The beauty category is, well, beautiful — flourishing with images of gorgeous faces pictured with flowers/silk/wind accompanied by jewelry/fashion/lighting. You take the point: the beauty category is, for all its beauty, somewhat dull, presenting the same sorts of images with the current face plugged in, once in a while throwing in a white-coated lab tech to convince us this is all high science.

This is a sad commentary, especially considering that the beauty category has an awful lot to work with. Take the celebrity spokesperson, for example. A coup by Lancome, it snared the advertising-averse Julia Roberts to represent the brand. An icon of American cinema, Roberts has built an amazing career playing women that navigate personal strength and human vulnerability. And what did Lancome do in the advertising, having that kind of material to work with, you might ask? It put her against a field of flowers. Whoa! Who could have seen that coming?

It has a been a puzzle to many in brand research as to why celebrity/brand pairings in the beauty category don’t capitalize on the spirits and personalities of the women they pay tremendous sums of money to sit at their makeup table. Beauty brands need to get over their phobia of real research and come out from behind the two-way focus group mirror, where insights are bound to be limited. Real engagement research can illuminate what happens when the golden celebrity egg isn’t just put on the usual ho-hum pedestal, but used as a real ingredient in the brand/celeb recipe. That would not only save us all from yet another dramatic view of eyelashes, but might actually change the course of endorsement advertising altogether and make it meaningful, and thus even more profitable, for the brand.