Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Egemed Hastaneleri, LIFT Aesthetics and Mr Carl Woods
Where: United Kingdom
When: 17 May 2023
Law stated as at: 12 June 2023
The ASA challenged an advert posted by Egemed Hospitals (Egemed) on 30 November 2022. The ad promoted a “Mommy Makeover” holiday package to Turkey, including a “tummy tuck, breast surgery and liposuction“. The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) challenged whether the ad (1) encouraged consumers to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery and trivialised the choice to undergo surgery, (2) was irresponsible for pressurising consumers into purchasing surgery by referring to a “Summer sale”, and (3) advertised Botox, a prescription-only medicine (POM). The ASA challenged the ad for (1) omitting information regarding pre-consultations, and (2) irresponsibly targeting new mothers’ insecurities around body image. Egemed failed to respond to the ASA in breach of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP) Code 1.7 (Unreasonable delay).
The challenges were all upheld. Egemed breached CAP Code 1.3 (Social responsibility) by promoting the package as a “vacation” as part of a “Summer sale”, trivialising the decision to purchase surgery. Egemed breached CAP Code 12.12 (Medicines) by promoting Botox (a POM) and omitting the information about risks and pre-consultations which misled consumers and breached CAP Codes 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising). Lastly, the term “Mommy Makeover” exploited insecurities of new mothers and breached CAP Code 4.9 (Harm and offence).
Egemed was told that the ad cannot appear again in the form complained of and no future ads should trivialise the decision to have cosmetic surgery or offer POMs to the public.
The ASA has also reported on a recent ruling against a social media ad for an all-inclusive package including a “Brazilian butt lift and 360 liposuction” in Turkey. Again, the ASA challenges were upheld on the basis the ad trivialised the decision to have surgery and contained little consideration for the risks.
In both of these decisions it was of importance to the ASA that the ads provided no information about a pre-consultation but instead focused on the “holiday” aspects of the packages.
The ASA challenged six social media posts by LIFT Aesthetics in June 2022, each of which showed Mr Carl Woods being injected with a syringe into his forehead and one including discussion about the benefits of the treatment. A claimant challenged whether the posts were obviously identifiable as marketing communications. The ASA challenged whether the ads breached the CAP Code by (1) promoting a POM, and (2) using a celebrity to endorse a medicine.
LIFT confirmed it provided Woods’ treatment without charge, but had not required him to post about the treatment. LIFT also responded that it was aware of the advertising rules for POMs, including Botox, but had not appreciated that anti-wrinkle injections were not permitted.
All challenges were upheld. Tagging LIFT’s social media account was not sufficient to identify the ads as marketing communication, so the ads breached CAP Code’s rules 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 (Recognition of marketing communications). The provision of free treatment was found to constitute payment for the promotion meaning there was implicit agreement that Woods would post about the treatment. LIFT had editorial control over the posts by creating the originals which Woods then reposted. The ads inferred that Woods had Botox treatment and referenced “Allergan” (a brand of Botox) while appearing to promote it to consumers, so also breached CAP Code 12.12 (Medicines). The ASA considered Woods being a celebrity, and therefore the ads breached CAP Code 12.18 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products) by using a celebrity to endorse a medical product.
LIFT was told that the ad cannot appear again in the form complained of and warned against promoting POMs to the public or using celebrities to endorse medicines.
Why this matters:
These rulings highlight the importance of accurate and sensitive advertising for any cosmetic procedures, particularly where the procedures take place abroad. Ads which disregard the seriousness of such decisions or target vulnerabilities, including body image, are likely to be challenged in this way. Advertisers should focus on the provision of material information rather than the “vacation” aspect of these packages.
The LIFT ruling reinforces the ASA’s stance on the use of celebrities to endorse medicines. A formal arrangement for promotions is not required to breach the CAP Code as the ASA may infer an agreement on the facts. Using alternative wording such as “anti-wrinkle treatment” as opposed to Botox is not a way to navigate around the CAP Code if the wording has the same effect as promoting a POM.