Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards
Behind Sephora’s Soul-Searching Gaze into the Mirror
Advertising Agency
Paris, France
BETC Etoile Rouge’s Florence Bellisson tells Alex Reeves about how the skincare brand’s new positioning became a philosophical reflection on beauty itself

When BETC Etoile Rouge was tasked with devising a new brand positioning for cosmetics company Sephora, the team at the agency decided the best place to start was by looking in the mirror. In 2020, the way people relate to the concept of beauty is drastically different to the beauty of 1970, when the brand was founded. We’re confronted by beauty standards more relentlessly than ever, through the screens we spend an inordinate amount of our time gazing into. But the optimistic side of that reality is that the definition of beauty is gradually broadening and evolving. In culture, entertainment and social media, people are defining beauty in their own terms.

The brand positioning that came out of this philosophical framing is a powerful and empowering one. ‘The Unlimited Power of Beauty’ is an exploration of what beauty can be, and the difficulties that come on the way to realising that.

The film, directed by Jonas Lindstroem, tells the story of a women’s relationship with her reflection throughout her life, exploring the waves of fragility and confidence that her personal relationship with beauty brings along the way. Soundtracked by a cover of Kelsey Lu's iconic song ‘I'm Not In Love’, it’s a relatable, human watch.

The print component of the campaign revolves around a series of portraits captured by British photographer Nadine Ijewere. The images carry the brand’s message while advertising its different departments (perfume, make-up, skin care). Each of these 12 prints tells its own personal story of beauty using phrases that it’s easy to imagine ourselves repeating into a mirror.

LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke to Florence Bellisson, creative director at BETC Etoile Rouge, to find out how this far-reaching work came to life.

LBB> This is an ambitious project! Where did it come from? What was the brief?

Florence> There was no brief but a common understanding that we needed to redefine our brand platform to restate our point of view and reclaim our role as leader.

The expected effect: “if you think you know Sephora, think again”.

LBB> What were your main thoughts when coming up with an overall concept?

Florence> Is the campaign powerful enough to bring significant change?

Does this campaign have the power of a brand founding film?

Does this creative idea have an emotional power that will resonate in everyone?

Does this creative idea reveal that beauty has a prominent role in everyone's lives?

Yes, we think that the change brought by The Unlimited Power of Beauty campaign concept - both very universal in its portrait gallery and very intimate in its tone and imagery - will allow viewers to see themselves in the story and discover the potential of their own beauty.

LBB> And how did that end up in the executions that you landed on?

Florence> It exceeded our expectations! It is a new, powerful campaign that is deliberately different from previous years. Emotion and authenticity are the two main words.

In the film, the intimacy and emotion in each exploration of beauty portrays them as personal evolution and growth at each stage of life. And we can relate to that.

In the prints, all these unique and powerful personalities speak directly to us—each portrait has its own point of view about beauty, with catchphrases like mantras we would repeat to ourselves in front of the mirror.

LBB> How did the collaboration with Nadine Ijewere work? And what was that process like?

Florence> Nadine was very much part of the process on the creative brief before and during the shoot. Working with her is a pleasure. She had the freedom to give her personal input and express her talent.

LBB> With the film’s voiceover, how did you make sure that you're not over-explaining what the visuals explain? I really like the balance you've struck there.

Florence> During the editing process, we felt there was a gap between the voiceover that was written and so we rewrote it with the director as an inner monologue, expressing more doubt, like the feelings and interrogations you might have with yourself throughout your life.

LBB> The choice of music is so nice! What went into the process of that?

Florence> We had a lot of ideas, but it was just ‘the one’. The cover of Kelsey Lu's iconic title ‘I'm Not In Love’ was chosen for its emotional power that resonates in everyone. Also, for its femininity. The final chords give a sense of fulfillment.

LBB> Casting must have been challenging both for the stills and the film. What were your major thoughts there?

Florence> Strong faces, diverse beauties of all ages, gender, ethnicities and style, real, authentic, sensible. You can relate to them. We wanted to express a sense of truth.

LBB> Overall, what were the biggest production challenges and how did you overcome them?

Florence> We did castings in many different cities to find girls and women from African backgrounds. It was challenging as we had to find people that looked like the same person at different ages. We found our cast and then used some techniques for small details like hair, eye colour and the freckles.

LBB> Do you have any favourite moments, scenes or shots in the final film?

Florence> At five years old, she is applying makeup with great care.

At an older age, she smiles, proud, stunning and so natural.

The intensity of the looks in each scene.

Work from BETC Paris
Play Grounded