Madison Reed pledges “zero alteration of advertising photography”

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

image courtesy of the brand
image courtesy of the brand

Related tags Cosmetics

The industry disrupting hair color brand has stepped forward as a pacesetter among beauty makers, changing its own ad strategy and inviting other personal care, cosmetics, and fragrance brands to commit to authenticity in advertising as well.

Tuesday Madison Reed debuted new photos and announced its pledge to authentic advertising. The company’s hair color will be shown “as is” ​and models will not be retouched or graphically edited with software (like Photoshop). One caveat: “Web pages and packaging showing shades of each color will continue to be digitally altered, so clients have clear expectations of the end result,” ​according to the brand's announcement. 

An intentional image strategy

“Long ago, I decided Madison Reed would never use seductive photography,” Amy​ Errett, the brand’s founder and CEO explains in a press release. “In fact, I named the company after my daughter to empower her to find her own path, with grace and without apology. So I am thrilled by our decision to promise zero photo alteration in our advertising. This pushes our brand, and the cause, forward. We encourage other beauty companies to join the movement.”

A gradual cultural movement

While Madison Reed purports to be the first and “only beauty brand to promise to use ‘raw’ photography in all future advertising,” ​the concept is by no means new.

At the start of this year, the drugstore chain CVS “[committed] to create new standards for post-production alterations of beauty imagery it creates for stores, websites, social media and any marketing materials. As part of this initiative, transparency for beauty imagery that has been materially altered will be required by the end of 2020,”​ according to a media release issued in January.

Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and executive vice president, of CVS Health EVP, remarked at the time, “As a woman, mother and president of a retail business whose customers predominantly are women, I realize we have a responsibility to think about the messages we send to the customers we reach each day.”

“The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established. As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,”​ she explained.

Media outlets have broached the subject as well. In February 2017, Condé Nast’s Glamour Magazine published an all-women issue. “Every photo commissioned for the issue was created entirely and exclusively by women, including photographers, stylists and hair and makeup artists,”​ as Monika Markovinovic noted in her coverage of the issue for HuffingtonPost. Lena Dunham, one of the cover models for the issue, helped it garner attention by publically thanking Glamour for not retouching her in the photo. 

And the women’s magazine startup Verily (which launched in print in 2013 and has since become a digital-only magazine) has always had a no Photoshop policy. As the publication’s ‘about page’ explains, “Whereas other magazines Photoshop to achieve the ‘ideal’ body type and skin, we firmly believe that the unique features of women — be it crows feet, freckles, or a less-than-rock-hard body — contribute to their beauty and don’t need to be removed or changed with Photoshop. Therefore, we never alter the body or facial structure of our models, remove wrinkles or birthmarks, or change the texture of their skin.”

A pioneering beauty brand

Madison Reed has created its own certification seal of sorts as part of the new photo strategy. The company untouched, unaltered photos “will be easily identified by a Madison Reed ‘Real Mark’,” ​as the press release notes. (This mark appears in the image at the top of the page.)

“Recently, we had a photo shoot with six amazing women, some of whom are over the age of 50,”​ explains Heidi Dorosin, chief marketing officer at Madison Reed. “When we received the digital files, we thought, ‘Why alter these photos?' Yes, these women have wrinkles. Yes, they have smile lines. But these are all qualities that made the women even more beautiful to us.”



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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