I was corresponding with some friends about this ad, and I figured out what really bugs me about it:
I think beauty is both more important and less important than the ad implies.
1) Beauty does have a huge impact on your life. If you're born with it, you've got a leg up on the competition. It's a lot like intelligence or athletic ability or good parents or inherited wealth in that way. You didn't earn it, but it is extra ammunition in your pocket. Pretending it's not one of those unearned advantages is disingenuous, at the very least. And sort of insulting. (This book is an interesting take on the subject. And this is an interesting mini-series on a closely-related subject.)
2) Beauty's not gonna get you all the way. Again, much like intelligence or athletic ability or good parents or inherited wealth. It's not going to make you a good person, it's not going to get you into heaven, it's not going to make you pleasant enough to live with, it's not going to make you happy. And even if you have it, it disappears quickly. If you rely on it in youth, you're going to be sunk in old age. (Hence the frantic American quest to retain their youth through all manners of surgeries and gimmicks.)
So, the ad lies because,
1) Those women aren't actually all just as beautiful as every other beautiful woman in the world.
2) Having an assurance of their beauty isn't actually going to make them happy.
But . . . that said, from the reactions to the video, it's clear it strikes a chord, and that many women really can't see the loveliness that really is there, and that even if beauty doesn't make them happy, perceived lack of beauty makes them profoundly unhappy. That . . . that part I don't have an answer for. (Other than the one Hopkins gives.) For that, well, maybe the sketch artist experiment actually is helpful. I don't know. It is at least the gift of a new perspective, and I don't doubt that's a real gift.
p.s. Also, talking about beauty this much makes me feel the way I do when I've eaten too much candy. There's something profoundly un-nourishing about this topic, isn't there?