Who: The Jury of Ethical Advertisement of the ARPP (the French Advertising Regulator), Wellforme
When: 26 March 2020
Law stated as at: 11 May 2020
A company selling a magnet to be placed in the ear and supposed to help weight-loss published an advertisement in a print newspaper. This ad, which was published as a full-page article, stated “I lost 15 kilos” as a title and showed photographs of a young woman before and after her weight loss. Some texts presented the magnet’s properties along with users’ testimonials and information regarding the seller.
The Jury stated that under the ICC Advertising and Marketing Code, marketing communications should not contain any statement likely to mislead the consumer with regard to: “characteristics of the product which are material, i.e. likely to influence the consumer’s choice, such as: nature, composition, method and date of manufacture, range of use, efficiency and performance, quantity, commercial or geographical origin or environmental impact” (Article 5 – Truthfulness); and that “Descriptions, claims or illustrations relating to verifiable facts in marketing communications should be capable of substantiation. Claims that state or imply that a particular level or type of substantiation exists must have at least the level of substantiation advertised. Substantiation should be available so that evidence can be produced without delay and upon request to the self-regulatory organisations responsible for the implementation of the Code.” (Article 6 – Substantiation).
The jury noted that the advertiser did not provide the jury with any substantiation relating to the weight-loss claim presented in the pictures and further noted that no objective and verifiable supporting material was presented on the ad. The Jury therefore considered that the ad was likely to mislead consumers. The Jury also re-iterated that it had already ruled on 4 April 2019 that the same campaign was not compliant with the ICC Advertising and Marketing Code.
Why this matters:
This ruling re-enforces the fact that statements in ad campaigns on the usefulness or effectiveness of medical devices used to lose weight must always be based on objective and verifiable facts. Therefore it is likely that pictures showing weight loss would probably be considered as misleading if they were attributed to a device without providing details on the way the device works and on its results. In any case, the advertiser must be able to provide substantiation of the ad’s statements on demand in order for the ad campaign not to be considered as misleading.