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How CoverGirl Built An Ad Campaign Around Multicultural Badassness

The famed makeup brand wants to challenge the idea that beauty marketing need not tell authentic stories from women’s real lives.

After 20 years, it’s no longer “Easy, breezy” for CoverGirl. That iconic logo, which has been represented over the years by everyone from Cybill Shepherd to Queen Latifah, is being replaced by CoverGirl’s new campaign, “I am what I make up,” which is rolling out this fall. The campaign was spearheaded by CoverGirl SVP Ukonwa Ojo, whose team worked with the ad agency Droga5 to come up with a new message of multicultural badassness for the makeup brand.

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The intent, Ojo says, was to “make sure that we, as a makeup brand, are representing what we the community and the culture looks like.”

The new “tribe” of CoverGirls includes Katy Perry; Issa Rae, creator and star of the HBO series Insecure; 69-year-old model Maye Musk; Food Network host Ayesha Curry; fitness guru Massy Arias; and professional motorbike racer Shelina Moreda–all of whom are featured in the campaign’s first ad.

Beyond focussing on brand ambassadors who represent a mix of ethnicities and ages, Ojo said CoverGirl wants to tell their stories as a way to bring women’s vocations into the beauty conversation.

“One of the things we wanted to challenge was there wasn’t a lot of storytelling in beauty,” Ojo said at an event Monday as part of the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York. “Which is really interesting, because beauty is such a core part of identity. But a lot of times when you see beauty advertising, the woman literally comes out of nowhere. There’s this blank background behind her. There is no context to her. We don’t know what she does. We don’t know where she’s going. We don’t know where she’s from. We just know she’s beautiful.”

[Photo: Laurel Golio]
Future ads from the campaign will feature each of the CoverGirls in her own element. For example, the one featuring Rae will have her doing a bit that feels like it was taken straight from Insecure. And Moreda’s ad will show her racing on her motorbike. CoverGirl and Droga5, as part of the creative process, specifically picked women with interesting real-life stories as a way of giving them a chance to tell them in an authentic way.

“That’s really never been done before,” Ojo says. “Which is weird when you think about it. Tell actual women’s stories when you’re talking about their beauty lives!”

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She adds that CoverGirl sought to challenge that notion that women don’t have a lot of dimensions and that makeup doesn’t play a role in women’s actual lives. Ojo, who is Nigerian-American, went on to say that there needs to be more diversity behind the camera in beauty as well. She said she prides herself on the fact that her team at CoverGirl looks like the United Colors of Benetton.

“That is very intentional,” she says. “Because you can only tell authentic, real stories when the people seated at the table are authentically diverse. That is another important part of the story that we have to live as beauty brands–to make sure the people driving the strategy, creating the work, creating the advertising, represent the diversity and the diverse communities they live in.”

About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety.

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