CVS gets real without retouching in new beauty campaign

Discussion
Source: CVS Health
Apr 20, 2018
George Anderson

CVS has launched “Beauty in Real Life,” the drugstore chain’s first advertising campaign to portray women as they are without the use of retouching.

The campaign, which CVS billed as being created by women for women shows a wide variety of women engaged in daily activities, such as riding a bus to work. In another ad, a mother gets ready for her day while her daughter looks on. Beauty in Real Life, which is running from April through June, will be featured in digital, print, social media, out-of-home and television.

“There’s been a shift in what consumers want to see when it comes to beauty. They are asking for more transparency and authenticity, and that’s what ‘Beauty in Real Life’ is all about,” said Norman de Greve, chief marketing officer, CVS Health, in a statement. “We wanted to introduce a campaign that uses beauty to make women feel good about themselves by empowering them to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin.”

In January, CVS committed itself to reducing the amount of digitally-altered imagery it uses in marketing beauty products. The retailer is featuring the “CVS Beauty Mark,” a watermark that indicates the imagery has not been altered in a material way. CVS has pledged to apply the approach and mark to all images used in its in-store beauty sections as well as other marketing vehicles by 2020.

At the NRF Show in January, former CVS Pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said the chain’s natural approach to marketing beauty was an extension of its positioning as a “health care company.” She pointed to research that showed retouched images create unrealistic expectations about beauty, particularly among young girls, that have been linked to self-esteem issues and eating disorders.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the approach being taken by CVS in the “Beauty in Real Life” campaign reinforces its image as a healthcare company? Do you expect the ads to be more or less successful in stimulating sales? How likely is the approach to be emulated by retail rivals of CVS?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"In beauty and fashion especially right now, feel-good ad content that reflects a more attainable aspirational self is resonating..."
"The lesson here is, moves around health don’t always need to be big swings like ceasing cigarette sales."
"...cosmetic ads are so airbrushed that it’s hard to see the real woman underneath. At least until a tabloid runs a “Stars without Makeup! issue."

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "CVS gets real without retouching in new beauty campaign"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Absolutely it does! It is perfectly fine to do so in an age which we talk so much about natural beauty, natural resources, and the outdoors. No need to touch up the pics. Whether it stimulates sales or not is another story, but it might well do that with consumers to whom those things are important. Others will follow.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Women don’t get to retouch themselves in real life so the closer that CVS (or any brand) comes to showing products in real settings, the more relatable their brand becomes. The CVS Beauty Mark is brilliant because even when “real” women are portrayed in ads and they look fabulous, there’s a lingering question mark as to whether the consumer is viewing an authentic image. Establishing the mark as a trusted brand icon establishes authenticity that is sure to be appreciated.

Sales impact isn’t always linear and may need to take a long view to determine measurable impact. If it’s only a three-month campaign, it may never be directly attributable to a sales lift.

Joanna Rutter
BrainTrust
2 months 29 days ago

It’s nice to see CVS match their mission and their message here, taking a page from playbooks like Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign — and why shouldn’t they? It works! In beauty and fashion especially right now, feel-good ad content that reflects a more attainable aspirational self is resonating with folks and moving product (see: here and here). It’s a no-brainer.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Thank you, CVS. The emphasis on “real” has been a boon for Dove, and it will for CVS as well. We can’t all look like a model, but we can feel like one.

Christopher Jordan
BrainTrust

Definitely — and it does resonate with today’s consumer. The lesson here is, moves around health don’t always need to be big swings like ceasing cigarette sales. As long as it’s genuine, even small gestures solidify CVS’s branding around health.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

CVS may not be retouching its advertising, but it should retouch its tired, down-at-heel stores. They could do with a makeover!

In seriousness, I do think there’s something in the approach CVS is taking and that it will resonate. I am just not sure CVS will ever be the destination of choice for beauty when it makes so little effort with its retail proposition.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Good point! It’s hard to feel pretty in an ugly environment.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

Consumers have an affinity for brands and retailers who are genuine, authentic and real. The “Beauty in Real Life” initiative smartly builds on the position CVS has taken as being a socially responsible healthcare company first and retailer second.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
In the age of #metoo and women’s next attempt to be taken seriously as legitimate forces, and not just a pretty face, initiatives like this are important. Let’s not forget, CVS is not the first to the party here. I think that honor belongs to CP seller Dove. So many photos are SO manipulated that companies have to put the name of the celebrity in the photo on the page, because they are fundamentally unrecognizable. There’s a fascinating story in Vanity Fair today….Al Pacino, Brian DePalma and Michelle Pfeiffer did a panel session commemorating the 35th anniversary of Scarface. The “boys” got asked all the serious questions. Ms. Pfeiffer got asked about her weight during the film. To her immense credit, she responded as an actress who had to lose weight because her character was sinking … but that question was followed by “What was the first thing you ate after the movie?” Dude … (Jesse Kornbluth, the moderator) … what were you thinking? What is WRONG with you? We’ve got a very long way… Read more »
Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I once asked an associate at that big, free-standing cosmetics retailer to show me how to use an eyeliner. She looked at me for a few seconds and said, “I think it’s time for an eye lift.” True story.

The way women are portrayed in ads is always a fun topic to introduce in our focus groups with women aged 40+. Fashion models are tiny and tall, and celebrities in cosmetic ads are so airbrushed that it’s hard to see the real woman underneath. At least until a tabloid runs a “Stars without Makeup! issue.

Some companies get it right: QVC shows products worn/used by women of all ages and sizes. As a consumer, I appreciate that because I want to see product demonstrated on someone who looks like ME.

I applaud CVS’s “Beauty in Real Life” campaign because it reinforces that real women are beautiful, no matter their age or size. I hope that more companies follow suit.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

So we all agree that “natural beauty” is of value. The question is whether this is going to sell more stuff at CVS. Yes, some women will hop on the band wagon started by Dove (Unilever). Will enough do so? Probably not because of the ad.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Transparency is important to today’s shopper. This is important in beauty. Highlighting products in a natural setting will help both CVS and the brands involved.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Getting rid of retouching is definitely a step in the right direction. Will that dramatically impact sales on its own? Maybe not. Companies like Dove and Aerie already got this ball rolling. But CVS repositioning itself as a healthcare company is smart. After all, they were one of the first drugstores to stop selling cigarettes. I suspect this may have something to do with their pending Aetna acquisition and a desire to focus on more medical services and, therefore, more “health-based” marketing. I’ll echo Neil and say the next step should be store makeovers. Nothing about their current dated setup says natural beauty or healthcare.

Mike Osorio
BrainTrust

The campaign is both trend-right and brand-right. Excellent move by CVS to ensure all communications are being put through the lens of “we are a healthcare company.” I like that the ad doesn’t put down women who do want to look more made-up or glamorous. The point was that ALL choices by women are theirs to make and to be proud of who they choose to be in a particular moment. I think this, in combination with similar moves across all communications channels will be what helps sustainable sales growth. But I agree that they must put more attention on updating their facilities to reflect the marketing messages — and I think they will.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"In beauty and fashion especially right now, feel-good ad content that reflects a more attainable aspirational self is resonating..."
"The lesson here is, moves around health don’t always need to be big swings like ceasing cigarette sales."
"...cosmetic ads are so airbrushed that it’s hard to see the real woman underneath. At least until a tabloid runs a “Stars without Makeup! issue."

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you give the CVS “Beauty in Real Life” marketing campaign a thumb up or down?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...