Who: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 18 December 2015
Law stated as at: 19 January 2015
CAP is very aware, as are many advertisers, that the New Year brings with it good intentions, thoughts of detoxing and dieting, and a wealth of other health-inspired resolutions for the year ahead. So in anticipation of an increase in advertising campaigns in January for products and services aimed to make everyone more healthy, CAP issued some new guidance entitled “The do’s and don’ts of weight loss, detox and smoking cessation claims” before the Christmas break.
This latest guidance note takes the form of some essential ‘do’s and don’ts’ for advertising that wants to target weight loss, detox activities and those who want to stop smoking and some of the key points made include the following:
1. Weight loss advertising:
- Any claims made about the effectiveness of a weight loss method will need to be supported by good substantiation. CAP consider this to take the form of “rigorous trials conducted on people” with testimonials alone not being sufficient to substantiate such claims.
- Ads should not target obese people (those with a Body Mass Index of more than 30kg/m2) and therefore feature them within the creative materials of an ad. The reason why is because obesity is often associated with a medical condition and so treatment to target such weight issues should be conducted under suitably qualified medical supervision only.
- Weight loss ads should not mislead consumers by suggesting dieters can eat as much as they like and still lose weight and neither should they claim a dieter can lose a precise amount of weight within a specific time frame or that weight can be lost from particular areas of the body. If the substantiation an advertiser can adduce demonstrates a proven weight loss method, the ad should still generally not claim a weight loss rate of more than 2lbs per week.
- CAP urges “care” if an advertiser wishes to use ‘before and after’ images illustrating weight loss as part of its campaign nut does not provide further detail on this point other than to say that such images can exaggerate the efficacy of the product being promoted.
- Advertisers must not forget the connotations of using a new product name – CAP’s guidance note reminds advertisers that if a product or service name they devise implies efficacy of the promoted product or service (for instance the example name “Fat Buster” given by CAP), the name in itself will be considered to constitute an advertising claim and must therefore be substantiated in accordance with the rules of the CAP Code.
2. Advertising claims relating to detox activities:
CAP have issued a warning note to advertisers who may wish to promote products and services that may assist a consumer’s desire to ‘detox’. CAP states that it has not seen any evidence to suggest that products such as “detox” foot pads, patches or other devices actually work.
CAP also warns that they have not previously seen any suitable evidence to show that body wraps or exercise shorts can have a detoxifying effect either. Advertisers who wish to promote such products are therefore put on notice that the ASA is likely to be skeptical of their substantiation and find it inadequate when viewed against the requirements of the CAP Code and BCAP Code.
3. Claims aimed at helping consumers to stop smoking:
- CAP says that ads should not imply that a smoker will be able to overcome their addiction without willpower so for this reason an unqualified claim like “stop smoking the easy way” would be likely to breach the CAP Code as would any claim of “guaranteed success” if the advertised product or service is used.
- The ASA has previously considered smoking cessation claims for hypnotherapy and the guidance here is that advertisers should avoid making quantified success rate claims without adequate substantiation to support them.
- Products which have the purpose of assisting a smoker to quit, such as a nicotine gum, are regarded as medicinal by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and so any advertiser wanting to promote such products should ensure that they first hold the relevant marketing authorisations.
- Finally, if an advertiser is wanting to promote e-cigarettes to help consumers give up smoking, CAP reminds such advertisers that there are now new rules in the CAP Code and BCAP Code specifically dealing with e-cigarettes. Care must be taken when promoting these products to ensure, amongst other things, that required MHRA authorisations have been obtained and ads do not encourage non-smokers or non-nicotine-users to use e-cigarettes.
Why this matters:
This guidance note was a timely summary by CAP of existing guidance and CAP/BCAP Code provisions where these areas of health consciousness are concerned. It is a useful summary of the substantiation required for acceptable claims relating to weight loss products and products aimed to assist the quitting of smoking. The note also gives a clear warning that detox type claims should be avoided as the substantiation an advertiser seeks to adduce is unlikely to meet the standards required by the CAP and BCAP Code. While tempting in January with New Year resolutions in full flow, CAP has suggested these claims are best avoided. We shall see if their guidance was taken into account…