Photoshopped Oil of Olay ad featuring Twiggy banned in the UK

A heavily retouched Oil of Olay ad featuring 60 year-old Twiggy, considered one of the worlds first supermodels, has been banned in the UK. The ad was deemed misleading in that it made it look like you could achieve plastic surgery-quality results from a cream in a jar. UK ad regulatory agency the Advertising Standards Authority didn’t deem that it was damaging to women, though. The ad came out in July so this ban isn’t going to do much other than send the message to advertisers that it’s unacceptable.

When people talk about unrealistic beauty standards and the media’s effect on women’s body image, it’s usually not long before Twiggy’s name comes up, even 43 years after the ultrathin model first made a splash — and for that matter, more than 15 years since Kate Moss famously reinvigorated the “waif look” and wrought “heroin chic” upon the world. Even if today’s girls have only heard about Twiggy from their grandmas, their self-esteem is still thought to be warped by the legacy of her 91-lb., 16-year-old body. And now, the 60-year-old model is being blamed for making their grandmas feel just as bad.

More precisely, Procter and Gamble is being blamed for Photoshopping the hell out of her face in an advertisement for an Olay eye cream, erasing crows’ feet and under-eye bags with the flick of a mouse rather than diligent long-term application of the cream in question. The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned the ad, on grounds that “the post-production re-touching of this ad, specifically in the eye area, could give consumers a misleading impression of the effect the product could achieve.” But interestingly, the ASA rejected the idea that such images might harm women, beyond fleecing them out of a few bucks.

“We considered that consumers were likely to expect a degree of glamour in images for beauty products and would therefore expect Twiggy to have been professionally styled and made-up for the photo shoot, and to have been photographed professionally,” it said. “We concluded that, in the context of an ad that featured a mature model likely to appeal to women of an older age group, the image was unlikely to have a negative impact on perceptions of body image among the target audience and was not socially irresponsible.” (Not surprisingly, that’s pretty much what Procter and Gamble is saying as well.) But actually, says Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson, who’s launched a campaign against out-of-control retouching, “Experts have already proved that airbrushing contributes to a host of problems in women and young girls such as depression and eating disorders.”

In November, leading authorities on body image sent a paper to U.K. advertising authorities (available as a Word document here) outlining the relevant research. Over 100 published studies have documented “a detrimental effect of idealised media images” on girls and women — and increasingly, boys and men.

[From Salon thanks to Trillion for the tip]

I really don’t get how this image “not socially irresponsible” and isn’t likely “to have a negative impact on perceptions of body image.” A 60 year-old woman was photoshopped to look 20 years younger. Just because older women are the target audience doesn’t mean they’re not susceptible to false images of perfection. If anything this ad would promote plastic surgery, botox and fillers to women wanting to achieve whatever Twiggy is using for that smooth tight skin. Even when you know an image is retouched it still can affect the way you see yourself and want to look.

There’s a similar older-woman-Photoshopped younger controversy over Meryl Streep’s upcoming spread in Vanity Fair. The Frisky points out that the online photos of Meryl are heavily altered to remove all signs of crows feet and slightly saggy skin.

From what I can figure out in about five minutes of research the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for truth in advertising in the United States. They seem to be primarily concerned with consumer protection and fraud and from what I can tell have not weighed in on any photo retouching issues. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority is an independent organization with the ability to set ad guidelines and they must have some power if they’re able to ban ads like this. They also condemned an ad for L’Oréal mascara featuring Penelope Cruz wearing fake eyelashes. Future versions of the ad were asked to include a disclaimer. I would love to see an easily readable disclaimer for hair care product ads, particularly on television. You see these models and actresses with gorgeous hair and it’s usually all extensions. It’s not like we don’t already know this, but it’s only fair that we be reminded.

Twiggy is shown in the undated candids on 6/4/09, 7/24/09 and 9/22/09. Credit: Note: She may have lost weight since the header image on the left was taken, but it wasn’t enough to make her look like the ad, which is from July before the photos below (all but the header image) were taken.

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26 Responses to “Photoshopped Oil of Olay ad featuring Twiggy banned in the UK”

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  1. K says:

    She looks good. And compared to some ads/CD covers/movie posters, she isn’t so retouched she looks plastic. Most of the skin tone was probably achieved thanks to soft focus filters and soft light filters, but it still looks semi-natural.

  2. CadieBelle says:

    I think Twiggy looks fantastic in the unretouched photos!!! Oil of Olay should have used the real Twiggy – wish I looked like that at 60

  3. snowball says:

    I noticed lately, these ads for various prescription drugs all have disclaimers all over them. “Actor portrayal of doctor,” “Actor/Actress compensated for appearance,” or in some of them, “Actual user of XX. User was not paid for participation.”

    Now how about disclaimers on cleaning products and those “as seen on TV” things?

  4. Feebee says:

    I think photoshop should be outlawed because people can’t use it responsibly. Some photo and fashion editors are probably going to hell specifically for the cr*p they put out. :)

  5. jahna says:

    The photoshop issue for me is that it looks like an ad for a neck removal cream. Her shoulders are about 40 percent too small for her head and arm.

  6. heb says:

    I dont think this is any worse than any of the other airbrushed advertisements in magazines these days.

  7. diva says:

    I don’t think photoshop should be allowed at all. Models are getting paid a lot of money to look good and represent products so they should have to be in their natural state. Photoshop makes no real sense in the modeling world, considering the kind of image they are portraying is not real.

  8. Lantana says:

    I’ve used PhotoShop for 10 years. It’s so hard to define the line that is crossed when it’s just WRONG, but in my mind, if a shirt is untucked on one side and you clean that up, or if there are squint lines from the lighting and you blur those in, it’s OK, that type of thing. But if you take a 300 lb person and make him/her look 120 pounds, the line is crossed. The European community seems to be the leaders in defining what is acceptable. Regardless of what is agreed upon, there will always be an underground that would choose to be altered. So the only real recourse seems to be full disclosure.

  9. lilred says:

    I think she looks great without all the air brushing.

  10. ligeia says:

    there are ways to make her look better in the picture w/o having to photoshop off half her face. better angles and make up and lighting should be employed instead. that add just looks unnatural and kind of creepy, it wouldn’t make me want to buy the product.
    but yes…wish there were warnings posted on altered images. as someone who works with photshop as well i know just how much can be changed and altered to make things look better than they are yet still keep them looking natural.

  11. lucy2 says:

    She does look really good, they should have used more natural photos.

    It’s no surprise that advertising alters their products to make them look better for consumers (we’ve all heard about the food in ads, I’m sure). And like Lantana said, I don’t see a problem with correcting like mistakes or clean up. But I do have to agree that when the altering completely eliminates the actual product, like the face cream or the eyelashes, it’s time to stop because at that point, it’s like false advertising.

  12. Firestarter says:

    Photshop. like Botox, lip injections, is the devil.

  13. Trillion says:

    If I were an Oil of Olay user, I’d have to boycott. To use such heavy effects for product advertisement is tantamount to lying. It’s simply unethical.
    I used to work with a man who moonlighted as an actor. He worked in commercials playing doctors advocating products and also in “before” photos for mens hair restorers. It’s not like we don’t all know this stuff is b.s. but when you see it up-close, it’s a necessary reminder for us consumers to be aware.

  14. Eileen Yover says:

    This photo is HEAVILY photoshopped! Shoot the teeth alone must have taken days of magic wanding!

  15. jane says:

    I think its wrong to use photoshop in association with beauty product advertisments. It gives an unrealistic expectation of the results one can expect. It drives me crazy when I see mascara commercials where the girls are wearing fake eyelashes…etc. If your product is so rad, why all the “glamour”?

  16. Goddess711 says:

    Too bad these people can’t get a Photoshop Expert to consult with their plastic surgeons first!

  17. benny says:

    Here’s what I don’t get: suppose Twiggy really did get plastic surgery to look 20 years younger. Would she be banned from appearing in Oil of Olay ads because it’s misleading (the surgery, not the cream, gave such good results). Are they going to look through the medical histories of all the models to make sure none of them had artificial enhancements, surgery, botox, etc.? And if not (plastic surgery is ok), then what difference does photoshop make? Either way, it wasn’t the cream.

  18. danielle says:

    The problem is that everyone does NOT know these photos are photoshopped. Some people think that 60 year olds can realistically look like this, and kick themselves because they don’t. Or they might buy $30 face cream.

  19. cailin says:

    Odd thing for me is that before this brouhaha erupted, I thought the ad made Twiggy look really bad, all lifeless, which she certainly is not. (And as IF she’d use that product anyway….she’s just launched her own line!)

  20. princess pea says:

    As long as the ad isn’t a before-and-after set-up, I don’t see how it’s actually making false claims… beyond the whole “this celeb uses our product” which is usually a false claim all on its own.

    For that matter, it’s time to nix all the beer ads that imply hot women will be interested in you if you drink a particular brand. And oh, every other ad in the world. None of them are 100% straightforward and honest. That’s kind of the point.

    ** I thought I’d heard when the policy came into effect that the UK was just going to insist that a little warning label be added to say that the photo was ‘shopped…**

  21. Emily says:

    I think she looks hotter in the untouched photos. She doesn’t look completely human in the ad. Man, she was hot a few years ago when she was guest starring in Ab Fab.

  22. Jackie Case-Sabin says:

    $$$$$,She looks wonderfu**$$$$$
    Any Woman that can cut down their OWN gender has something wrong their HEAD!!!!!
    She has worked her whole life being a MODEL and showing YOUNG GIRLS how to be a young *****STAR*****

  23. Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

    They’ve shaved off so much of her face, her proportions look off. But that Lindsay Lohan pic that’s appearing beneath every entry is far more distressing.

  24. Lenore says:

    Benny: that’s an interesting question… or for another example, if Cindy Crawford were hired for an anti-ageing product, or maybe more controversially Demi Moore, should the ad bear a legend “This model has had extensive surgical assistance in the form of botox, collagen, facial peels and plastic surgery”? (Especially as Demi won’t acknowledge she’s had a damn thing done.)

    For every skincare advert featuring some young, pretty girl with glowing skin, should they start bearing the legend, “This model has a dietician and trainer to ensure she eats massive amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, and drinks 2 litres of water a day. She also benefits from a great genetic structure which, sorry, you can’t actually get over the counter yet.”

    On the one hand, I think people are just shockingly dumb when it comes to advertising. We all know they’re fake, photoshopped, and don’t actually represent the product honestly. So why do we carry on buying this shit and buying into the fake image of beauty promoted by it?

    On the other hand, it’s just false advertising. Even if – as we now have in the UK – adverts are required to have disclaimers at the bottom in small print, “Carmen styled with lash inserts”, “Penelope styled with some natural extensions, cared for by L’oreal” etc etc, it’s still wrong. If you can have a beautiful woman styled by a team of experts and filmed and lit by professionals, and you STILL NEED FAKE LASHES, FAKE HAIR, AND PHOTOSHOP TO MAKE THEM LOOK BETTER, then you’re a lying SOB and your product is worthless and your view of beauty is dementedly unrealistic. And you probably smell bad.

    In fact, they should just exchange that disclaimer for a big red stripe at the bottom of each ad: “This is a lie. She looks nothing like this in real life and you won’t look half this good without surgery. Go along with your day now and don’t waste your money on this POS product.”

  25. Susan Keevican says:

    She has beautiful skin and isn’t that what Oil of Olay promises. She looks beautiful. I am 65 and i’m often told that I look 15 years younger and I tell them,” Oil of Olay every day.” It moisturizes and the wrinkles just don;t appear. At my Senior Center I am always told I am too young to be there….Damn that oil of Olay, lol You have a faithful customer here.