Cosmetic interventions and the CAP Code

Many people like to take pride in their appearance and some look to companies who provide a whole host of cosmetic services, from non-surgical interventions to major surgery.  Ads which promote these services must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to both consumers and to wider society, and here are a few things to think about to ensure your ads are looking their best.

Social Responsibility

Issues relating to body image must, naturally, be handled sensitively.  As such, advertisers should ensure that their ads do not imply that one body type or specific trait is preferable over another, as this may exploit those with body insecurities.

Moreover, ads should not suggest that cosmetic surgery is a trivial matter.  Surgery should be presented as something which requires time and detailed thought to consider, rather than as something which can be undertaken lightly with no risks.  As such, the presentation and tone of ads must be balanced and appropriate to the service being offered. 

The promotion of prescription-only medicines (for example, Botox) to the public is not permitted, and advertisers should take care to avoid even indirect references (such as “anti-wrinkle injections”).

Endorsements & Testimonials

Testimonials are a great way for advertisers to demonstrate to consumers the real-world results of their products.  When it comes to cosmetic surgery, however, testimonials must be socially responsible so they do not portray surgery as trivial or exaggerate the results.  Claims within testimonials must be backed-up by evidence. 

Surgical/Non-Surgical Claims

As with any advertising, objective efficacy claims for cosmetic interventions must be supported by robust evidence.  Marketers should not make unrealistic claims, for example that tattoos can be removed without trace or with minimal risk of complications.  “Puffery” (obvious exaggeration) and claims that the average consumer is unlikely to take literally are allowed, provided they do not materially mislead.  Claims such as “a new you” or “feel fantastic” are likely to be acceptable as puffery.  However, the ASA is likely to regard claims that a procedure is “revolutionary” or “turns back time” as objective and this would require robust substantiation.

Use of Production Techniques

It should go without saying that any before/after images used in ads must accurately reflect genuine results from cosmetic work.  Advertisers must avoid misleadingly exaggerating the results of an intervention and, whilst the use of post-production techniques is not prohibited, marketers should be careful to avoid using these techniques to re-touch or enhance areas on the body which relate specifically to the product or service being advertised.

Placement and scheduling

Ads for cosmetic interventions must not be directed at those below the age of 18. For non-broadcast advertising (e.g. press, posters, marketers’ own websites, online media, social media, influencer marketing), ads cannot be placed in media aimed under-18s, or where 25% or more of the audience profile is under-18s. For broadcast advertising, cosmetic interventions must not be advertised in or adjacent to television and radio programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to audiences below the age of 18.

Examples of “cosmetic interventions” that these targeting rules cover include (but are not limited to): breast augmentation or uplift procedures, breast reduction, abdominoplasty (‘tummy tuck’), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), rhytidectomy (face lift), labiaplasty, hair restoration surgery, dermal fillers, skin rejuvenation treatments such as injectable treatments, chemical peels, micro-needling, non-ablative laser treatments, laser or light treatments, micropigmentation (for example, permanent makeup tattoos) and teeth whitening treatments.

For more detail, see our Advertising Guidance on the marketing of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures available here

For further guidance, see our AdviceOnline entries and if you need bespoke advice on your non-broadcast ads then our Copy Advice team are here to help.

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