U.K. Ad Group Slaps Down Olay for Doctored Photo

ASA Agrees With Consumer Complaints About Retouching, Says P&G Brand's Print Work Was 'Misleading'

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- In the latest example of a backlash against retouching photos to make models appear younger and more attractive, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints about misleading claims in an Oil of Olay ad featuring '60s icon Twiggy.

Olay parent Procter & Gamble admitted to the ASA that the ad was airbrushed and said the "minor retouching around Twiggy's eyes" was inconsistent with its own policies. However, P&G denied that there was any likelihood of the ad, regardless of any post-production retouching, "having a negative impact on people's perceptions of their own body image, or being in any way socially irresponsible."

After questioning by the U.K. media, Procter & Gamble withdrew the ad by Saatchi & Saatchi in July 2009 and replaced it with one in which there had been no post-production work in the eye area. But the original ad was still investigated after the ASA received 700 complaints, most of them coordinated by Jo Swinson, a Member of Parliament who is responsible for a web campaign calling for a ban on airbrushing in ads and attacking "overly perfected and unrealistic images" of women.

Ms. Swinson said in a statement, "I hope this decision marks the first step in really getting airbrushing in advertising under control. If advertisers think that someone as beautiful as Twiggy needs to be so heavily airbrushed, then what hope is there for the rest of us? Women ... shouldn't constantly feel the need to measure up to a very narrow range of digitally manipulated pictures."

The ASA ruled that the language used in the ad was also misleading. A statement said, "We consider that the combination of references to 'younger-looking eyes' including the claim 'Reduces the look of wrinkles and dark circles for brighter, young-looking eyes' combined with the retouching was likely to mislead."

In France, another female Parliment member, Valérie Boyer, is battling against airbrushing. She is proposing a law that would require all digitally altered photographs of people in advertising to be labeled as retouched. The law is due to be debated in France's National Assembly next year.

Ads for health and beauty products and therapies attract the fifth-highest number of complaints in the U.K. The ASA has just completed a survey of the sector and found that 95.1% of ads comply with the advertising codes, up from 90.5% in 2006 when the last survey was conducted. Ads that fall short are most likely to lack scientific evidence to back up claims or to exaggerate claims about the efficacy of products or treatments.

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