CVS vows to stop altering beauty images in its marketing

Starting in April, CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS) said it will stop "materially" altering the beauty imagery in its marketing materials that appear in its stores and on its websites and social media channels.

The change applies to the marketing materials that CVS creates itself, but the drugstore chain is also asking brand partners -- including Revlon, L'Oréal and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)-- to join the effort.

"The thinking is that we're a big healthcare company, but also an important beauty retailer, and we see those two parts of our business as connected from the consumer view," said Helena Foulkes, who runs CVS's retail business. "Having an unrealistic body image is a significant driver of health issues."

Ms. Foulkes said many big consumer brands already have policies around digital alterations of marketing materials, though adherence to such policies remains uneven. "We're looking to make sure we have authenticity and transparency," she said.

As part of its commitment, CVS said it will launch the "CVS Beauty Mark, " a watermark that will appear on all imagery that hasn't been materially altered. The company will also identify any marketing materials in which a person's shape, size, proportions, eye color or wrinkles have been changed or enhanced with a "digitally modified" label. The labels apply to marketing materials in CVS stores and on its website, but not on product packaging.

The goal, according to CVS, is for all images in the beauty sections of CVS's fleet of stores to reflect the "transparency" commitment by 2020, with 80% of its stores complete by 2019.

This announcement is the latest example of CVS making a business decision linked to being a better corporate citizen -- a term often used to describe companies that recognize a responsibility for their business practices to support society.

CVS in 2014 became the first big retail chain to announce that it would stop selling tobacco products in its stores, aggressively positioning itself as a health provider. "Cigarettes have no place in an environment where health care is being delivered," said CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo at the time.

CVS last month agreed to buy Aetna for about $69 billion in a move to transform the pharmacy company and capture more of what consumers spend on health care.

CVS isn't the only company to support better body images for women. A number of advertisers, most notably Dove, have marketing platforms that champion female empowerment. More than a decade ago, Unilever-owned Dove debuted its "Campaign for Real Beauty," featuring diverse, ordinary-looking people versus the overly thin and beautiful models typically featured in beauty and skincare ads.

The campaign had staying power, and other advertisers have followed suit, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) with its "Like a Girl" campaign for Always and "Stress Test" for Secret.

More recently, the Association of National Advertisers launched an initiative, called #SeeHer, to address "unconscious bias" against women and girls in advertising, media and programming.

"The mission of #SeeHer is to accurately portray all girls and women in media so that by 2020, they see themselves reflected as they truly are," according to a statement from the ANA.

Write to Alexandra Bruell at and Sharon Terlep at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 15, 2018 08:29 ET (13:29 GMT)