Madison Avenue: liberated?

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Is Madison Avenue discovering big money in real women? TV long ago recognized the riches in reality. Yes, lots of eyeballs (to wit, people) tune in to watch other real people in reality shows. But Madison Avenue has been slow to follow. Seems people still want to buy products that look better when they're modeled by, well, models and celebrities, rather than age-ridden real people.

That could be changing.

L'Oreal, whose supermodels range from Isabella Rossellini to, more recently, Scarlett Johansson, is launching this fall a cosmetics and skin care collection exclusively marketed to women in their 50s and 60s. Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. has a new age-defying beauty line called Cover Girl's Advanced Radiance (boy, is that a contradiction in terms).

Revlon, according to MSNBC, is counting on the launch of Vital Radiance, along with the revamping of its Almay brand, to fuel a turnaround. Who's the target audience? Women, 50 plus. Yoo-hoo! Let's go, girls!

Last year Unilever's Dove (soap) line jarred "Mad Ave." with its "Real Beauty" campaign. Six women—"real" women, that is, ranging from size 6 to 14—starred in a Dove campaign in which they sported only bras, panties, and big smiles on billboards, bus stops, and trains in Chicago, New York, and other big cities. Yes, they were young. But they were not walking size-2 matchsticks, as are most denizens of consumer products ads.

Not only that, but MORE (the magazine for women 40 plus) Editor-in-Chief Peggy Northrop recently told me about an upcoming article she's editing on women "going gray."

If that's not women's liberation, what is? I asked her where the trend had started and she said with advertisers: They're much more willing to sell products these days with women who've gone gray than in years past.