Augmented Reality (AR) is a multi-million dollar business. Social media has embraced its use, with platforms such as Instagram and TikTok utilizing filters for many of its effects. Innocent services such as changing someone’s face by adding a cute sticker seem to be the most common use. However, there are other more insidious uses for filters. California State University-San Bernardino notes that filters on platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram can impact how people see themselves. Aside from its impact on human beings’ self-image, these filters can also show up in some deceptive marketing practices.
The Beauty Industry’s Lurking Foe
Using an innocent filter to see what Disney Princess you look like is all good fun. But what happens when a company starts using a beauty filter to lie about how its products make a user look? The BBC notes that the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has clamped down on the use of “misleading” filters on beauty marketing products. But is this practice any different from using a graphic artist to “retouch” photos for advertising campaigns? The ASA has noted that filters may be “misleading” to clients. Yet, it mentions no such equivalency in magazine photoshoots that have been digitally enhanced. Aside from the double standards that seem to be targeting tech, it does raise some serious ethical concerns. Even so, these concerns are not new fare for the embattled beauty industry.
Does It Really Look That Way?
The ethical concerns about using filters come from determining how that filter will impact a person’s view of the product. Beauty products usually require the buyer to see them being used. Adding a filter can change the way the user views the product and their intention to buy it. The legal boundaries of if a product looks the way it should through a filter is a grey area. In a free market, the buyer is responsible for doing their research on a product. If that research only consists of the marketing material presented to a buyer, then the buyer doesn’t really have much redress. The issue comes from filters used by influencers on social media platforms. The company’s marketing firm doesn’t directly put these videos out. They are usually sponsored by a brand that doesn’t directly impact the final marketing product. By using the filter, the argument is that they aren’t really using the brand at all. Instead, they’re using AR technology to misrepresent the brand’s image to garner sales.
What Does This Mean for the Industry
With the ASA’s recent statement, we may start seeing more authorities clamping down on filtered advertising. While some people can easily attend Injectable Academy for their beauty treatments, others have to rely on the magic of AR. Do these impending rules infringe on their right to be an earner as an influencer in such a case? If the influencer uses a filter, should they be required to state it in the feed description? For the most part, this is a brave new frontier that the beauty industry has to tackle. They might only have this one chance to get it right.