Data released from survey site YouGov indicates that beauty ads portray older people more unrealistically than any other industry, with technology and fashion trailing a little behind beauty in their inaccurate depictions. The Drum, a leading marketing and media industry new site has published the findings and it’s well worth a read, if only to marvel at the need for a survey to prove this.
Ageism is rife in the beauty industry (see Caroline Hirons’ feature HERE) – there’s a pervasive mind-set that only youth can have beauty and that should be any older woman’s end goal. L’Oreal Paris has launched a make-up range for older women that’s better suited to older skin which undoubtedly needs different things than young skin. Radiance, vibrancy, glow – all these things are desirable for women at every age but the route to get there changes along the way. However, they still slapped ‘anti-ageing’ on the front of the bottle. It’s a marked improvement on Revlon’s Youth FX which should carry a health warning, it’s so insulting to the age-group it’s intended for.
You can give as much positive commentary as a brand as you like about this lucrative market but if anti is your first word, then the approach still needs work. Positive words aren’t hard to find – they’re really not – but if there’s no positive mind set behind the products then it shows. Where L’Oreal leads, others follow so the beauty industry journey to speak to the older women is going to be interesting.
As an end user of brand outreach to ‘older’ women – although I’m 52 not 102 so that term doesn’t even feel like it belongs to me – there is SO much I could tell you. I’m one of only a handful of digital content creators in the beauty industry in this age-group and a gate-keeper of messaging. My audience is varied but I cannot say that the people who read BBB are the same as the people who watch Zoella on YouTube. My belief is that beauty is not one thing, it’s many things and that would incorporate any permutation you like including older women. I refuse to collude with messaging that is derogatory and I feel a responsibility to undo some of that damage where I can.
The thing about the beauty industry is that it likes to disempower – it’s a way of ensuring that you never feel positive about the way you look. Growing older is like growing up – on the whole quite marvellous but with some hideous surprises along the way! Women (and men) who feel positive do positive things – so surely, surely it’s a no brainer that marketing could follow that train of thought. It is completely fine in my book to want to look and feel amazing – how that actually looks in reality isn’t cookie cutter – and it’s always a personal choice in achieving your happy place. Your face, your body, your rules which is why beauty should be a glorious cornucopia without one set in stone objective.
Superdrug’s B. Range incorporates a 60+ cream as Skin Phase 5 (no budget to promote it though which tells you the importance level) that talks about skin strength – redensifying, recushioning and comforting offering all the attributes to a woman’s face that you’d probably like to see in a sofa. On the (huge) plus, they’ve positively NOT put ‘anti-ageing’ on the packaging and that’s a giant leap to be celebrated.
So, going back to beauty industry outreach to older women. This is where you really see how the industry views the older woman and how it speaks behind the scenes. I’ve taken part in campaigns where I know I’ve been paid significantly less (I’m lucky to be there, remember – I’m 52) if not the lowest of all participants, I’ve been asked to photograph my friends so that a publication can choose the most acceptable looking to film with me, I’ve been accidentally copied in on an email chain in which a brand that ‘loves’ older women quite clearly does NOT (even at £8K I walked away from that so they popped in someone far out of the target age group instead but she is pretty, so..), I’ve been asked to make an exception for a brand and say that I’ve tried and loved an anti-ageing product when I haven’t and I’ve been sent ‘scripts’ for ‘positive older women’ videos that are anything but. And that is the very tip of the iceberg.
That doesn’t even cover off the casual ageism where as an older woman you aren’t even considered to be in the market for a Huda palette, coloured hair sprays or a Kat Von D fragrance. The Fenty campaign that was so inclusive? Older women – nowhere. It’s difficult to be told you don’t make the grade because you’re too old, however nicely it’s presented (or not!). There’s an insidious level of patronising (Gold, Not Old.. urgh) that you will only experience as an older woman in beauty – as a younger man or woman you will never see it. But it slowly creeps in over time. A million times I’ve thought about walking away from a world that only sees beauty through dollar eyes, struggles with the concept that beauty can be many, many things and sees anyone who goes against the grain as difficult, tiresome or trouble making. But, it’s also important to leave a smoother path – this is a journey I don’t want younger women in beauty to take as they progress through – and I think I was built for trouble, so on we go!
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