Truth in advertising, please

The issue of 'Photoshopping' is nothing new. But authorities studying advertisements with an even more watchful eye is a giant step forward in protecting consumers.

Last week, another celebrity was called out for appearing in a "misleadingly exaggerated" advertisement after it was found, by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK, to be excessively airbrushed. The L'Oreal magazine advertisement featured the Oscar-winning British actress Rachel Weisz, promoting the label's age-defying product line. It has since been banned by the ASA and joins a list of others. The picture shows the actress with perfect looking skin and an even tone, following excessive digital enhancement, which therefore "misrepresented the results that the product could achieve", according to the ASA.

The company was also forced to pull an advertisement featuring Julia Roberts last year, which the regulatory body also found to be too airbrushed.

Last December, a CoverGirl advertisement for its Natureluxe Mousse Mascara featuring the American songstress Taylor Swift also came under fire from the industry watchdog National Advertising Division (NAD). The ad claimed the product could provide twice the volume, but in small print admitted to digital enhancement.

The issue of Photoshopping is nothing new. However, what is interesting is authorities are taking a tougher stand and basically saying "enough". The fact they are studying advertisements with an even more watchful eye and calling out companies found to be misleading the public is a giant step forward in protecting consumers.

In the UK, government officials such as Jo Swinson have been campaigning since 2009 to stop the use of "unrealistic images".

According to the information provider IbisWorld, the hairdressing and beauty industry market in the UK brings in an average of £4 billion (Dh23bn) in revenue a year. In the US, revenue from the beauty industry brings in approximately $13bn (Dh47.7bn) annually. In the UAE, annual imports of beauty products are estimated to be just over Dh4bn, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Making beauty companies think twice before printing a heavily altered ad is a good move, however, celebrities themselves also have a responsibility in the way they allow themselves to be represented. Stars such as 45-year-old Brad Pitt did not shy away from that responsibility, opting for an unretouched 2009 cover for W magazine. In 2010, Jessica Simpson reportedly went sans make-up and airbrush-free for Marie Claire's cover.

Experts in the UAE say it is not just women who are cleverly made to believe the hype. An increasing number of men are also suffering from negative body image - with one in five men comparing their bodies to those of magazine models and celebrities.

Getting that picture-perfect look, based on an image that has been manipulated is what many obsess about. After all, who can't admit to buying two or three products because the advertising for them looked so good and believable?

What would be refreshing is to see a much wider variety of body sizes and skin tones that reflect the reality of what we see every day on the street, at work and in our own circle of friends.

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