A simple three-word Google search, “Photoshop false advertising,” reveals an abundant number of Photoshop images used in the advertising world, ranging from magazine covers and cosmetic advertisements to apparel campaigns. Furthermore, Photoshop is becoming even more prevalent due to a growing number of easily accessible Photoshop apps and social media sites that solely focus on creating and displaying altered uploaded images by its users. However, not everyone is getting away with it. One Instagram user, @WEPHOTOSHOPPEDWHAT, is making sure to call them out on it! Alleged Photoshop users being called out include celebrity and fashion icon, @beyonce, and fashion blog, @weworewhat.
The answer is quite simple. Why not? Photoshop allows people to gain something they may not have. For instance, Justin Bieber allegedly acquired a new “package” and glutes in his Calvin Klein ad. In addition, Photoshop allows people to lose pounds and “imperfections” they have. As in L’Oreal’s ageless wrinkle-free serum commercial featuring Diane Keaton. Finally, Photoshop has the ability to influence viewers’ opinions stemming from images accompanying news reports and gossip columns. In a photo displayed by two Orthodox Jewish publications, Hillary Clinton was removed from the image taken in the White House situation room on the eve of Bin Laden’s killing. Also, there are instances where magazines display Photoshopped cover photos portraying falsities at someone else’s expense just to make a profit. Recently, Olympic medalist and reality TV star, Bruce Jenner, was a victim of InTouch magazine’s false allegations accompanying an altered image. Whether magazine covers, like Bruce Jenner's, may be considered libelous or misappropriation is a separate issue.
Why Photoshop May be Considered False Advertising
To begin, what is false advertising? According to the legal dictionary section of The Free Dictionary, false advertising is "[a]ny advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities or geographic origin of goods, services or commercial activities" (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)).
A Photoshopped image has become an industry standard, but is the ability to Photoshop creating unrealistic expectations? Most people say, “Yes.” These Photoshopped images are considered false advertising because a Photoshopped ad has the ability to make consumers believe the product being advertised will make them look and feel the same way the ad presents it. Take for example, L’Oreal’s “Age Perfect” wrinkle-free serum ad that was aired during the Sunday Night Golden Globe Awards on January 11, 2014, featuring sixty-eight year old Diane Keaton just minutes after she was seen presenting live at the awards show. Tweets poured in about how natural Ms. Keaton looked on stage with her wrinkles, and minutes later, they were followed by remarks from upset viewers about the heavily Photoshopped, “filtered” L’Oreal campaign. There is no doubt Ms. Keaton was glowing during both, but was it just too much on L’Oreal’s part?
Therefore, is it considered false advertising for a company, like L’Oreal, to use a Photoshopped image, like Diane Keaton’s airbrushed, wrinkle-free face, to entice consumers to buy their product even though most viewers may assume the image was altered?
Should There be Legal Ramifications?
Lobbyists in the United States concerned with digitally altered photos say it is false advertising, and this advertising can have a dire effect on the health outcomes of young people. Not only do these ads affect consumer’s pockets, but they are also affecting the self-esteem of millions who are forced to compare themselves to unrealistic images of models and celebrities portrayed in ads.
The Truth in Advertising Act of 2014, co-sponsored by Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lois Capps along with Congressman Ted Deutch, attempted to solve this dire effect. It was introduced in House on March 27, 2014, but not enacted. Acording to Congress.gov, the Act “[d]irects the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to submit a report to Congress that contains: (1) a strategy to reduce the use, in advertising and other media for the promotion of commercial products, of images that have been altered to materially change the physical characteristics of the faces and bodies of the individuals depicted; and (2) recommendations for a risk-based regulatory framework with respect to such use.” According to the FTC, it “has a broad mandate to protect consumers from fraud and deception in the marketplace. To fulfill this goal, the FTC takes law enforcement actions, provides consumer and business education, issues reports and policy guidance, leads workshops, and participates in other forums.”
Marketing Executive Seth Matlins, who has led the fight for a change in this area shares his perspective on The Brave Girl’s Alliance webpage in an article entitled,“Truth in Advertising HR4341 Briefing.” He says, “Truth In Advertising matters because advertising’s practice of routinely and materially misrepresenting the appearance of the people in advertising is three things: (1) Deceptive; (2) Directly linked to consumer health and economic damages, across every demographic and voter segment, but in particular, children and women; and (3) Directly responsible for influencing consumer purchase decisions, and adds all kinds of costs to the dollars taken out of our pockets.”
While Photoshop is just another routine of avid social media users and advertisers, one can assert this routine is not only harming consumers pockets, but also affecting the self-esteem of its viewers. Should these advertisers be required to display a warning with their altered image? One may think so, but for now, the law does not require it.