September 2nd, 2011

Beauty Might Not Be Blind, but the Casting Call Was

The New York Times

ARE you just another pretty face? Or are you truly beautiful? A new campaign from the mineral cosmetics company Bare Escentuals hopes women will realize that the former is not enough.

“Pretty,” says an actress in a commercial for the campaign, “is what you are. Beauty is what you do with it.” The theme for the campaign is “Be a Force of Beauty.”

“We can all be pretty, but beauty is an action,” said Leslie Blodgett, the executive chairman of Bare Escentuals. “Hopefully it’s a rally cry for ‘Don’t just be pretty and sit there and get your picture taken and do nothing.’ ”

Simon Cowell, the chief marketing officer of Bare Escentuals, said the company realized there was an audience it had not yet reached through its boutiques, wholesale partners or the use of home shopping networks like QVC. “We need to talk to them about our brand before they show up at one of our counters,” Mr. Cowell said.

To do that, the company hired an advertising agency of record — TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles, part of TBWA Worldwide, a unit of the Omnicom Group — to create its first traditional ad campaign, which will appear in print, television and digital ads. “Its been a scary process for me personally,” said Ms. Blodgett. “Its really hard to get your message across with a one-liner.”

To find models that represented the elusive notion of beauty, the company held a blind casting call for women ages 20 to 60. Representatives from Bare Escentuals did not see the women who applied until they were selected for the campaign. Instead, they asked more than 270 women to complete a questionnaire about who they were and what they were like.

“My agent wouldn’t even tell me who the company was,” said Keri Shahidi, 42, one of the women chosen for the campaign, because the agent did not want the knowledge to affect her answers. The list was then whittled to 78 women, who were chosen based on their answers to the survey and brought in for interviews with casting agents. That list was reduced to 26 women, and after an a additional round of interviews, five women made the final cut.

Not seeing the women before they were chosen, Ms. Blodgett said, was a bit nerve-racking. “Do you know what a huge risk that is? What if all five of them were blonde, blue-eyed and 30?”

Xanthe Hohalek, a creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles who worked on the campaign, said the company was looking for the women to embody qualities like inspiration, humility and humor. “We were looking for something that was much more personality-driven,” Ms. Hohalek said. The goal was to capture women who had compelling and interesting stories to tell.

One finalist is a volunteer firefighter and another is an environmental scientist. Ms. Shahidi, an actor and mother of three, says she has undergone multiple knee surgeries because of playing basketball, has an “irrational fear of dog poop” and used to ride a motorcycle in college. “They really got to know us,” Ms. Shahidi said. “It had nothing to do with the makeup.”

Ms. Blodgett said that with the exception of basic color correction, the company took pains not to retouch or airbrush photographs of the women. “We’re leaving in everything that they came with on their face. Every line, wrinkle, puffy bloodshot eye,” she said. “We have a responsibility as a beauty company to start changing the images that women see.”

Ms. Shahidi confirmed that notion: “Trust me. I saw my picture, they did not retouch me.”

The photographs, which were taken by John Rankin Waddell, were meant to show “women that had soul in their eye versus what you see in magazines, that blank dilated pupil stare,” said Ms. Hohalek of TBWA. “There was a sense of a self there.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/02/business/media/for-bare-escentuals-pretty-isnt-good-enough.html

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