ad.

After innumerable mascara advertisements that look something like this…

…the National Advertising Division has decided that using false eyelashes is probably not the fairest way to sell a damn mascara. Their current target is Procter & Gamble (owner of Covergirl Cosmetics)’s Clump Crusher Mascara ads, which, like countless ads before it, use lash inserts to deceive consumers about its product’s lash-enhancing prowess.The National Advertising Division (NAD) is a segment of the Council of Better Business Bureaus dedicated to reviewing factual claims made by national ads. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) itself is a nonprofit in the US and Canada that investigates the reliability of various businesses. They rate businesses on a scale from F to A+. I tend to not trust their ratings indiscriminately because I’ve observed that the ratings seem to depend in large part on the company’s participation with BBB, rather than their overall reliability. For example, according to the rating explanations on their website, the non-profit docks companies for not using the BBB website to respond to complaints. There have also been allegations that BBB ratings are sensitive to whether or not companies give money to the non-profit. (You can read more about that by clicking here. The article gets bonus points since you have now seen inappropriate pictures of one of the key players that it discusses.) With that said, I do think that the BBB is one tool that you can you to help determine the sketchiness of a company. 

NAD can give companies stern warnings about their national advertising campaigns, but the council doesn’t exactly have teeth. Rather, it’s a self-regulatory system where companies can choose whether they want to follow the rulings. Companies choose to participate as a way to avoid litigation. According to the BBB website, “Product performance claims, superiority claims against competitive
products and all kinds of scientific and technical claims in national
advertising are the types of cases accepted by the NAD.”

The NAD ruled that using lash inserts in a mascara commercial qualified as a false product demonstration. Although they felt that Procter & Gamble had support for their direct claims (E.g. “200% more volume”), they considered that the ad implied claims that could not be backed up (E.g. “Consumers who use Clump Crusher mascara would get lashes like those depicted in the advertisement [and] the lashes depicted in the photograph were achieved solely by using Clump Crusher mascara.”)

Though the Covergirl ads have a teensy weensy little asterisk at the bottom letting consumers know about the lash inserts, NAD said that this wasn’t good enough. The information about lash inserts must be contained in the main body of the ad, they said, or lash inserts must be discontinued entirely. Procter & Gamble has agreed to these terms. It will be interesting to see whether or not this changes anything about future mascara ads.

Personally, I’m really curious about the general efficacy of these types of ads. Clearly, even the knowledge that an ad has been doctored doesn’t immunize viewers from its power. However, I just don’t find mascara ads like this to be compelling:
Suspending my disbelief about those lashes is even harder than suspending my disbelief during movies about poltergeists.

I was especially surprised that Clump Crusher was the problem product given how much praise it has received based solely on its merits. Last year this post on by theKittenButcher, titled “Covergirl’s new Clump Crusher mascara is no joke. While playing around with New Year’s Eve looks tonight, I tried it out for the first time. This is after four coats. I didn’t even need a lash comb.” triggered a huge Clump Crusher trend on the subreddit:
It’s possible that reason that this is effective is that the source isn’t Covergirl’s marketing team. It’s also possible that there is a difference between what is effective for hardcore makeup lovers and what’s effective for random drugstore browsers (and that Covergirl is appealing to the latter). Still, I feel that super-awesome-but-not-magic-or-impossible depictions of makeup are more powerful for me, personally, when I’m choosing products.

If I ran a makeup company, I would want to explore that kind of ad. For example, you could pick out a model who has naturally long, blonde eyelashes (the kind that you can’t really see sans mascara) and just do a video of her actually putting on the damn mascara. I think that would capture the attention and excitement of people who actually want a product that works.

Pictures of lash inserts masquerading as mascara, on the other hand? Yawn.


1. This is very interesting. I’m hoping future mascara ads show much more realistic ads instead of the same ads with a guy in the background saying false lashes were used. We’ll just have to wait and see I guess. The clump crusher mascara was actually on my list of thing to try next. It sounds like a good product.

2. I ended up buying it after writing this post out of curiosity and I’m not digging it!

3. I’ve bought the clump crusher mascara, based on a blogger video, not any of the marketing hype. I agree, using lash inserts to sell mascara is dirty pool — it just makes me completely distrust not just that one ad, but every image from any cosmetics marketing company ever. I mean, is it the primer/foundation/powder/serum that makes the model look poreless, or is it the fact that her pores were erased using photoshop? Did her lipstick plump her lips, or did some digital artist click “enlarge”?

Bah. I’d argue that photoshopping is unethical in cosmetics ads, period. On the other hand, I’ve heard the argument that photoshopping is essential in cosmetics ads, because it’s everywhere, and if you didn’t ‘shop makeup ads, the models would look *worse* than they do in any other media. On the gripping hand, if the standard we expect out of human women is so high that it is literally impossible to achieve in the real world even with everything that cosmetics, styling, lighting, and photographic artistry have to offer, maybe that’s a big damn problem on its own!!

4. It’s always photoshop. 🙁

5. I used to go by adds when I was buying products and found myself disappointed when I wasn’t getting results like the ad depicted. Now I solely rely on blogger swatches and reviews and pictures. I feel I get more accurate depictions of what to expect.
I love the clump crusher mascara though! It’s buildable and I never get clumps! It’s love!
🙂 Chelsey

6. Ads are definitely not a reliable source of info, that’s for sure!

7. It kinda surprises me as well that Clump Crusher was targeted. That’s my go to mascara, after many recommendations for it. It does exactly what it’s supposed and what I wanted it to do. It also surprises me that CG was targeted, when Revlon (or whichever company it is that has the Butterfly Effect mascara) is running commercials just like CG. Personally, I’m not as affected by TV ads or paper ads for makeup, I’ll take word of mouth over advertising.

8. That’s L’Oreal!

9. Thought you might be interested in this, though it is not makeup-related because LASERS AT HOME seem like something interesting for the scientifically-minded:

10. My go to is the L’Oreal Beauty Tubes, just because I can never entirely get regular mascara off, & Beauty Tubes removes with warm water. I gave up on mascara alone to achieve the look I want a LONG time ago & stick with Ardell Duralash Naturals & Modlash (water soluble) glue.

11. Great information. Thanks for providing us such useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Mascara