Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and MYA Cosmetic Surgery Limited (“MYA”)
When: 4 July 2018
Law stated as at: 25 October 2018
A TV ad for breast enlargement surgery, which ran during the breaks in ITV’s “Love Island” program during the months of May, June and July 2018, and appeared on ITV Player on 4 July 2018, were found by the Advertising Standards Authority to be irresponsible and harmful.
The ad showed young, slim, surgically enhanced women wearing revealing outfits at various locations, including a swimming pool, beach and yacht, while electronic music played in the background. The voice-over on the ad stated, “If you’ve been considering breast enlargements for a while, then visit mya.co.uk to book your free consultation“, and, “These girls had breast enlargements with MYA and all feel amazing!“.
In its response, MYA: argued that the ad features real patients over the age of 21 “within a healthy body range“; referred to the on-screen text, which stated “if you have been considering breast enlargement for a while“; and drew attention to the requirement for a consultation. In addition, MYA believed the on-screen text – which stated “No surgical procedure is without risk. 18+” and “Any decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be undertaken lightly. Allow plenty of time to reflect before going ahead with a procedure” – was prominent and stressed both the seriousness of the procedure and the need to take plenty of time to reflect before proceeding.
However, the ASA considered that the ad showed the women to be enjoying an aspirational lifestyle and that the unifying factor between all the women was their surgically enhanced figures, which in turn appeared to be a crucial factor in enabling the women to wear revealing clothing. The ASA deemed that the wording of the voice-over and on-screen text were inconsistent with the overall tone and content of the ad, which presented the lifestyle of women who had undergone cosmetic surgery in a positive light and, moreover, presented the women’s cosmetic surgery as the determining factor in their being able to enjoy an aspirational lifestyle.
Added to this depiction, the statement “join them and thousands more” was deemed by the ASA to suggest that it was common to undergo breast enlargement, acted as an explicit call to action and trivialised the decision to undergo such surgery.
As such, the ASA deemed that the ads had breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), and CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising).
MYA was told not to run the ad again in the same form.
Why this matters:
The issue of social responsibility usually appears in advertising for products such as alcohol. This ruling is a useful reminder that such rules apply to all types of advertising and particular care must be taken when an ad suggests that a product or service may lead to a certain outcome (such as social success or an aspirational lifestyle).
The ruling also reminds brands that despite the disclaimers in the ad (the warnings of the risks involved and the gravity of the decision to be taken), the ASA will look to the overall content and tone of ads in order to determine whether it complies with advertising standards.
According to Mental Health Foundation director Isabella Goldie, this ruling is a “watershed moment” for cosmetic surgery advertising. Cosmetic surgery companies should ensure that their ads do not imply that women or men could only enjoy an aspirational lifestyle or body confidence as a result of undergoing cosmetic surgery. In addition, any content deemed to trivialise the decision to undergo such surgery is likely to be deemed inappropriate by the ASA.