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 reddit.com/r/makeupaddiction 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.