“Stronger, full of life, replenished, with a healthy shine. It’s got its mojo back” said Cheryl Cole, wearing hair extensions, in a TV ad for a L’Oreal hair product. A caption said “Styled with some natural hair extensions” but 40 complainers thought the ad overdid the product benefits. Hannah Willson reports.
Topic: Health and beauty
Who: L'Oreal and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: 2 June 2010
Law stated as at: June 2010
L'Oreal (UK) Ltd's (L'Oreal) advertising campaign for it's Elvive Full Restore 5 product featuring Cheryl Cole came under fire (40 hits to be precise) with complaints to the ASA about Cheryl Cole wearing natural hair extensions in the ads and allegedly overstating the product benefits.
The campaign consisted of a TV ad, two posters and a magazine ad which stated that new 'L'Oreal Elvive Full Restore five…targets weak, limp, lifeless, dull and straw-like hair' and Cole goes on to say that 'My hair feels stronger, full of life, replenished, with a healthy shine. It's got its mojo back'. On all but one poster there was small print stating 'Styled with some natural hair extensions'.
The complaints were twofold:
i) that the adverts exaggerated the benefits of the product, which they believed could not produce the effects shown because Cheryl Cole was wearing hair extensions; and
ii) that the adverts were misleading because they believed the product was not suitable for use with hair extensions.
The Relevant Rules
7 – Truthfulness
7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.
7.2 Marketing communications must not omit, hide or provide in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner material information if that omission or presentation is likely to affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the advertised product, unless the information is obvious from the context. If the advertisement is limited by time or space, the ASA will take into account steps that the advertiser has taken to make that information available to consumers by other means….
CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code
5 – Misleading Advertising
5.1.1 No advertisement may directly or by implication mislead about any material fact or characteristic of a product or service
5.1.2 No advertisement may mislead by omission about any material fact or characteristic of a product or service or advertiser
5.2.3 All important limitations and qualifications must be made clear
L'Oreal defended the ads by saying that 'the average consumer would understand the effects would vary according to hair type as well as to how hair was styled' and they went on to point out that it is industry practice for models to have their hair professionally styled for commercial shoots – which would inevitably impact the final look.
The fact that text was added regarding the hair extensions worn by Cole was not added as a disclaimer, but was an effort by L'Oreal to be 'transparent' and they felt that there was no obligation on them to include such text. None of the products claims related to hair extensions and it was well known information that Cole wore them. They believed that 'the way Cheryl Cole was portrayed in the ads was entirely consistent with the image the public was used to seeing in newspapers and in televisions appearances; she had not been transformed above and beyond that public image for the purposes of the ads.'
What the ASA said
The ASA did not uphold any of the complaints – they noted that 'the consumer testing conducted by L'Oreal demonstrated that the results referred to were achievable by consumers who did not wear hair extensions' and agreed with L'Oreal that most consumers would understand that individual results would depend on hair type and there was therefore no misleading exaggeration of the benefits of the product.
Furthermore the ASA concluded that the ad was not misleading as the product was suitable for use on the type of hair extensions that were used by Cheryl Cole in the ad.
Why this matters:
Clearcast, which pre vets all advertising before it is broadcast on UK commercial TV under contract to the TV networks, had given the campaign clearance on the grounds that they believed the ad did not misleadingly exaggerate the benefits of the product and had based its decision on extensive evidence provided to support the claims. This was also an important factor in the ASA decision not to uphold the complaints – there was sufficient evidence to support the claims that L'Oreal were making and this certainly demonstrates the benefits of well planned market research and consumer testing to back up any claims and has kept L'Oreal in the clear this time.
Clearcast also commented that there was no exaggerated comparison of pre-use (with no extensions) and post-use (with hair extensions) used in the ad and that this was an important reason why the advert was not misleading. Had such an exaggerated comparison been used then the conclusions of the ASA may have been quite different.
This ASA adjudication has shown that a physical enhancement that is not directly related to the claims that are being made is acceptable in advertisements with no requirement to alert the consumer to its presence. The fact that L'Oreal chose to, L'Oreal say, added credibility and appeal (according to consumer perception tests).