Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 3 November 2022
Law stated as at: 13 December 2022
The CAP and BCAP have published an interim statement following their call for evidence on body image issues in advertising.
Dissatisfaction with body image is increasingly understood to link to a poorer quality of life, psychological distress and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and disorders. The ASA has worked to reduce the negative role that advertising has had in contributing to these outcomes by banning ads that are considered likely to encourage or condone harmful behaviours or attitudes related to body image. CAP and BCAP’s open call for evidence was published to assist the ASA’s regulation of these adverts and ensure that the UK Advertising Codes and guidance adequately addresses body harm arising from advertising.
The conclusion of their interim statement is that the evidence they received did not identify any significant gaps in the current regulatory framework. This framework sets a range of general and specific restrictions to prevent ads from harmfully affecting how audience members see themselves physically and how they believe others see them physically. However, despite this conclusion CAP and BCAP have confirmed that they will continue maintaining a watching brief on body issues in advertising.
In particular, following an evaluation of the responses they received, CAP and BCAP will be prioritising exploratory work in the following areas:
- The potential harms arising from digitally altered images in advertising and labelling as a possible intervention. This work should be completed by the end of Q1 2023.
- The potential harms arising the depiction of muscularity in advertising. This work should be completed by the end of Q4 2023.
- The potential harms arising from the depiction of women from minority ethnic backgrounds in ads and whether new and unattainable body image ideals could be created. This work should be completed by the end of Q4 2023.
This work will include consideration of related requirements and practices in overseas’ jurisdictions, such as France, Israel and Norway, as well as undertaking proactive assessments of relevant adverts.
Whilst CAP and BCAP’s body image review continues, the ASA will continue to regulate adverts that are likely to adversely impact consumers’ body image under the current UK Advertising Codes and will take action where needed.
Why this matters
This conclusion from CAP and BCAP means there will not be any immediate increased regulation of adverts that relate to body image.
However, this call to evidence and interim statement indicates that the advertising regulators are more focused on the potential body image related harms that can be caused by advertising and how this impacts consumers. The exploratory work coming out of this review will mean there is a likely chance that increased regulation around these types of advert could be coming soon.