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CVS debuts beauty campaign free of airbrushing

By Published on .

CVS is taking a stand on beauty marketing with "Beauty in Real Life," its first campaign that excludes image alterations. It includes a 30-second spot and images that feature the brand's new "CVS Beauty Mark" watermark—a promise that the picture has not been airbrushed.

Earlier this year, CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health, committed to adopting such standards in its beauty materials to add more authenticity to its marketing.

"What we're trying to do is provide transparency to women who see this stuff," says Norman de Greve, senior VP and chief marketing officer of Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health. He notes that the company isn't banning Photoshop, but is saying, "Don't feel bad if you don't look like something out of a computer." The growing authority of social influencers over celebrities and the rise in consumer interest for authenticity were among the reasons he cited for the policy.

In the spot, which begins airing late this week, women talk about beauty as they go about their everyday activities. "I feel powerful," says one. "It's definitely not about conforming," says another. The ad will air on social channels and on TV in select markets. CVS will also run print and out-of-home ads featuring the watermark, which is rolling out now.

De Greve notes that the chain's retail partners are working with the brand on the initiative. CVS sells more than 500 beauty brands.

This is the brand's biggest monetary investment in a beauty campaign to date, de Greve says. Last year, CVS spent $42.9 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

To create the new campaign, CVS worked with Standard Black, a creative agency based in Los Angeles and New York. The company still works with BBDO, though the agency was not involved with this effort. CVS also used Free the Bid to hire Kat Keene, the female director who worked on the campaign.

This is not the first time CVS has taken a stand on an issue. In 2014 it stopped selling cigarettes and all tobacco products in stores—a $2 billion category—because of the health complications from such products.

When it comes to airbrushing, CVS could be ahead of the game as well. Late last year, France passed a law requiring brands to label any digitally altered images. And retailers such as Target and American Eagle have made similar promises about not photoshopping images in campaigns.

CVS is in the process of acquiring insurance company Aetna for $69 billion.

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