A radio ad for Cosmedicare, a cosmetic surgery company, heard 9 January 2019, which featured a female character composing a letter to a bar owner. The voice-over stated, “Dear Sir, apologises for Saturday night’s incident at your fine establishment. To explain, I had to show off my new Cosmedicare body because as they say: ‘If you've got it; flaunt it’. So I did, with a belly dance, on your bar. I'll pay for the damage and would love to apologise in person to that gorgeous bartender of yours, wherever he's recovering?” The ad finished with a voice-over that stated, “For your free cosmetic surgery consultation, 3D scan and price promise quote see Cosmedicare.uk. Cosmedicare what will the new you do?”
The complainant, who felt the ad exploited young people’s insecurities about their bodies, challenged whether the ad was harmful and irresponsible because it linked social confidence and attractiveness to cosmetic surgery.
Cosmedicare UK Ltd outlined that the ad was intended to be a light-hearted, anecdotal scenario about a woman who felt good after having cosmetic surgery done. They said no specifics about the type of surgery were given and that the ad was not directed at any specific demographic. Cosmedicare did not believe that the ad had the capacity to exploit young people’s insecurities about their bodies and they said their only intention was to dramatise the transformational benefits that cosmetic surgery could have for some people.
Radiocentre also believed the ad was a light-hearted scenario comprising of a woman who was enjoying the effects of the advertiser’s area of business, and said neither specific surgery nor surgery for certain parts of the body were mentioned. They said that the ad featured a woman who sounded in her early 30s and was not likely to be of particular appeal to young people. They said the ad was not targeted or directed at under 18s. They said there was no weight loss implication and did not feel that the ad had the capacity to exploit young people’s insecurities about their bodies.
Radiocentre said that social confidence and attractiveness were factors for those considering cosmetic surgery, and that the advertiser was entitled to highlight and promote that. They did not feel that had been done in the ad in a harmful or irresponsible manner. They said the light-hearted scenario in the ad was not based around the decision to go ahead with cosmetic surgery, but was based on the outcome and benefits of a successful and safe surgical procedure. Radiocentre said that it was acceptable to advertise cosmetic surgery and that there was no regulatory or legislative requirement to include warnings.
The character in the ad stated “To explain, I had to show off my new Cosmedicare body because as they say: ‘If you've got it; flaunt it’. So I did, with a belly dance, on your bar”. The ASA considered this would be interpreted by listeners as an indication that the character only felt able to display that behaviour and enjoy a new lifestyle because she felt more confident and attractive after having cosmetic surgery. We considered that was further emphasised by the voice-over at the end of the ad, which stated “What will the new you do?”.
We acknowledged the tone of the ad was light-hearted; however, in the context of an ad for cosmetic surgery, we considered the impulsive behaviour featured served to trivialise the seriousness of a decision to undergo any such procedure. We otherwise noted the ad did not contain any suggestion that the decision should be carefully considered or that surgery would constitute a significant intervention.
We considered the ad went beyond presenting the actions of a woman who had cosmetic surgery in a positive light and implied that she only felt able to behave as described in the ad and enjoy a new lifestyle because she felt more confident and attractive after undergoing cosmetic surgery. We were therefore concerned that the ad risked playing on young people’s insecurities about their bodies, particularly young women and teenage girls, due to the particular scenario described. We also considered the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery was suggested to be something that could be undertaken lightly. For those reasons we concluded the ad was irresponsible and harmful.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. (Harm and offence).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Cosmedicare UK Ltd to ensure in future they did not trivialise the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery or irresponsibly imply that people would only feel able to behave in a certain way because they would feel more confident and attractive after undergoing cosmetic surgery.