It’s been a funny old few weeks. Although I’ve been a little pre-occupied with getting married and enjoying a much needed honeymoon, it was impossible to avoid the stories that were popping up across my news feed on a daily basis. For decades women have been overlooked, manipulated and downright abused simply because of their gender – and it’s time for us to stand up and say enough is enough. My blood has been boiling reading the stories of so many women that have suffered at the hands of their male counterparts, but in the same breath the industry in which I’ve worked for over a decade is equally as accountable for the manipulation of women’s emotions. Beauty brands have long played on our insecurities as a way to make money, telling us we need to ‘fix’ those fine lines, pimples, areas of pigmentation, short lashes, slim lips or any number of unique assets. It’s been an issue I’ve been increasingly aware of over the last year or so, but in recent weeks the cultural landscape (impacted by the news stories that never seem to end) has made it even more top of mind and frustrating to witness.
One of the stories I picked up on at the end of last week was the news that Dior had announced the face of their newest launch ‘Capture Youth’ is 25 year old Cara Delevingne. ‘Capture Youth’ is an ‘anti-ageing’ skincare line designed specifically for women in their 30s who are concerned about the visible signs of aging; although no other details are available as yet, the range is set to launch in January 2018. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that there’s a major discrepancy between Dior’s apparent target market and the model they’re choosing to use to promote these products – if you’re choosing to create products specifically for 30+ skin, why not use actual 30+ skin in your advertising? This kind of approach is by no means new, but that doesn’t make it ok.
Women have become tired of being made to feel invisible; we’re exhausted of being compared to teenagers and told that that’s what we should aspire to look like; we’re fed up of feeling excluded and our money made to feel unwelcome, while the teens and twenty-somethings who can rarely afford to spend upwards of £40 on a face cream are the ones who are told they need it. Women aren’t stupid – they know that no face cream on earth can make them look like a 25 year old supermodel, but brands still seem to think that this is what we want to see from them. There’s aspirational advertising and then there’s just plain ridiculousness.
Caroline Hirons has done some very interesting research on the age of models in many of the industry’s advertising (read the post here) and the results are shocking, if not unsurprising. The majority of big name brands are using models as young as 16, while the only faces that seem to be over the age of 30 are (airbrushed and photoshopped I must add) celebrities promoting expensive face cream. As Hirons puts it: “Are brands worried that we won’t find non-famous women our age aspirational? That a woman without an airbrushed face will put us off?” Ageing is inevitable and something that happens to us all, but the beauty industry insists on making us fear and be embarrassed of it in order to get us to part with more of our cash. Worse, it insists on avoiding talking to or with the women (and men) who would genuinely benefit from a little of the good stuff in favour of those that really don’t need to even start thinking preventative care for at least five years. (Jane from British Beauty Blogger has written about her experiences as an older beauty blogger here; it’s well worth a read, but you will be shocked and disgusted.)
Earlier this year I wrote a post entitled ‘Dear Brands: Please Stop Getting 24 Year Olds To Endorse Your Anti-Ageing Products‘ and it remains one of my most popular and most shared posts. I stand by everything I said, even more so because very little has changed. I still see brands using models a decade younger than their target market, working with bloggers a decade younger than their consumers and forgetting women in the 30+ bracket altogether. The frustration I feel when I see a blogger ten years younger than me being paid to promote an anti-ageing cream can only be equaled to that I feel when reading a Trump Tweet, but until brands stop focusing on creating solely ‘aspirational content’ rather than ‘aspirational but relevant’ this isn’t going to subside. There are SO many amazing bloggers in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s talking to women who have a genuine passion for beauty, but it’s an uphill struggle trying to secure opportunities and recognition (via my Thirty Plus network) because brands still want the shiny, glossy 20-somethings and their 50k instagram followers. This attitude continues within the advertising arena too, with a younger wrinkle-free face winning the vote every single time.
I’m all for preventative skincare regimes and using products that help restore radiance, hydration and suppleness no matter your age, but when it comes to refusing to acknowledge the majority of your customer base brands need to have a serious word with themselves. Women over the age of 30 are the ones that are prepared to invest in their regimes and who are much more likely to see the benefits of that expensive serum, but it seems in the majority of cases our money is only welcome under cloak and dagger. The demise of The Estee Edit earlier this year (read my post ‘When Brands Are In Denial About Who Their Customers Are‘) is the perfect illustration of the consequences of refusing to be aware of who your customer is and how you need to speak to them (Estee Lauder used 21 year old Kendall Jenner to promote twenty quid lipstick,) but it seems that’s not left a lasting legacy behind for other brands. Cara Delevigne may be the perfect pick to shift a £4.00 Rimmel concealer, but eye-wateringly expensive anti-ageing skincare? I think not.
What do you think about the use of overtly young models in anti-ageing campaigns?
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