Photoshopped Taylor Swift CoverGirl Campaign Banned. Should Makeup Ads Get Real?

The CoverGirl campaign at the center of a photoshopping scandal.
The CoverGirl campaign at the center of a photoshopping scandal.

It happened: Taylor Swift , America's squeaky clean sweetheart, is being banned for being too unrealistic. The CoverGirl spokesperson who's already appeared in a series of print and commercial ads for the makeup brand, is the target of a new inquiry by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus Claims.

In a print ad for the CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara, she appears milky-skinned, eyes aflutter. "2X more volume" promises the copy beside her lustrous lashes. And in much finer print, "lashes enhanced in post production."

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Nobody's questioning Taylor Swift's beauty, but the ability to obtain her voluminous lashes with CoverGirl's product and zero help from Photoshop? Hard to believe. The NAD asked the makeup company to substantiate the claims it makes in the ad (double the volume, 20 percent lighter than other mascaras). Instead, parent company Proctor and Gamble decided to just pull the whole campaign.

"Upon receiving the inquiry from the NAD, P&G discontinued the advertisement in question," a P&G spokesperon wrote in an emailed statement to press. "The NAD has deemed our intervention as accurate and proper. We have always been committed, and we continue to be committed, to featuring visuals and claims that accurately represent our products' benefits."

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We're used to campaigns being pulled due to graphic, sexually explicit content, but ads under fire for being too cleaned-up ushers in a new phase of whistle-blowing. Are advertisers, particularly those hawking beauty products, prepared to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

"It is well established that product demonstrations in advertisements must be truthful and accurate and cannot be enhanced," an NAD spokesperson stated in response to the retracted campaign.

In an interview with Business Insider , NAD director Andrea Levine, was a little more blunt. "You can't use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman's face and then - in the mice type - have a disclosure that says 'okay, not really.'"

But for a long time, you could-as long as you didn't talk about it. "Everybody does it," advertising beauty consultant Suzanne Grayson told AdAge earlier this week. "It's been more aggressive by manufacturers, because they see what other people are getting away with, and it becomes, 'Can you top this?'"

In the UK, media watchdogs have been on a campaign to keep beauty ads honest. In 2010, an ad for Rimmel Mascara was banned after the model was found to be wearing fake lashes. In July, the Advertising Standards Authority banned two L'Oreal print ads featuring airbrushed versions of Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington. The move was hailed as a socially responsible approach to regulating not only our advertisers but our unrealistic standards of beauty.

In the U.S., beauty ads haven't been held under the same microscope until now. Will 2012 mark the year make-up ads come clean and if they do, what exactly will that look like? Taylor Swift with shorter eyelashes or no Taylor Swift at all?