When: 26 October 2016
Law stated as at: 8 November 2016
The ASA has ruled against Diet Chef Ltd for failing to comply with rule 1.2 of the BCAP Code, which provides that “advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society“.
Diet Chef is a meal delivery service based in Edinburgh, UK. Diet Chef’s customers pay a subscription fee; select a meal plan designed to aid weight loss from several options online; and the food is then delivered to their home and prepared according to instructions.
The ruling follows complaints from 26 viewers against a TV ad aired by the company – and cleared by Clearcast – in July 2016. The ad saw two characters played by the same actor, today’s Cheryl (thin and smiling), and Cheryl from two months ago (sad and neglected), having a chat about how today’s Cheryl looked good and Cheryl from two months ago was miserable. The old Cheryl was shown wearing a baggy shirt and with messy hair and appeared distressed, while the new Cheryl was shown in a more fitted outfit with a more polished appearance and a happier demeanour.
The ASA ruled that the ad did not breach rule 4.2 of the BCAP Code (“advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards“) as it accepted Diet Chef’s argument that both of the Cheryls were well-presented and therefore disregarded the claim from viewers that the ad was harmful and offensive by suggesting that overweight women do not take care of themselves or their appearance.
However, the ASA asked the company to modify the ad because of its socially irresponsible approach to body image: “the ad focused disproportionately on the former Cheryl’s negative feelings about her appearance, and implied that weight loss was the only solution to her problems. It therefore implied that those with insecurities about their bodies, and particularly their weight, could only achieve happiness and self-confidence through weight loss“.
Why this matters:
In essence, the basis for this decision is that the ad should not have presented weight loss as a solution to finding happiness. This is interesting because this type of reasoning is usually found in decisions relating to alcohol, pursuant to rules in the CAP and BCAP Code that expressly prohibit linking alcohol with certain behaviours and success. Although the rules on weight loss and slimming were only updated last year (see article here), it is possible that this decision has identified that there are additional considerations to be applied to weight loss and slimming ads. The decision also serves as a reminder that TV ads for weight control and slimming products are subject to all aspects of the BCAP Code, and not just rule 12 that focuses on weight control and slimming.