The Journey Toward Equitable Representation in Advertising Part 1


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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Is This Beauty Brand The Most Inclusive of Them All? 

Growing up as a young African American woman in one of the largest U.S. cities, I was constantly aware that I was not the target audience. Until recently, the ideal aesthetic image of beauty, which beauty campaigns projected and portrayed, did not match my reflection. Luckily, my home was full of these images. I was surrounded by publications like Ebony, Jet, Essence, and Fashion Fair magazines. However, these few seemed to be a small sample with limited circulation, only in relatives' houses, hardly ever on the shelves at the newsstands in our neighborhood.

We have seen slow movement in the right direction over the last 50 years; however, momentum is gaining. Below I will list five major beauty companies/brands that have reimagined advertising strategies and corporate philosophies to affirm and celebrate a more inclusive image of beauty.

Equitable Representation_Part I

The Unilever Group - "Positive Beauty" 

Unilever, makers of Dove, Vaseline, Axe, Sunsilk, and Lifebuoy, launched the "Positive Beauty" campaign in 2021. The decision to remove the word "normal" from all branding was revolutionary. Reinforcing the companies move towards inclusive beauty, promoting products for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or age. Unilever is also committed to affecting positive change for self and the planet.

Unilever Say Yes to Positive Beauty Campaign

Fenty Beauty - "Beauty for All" 

When FEИTY BEAUTY was merely an idea, it's founder Robyn Rihanna Fenty was clear from the start that no one would be excluded. In collaboration with LVMH's Kendo Brands, this global prestige beauty brand marked many firsts for the beauty industry by featuring underrepresented, underserved women and cultures.  Understanding the mystical voyage of finding the perfect shade of foundation was much too often akin to spotting a unicorn; Fenty Beauty launched with 40 shades of foundation, and today they have 50. Even more remarkable was that the brand launched in 17 countries at once - same day, same hour. This simple, conscious decision from its inception laid the groundwork for a multitude of awards, among them one of Time Magazines' best inventions in 2017 and Allure's Best of Beauty Awards in 2020. Proof that inclusivity can be good for all and good for business.


Olay - #DecodetheBias

Owned by the behemoth Procter & Gamble, Olay is taking a smart and savvy look at exactly how computer algorithms affect and reinforce the narrow standard of beauty. The saying that technology is only as good (or bad) as its user is valid in this case. The reality is that most U.S. computer programmers are white males whose personal standards and preferences are thus echoed into their coding. Which produces a flawed and biased "digital ecosystem" skewed against women of color. Olay is changing this at the source by creating a broader pool of U.S. coders, which will create a more diverse interpretation of beauty. A great example of this effort is Olay's partnership with Black Girls Code to send at least 1,000 girls of color to the organization's coding camp!

Olay Decode the Bias Beauty Campaign

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The No7 Beauty Company - "We See You" Campaign

In an interview with Glossy, Anish Raghavan, North America CMO for the No7 Beauty company, 63% of U.S. women of color don't feel seen by the skincare industry." In response, The No7 brand launched the "We See You" campaign in October 2021. Aligned with their "Unstoppable Together" corporate-social initiative, this U.K.-based company reached out to and addressed women in the U.S. for the first time since in their 87-year history. The company dedicated substantial financial investment and resources to support a "gold launch" for the "We See You" campaign. Addressing the disparity of products on the market for women of the BIPOC communities, they created a standalone No7 brand range of products focused on skincare, in conjunction with a line of products featuring retinol, including night cream, serum, and eye cream.

Unstoppable Together We See You No. 7 Beauty Ad Campaign

L'Oréal - "Because We're Worth It"

L'Oréal – the world's largest beauty company, is a true innovator and change-maker who talks the talk and walks the walk. From the iconic 1971 "Because You're Worth It" tagline, which spoke to a generation as a female-first mantra, to the 2017 debut of the "True Match: Your Skin, Your Story" marketing campaign, featuring a splendid lineup of beautiful, diverse, global citizens. Loreal Brand Ambassadors have included Jane Fonda, Viola Davis, Celine Dion, Beyonce Knowles, Nidhi Sunil, Elle Fanning, Soo Joo Park, Liya Kebede, Leïla Bekhti, Gemma Chan, and Duckie Thot.

In 2021, Loreal formed a Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Board and joined the Unstereotype Alliance. According to their website, the Unsterotype Alliance "collectively acts to empower people in all their diversity (including gender, race, class, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality) by using advertising as a force for good to drive positive change all over the world." As the company celebrated 50 years of Women's Worth, the legendary tagline was modified to "Because We Are Worth It."

LOréal Paris Debuts New True Match Campaign Your Skin, Your Story.pdf

Look To The Future 

These companies and brands are leading the pack, but the list is growing, and the future is truly multi-hued and glorious. As a little girl, I used to accompany my mother on her Mary Kay sales calls, pink travel cases and all, and I loved helping everyone mix and match their foundations, eyeshadows, and blush. Most of her customers couldn't quite find the "right" shade. Kudos to Mary Kay for having a few selections and options and for empowering women everywhere to strive for an independent sales career and a pink Cadillac. I'm sure my mother would be tickled "pink" to see the limitless options that are now available to me and so many others. Most importantly, she would be incredibly satisfied and elated that the world of beauty products now also sees our beautiful images in the mirror as well.

Eager To Learn More?

There are a lot of changes in the way we sell, see and celebrate beauty. Check out these blogs for more creative and fun mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations.

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