A new face for beauty creative?

Cosmetics, hair and skin care products have used the same creative formula for the last century, and it seems to work. Strategy asked Lorraine Tao, creative director and partner at Toronto's Zig, for her take on whether beauty creative needs a makeover, and if so, what form it should take.

Cosmetics, hair and skin care products have used the same creative formula for the last century, and it seems to work. Showing a beautiful model made more beautiful by the product in question is a no-brainer in the beauty field. But as the cosmetics counters get more cluttered, perhaps it’s time for a new approach, one that’s more in touch with the values of today’s women – if only to stand out from the crowd. Strategy asked Lorraine Tao, creative director and partner at Toronto’s Zig, for her take on whether beauty creative needs a makeover, and if so, what form it should take.

How do you see cosmetic marketing today?

We actually had a very interesting conversation about the beauty industry and the state of the advertising behind it just last night, and by the end of it, we were inspired to go out and get an account because the more we talked about it, the more we realized that it’s a category that’s ripe for a new idea.

It seems like every advertiser is advertising in exactly the same way. Nobody’s doing anything different and it hasn’t been done any different throughout history. It’s a beautiful woman with a picture of the product and the name, and there’s generally no variation on that. As women, we’re used to being advertised to that way, so we don’t expect anything different.

I think if a company were to come out that did speak to women in an interesting way, or even in a different way, women would really notice and respond.

Why has this industry not caught up to new attitudes?

I was trying to figure that out. At first, I thought, wow, it’s the only industry that still advertises to women in the same way, in that it tells women how to look, how thin to be, etc. But then I thought, well, that is their business. It is beauty. It’s skin deep, so it’s all about appearances. In a way, I almost understand it.

There’s no reason why it couldn’t be done better, but because everybody’s doing it in the same way, it ends up being a competition of products. Who has the glassy lip gloss first? Or which lipstick lasts the longest. It’s no longer about a brand look, and it’s not about getting to women through emotions.

We’re used to being advertised to that way, and advertisers are used to advertising that way – and to a certain extent it’s working, because it’s just very established and because you’re used to it. Women know they’re not going to look as beautiful as Elizabeth Hurley, but they can appreciate how beautiful she is, and I think a lot of women take in beauty advertising by thinking, ‘I know I’m not going to look like her, but I can take ideas from her.’

Of course, if someone were to come out with something new, it would work! It’s one of those things that just hasn’t been done.

What kind of campaign could break that mould?

We had a very simple thought last night.

All women want to feel beautiful, and all women want to do the best with what they’ve got. And one of the most compelling things that a lot of women respond to are makeovers, in magazines and on television. I think it’s about seeing a real woman, and the difference that makeup can make. There’s something very captivating in that, and the different looks you can achieve.

Fashion advertising uses a similar formula, but at least enjoys the creativity of what we know as ‘fashion photography.’ Why is it that cosmetic advertising does not even have this appeal?

You’re right. It doesn’t even have that going for it. Makeup right now is about the product, and you look at an ad to find out what the latest lipstick is.

All fashion generally works the same way, but they have their own looks, they have their own style, they have their own type of models and each brand really has personality. But, [Tao points to a cosmetic ad in a woman's magazine] could you tell what company that ad is for?

Women’s attitudes, and society’s attitudes have changed significantly since beauty marketers starting using beautiful women to advertise their products. How can cosmetic marketers do better at catching up with the times?

I think the first step would be to actually start trying to speak to women, trying to resonate with women, and using insights into women as opposed to just following the formula, where makeup is very much a celebrity or supermodel product. Cosmetic marketing could learn something from fashion.

Models’ faces are changing in fashion. Prada used the ugly models for one season, more ethnic models are appearing, older models are starting to show their faces. It’s starting. But makeup, unless it’s a very specific line of makeup, is always a white woman’s face with blue eyes. It’s a very specific type of woman.

There’s definitely an opportunity to connect with women in a much more emotional way.