Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
A TikTok post by Golden Tanning Salon, seen in May 2023, featured a person in a salon and a sound clip from Keeping up with the Kardashians. In response to someone saying, “I don’t watch TV”, the person lip-synched to someone saying, “Like no one cares. You don’t get an award cos you watch less TV’” Large text superimposed at the top of the video stated “‘i [sic] don’t get sunbeds because they are bad for u…’”. Smaller text at the bottom of the video stated “sunbeds have lots of benefits including, [sic] increasing vitamin D, fights inflam…more”. Clicking on “more” brought up the additional text “[…]mation, rebuilds collagen & helps with blood circulation whilest [sic] also getting that golden tan […]”.
The ASA challenged whether linking claims for health benefits with the use of sunbeds was:
1. misleading; and
3. The ASA also challenged whether the ad was appropriately targeted.
1. & 2. Golden Tanning Salon Ltd said while they understood that the NHS advised against sunbed use, they had joined an industry body and had taken information about vitamin D from their website. They had also taken information from one of their suppliers. They provided links to that information. They apologised if the ad breached the Advertising Code and said they would not include any similar information in their future ads.
3. Regarding the targeting of the ad, they said they had a strict no under-18s policy in their salons, as directed by law. They stated they would never intentionally advertise to those who were not legally allowed to use sunbeds. The post in question was not targeted to a specific audience. They said they now understood that the TikTok algorithm prevented them from controlling the audience of their posts. They confirmed the issues would not be repeated again in their future ads and social media.
TikTok said the ad was posted by Golden Tanning Salon to promote their own brand. It was therefore covered by TikTok’s Community Guidelines relating to organic content, which prohibited "inaccurate, misleading, or false content that may cause significant harm to individuals or society, regardless of intent". TikTok also stated that at the time the content was posted, users were able to target their organic posts to age groups over 18 by engaging the 'Audience Controls' toggle.
The ASA considered consumers would interpret the ad to mean that there were health benefits to be gained from using sunbeds, which included increasing vitamin D, fighting inflammation, rebuilding collagen and helping with blood circulation.
For health-related claims, we expected Golden Tanning Salon to hold a high level of evidence, consisting of studies and trials that showed these benefits were obtained by humans from sunbeds. However, Golden Tanning Salon did not provide us with such evidence.
We also took into account that NHS advice on the use of sunbeds was cautious. The advice warned that the ultraviolet (UV) rays given out by sunbeds increased the risk of developing skin cancer and that many sunbeds gave out greater doses of UV rays than midday tropical sun. Given the absence of convincing evidence from Golden Tanning Salon, and the caution urged by the advice from the NHS, we considered the claims that sunbeds provided health benefits were not substantiated.
Whilst we welcomed Golden Tanning Salon’s confirmation that they would not use similar claims in future, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad included a sound clip from Keeping up with the Kardashians, which we understood was a popular TikTok meme used to poke fun at criticism. We considered the use of the clip alongside the text “‘i [sic] don’t get sunbeds because they are bad for u…’” would be understood as mocking those who raised concerns about the use of sunbeds, and encouraging people to disregard advice to be cautious about using them.
As explained above, NHS advice was cautious about the use of sunbeds. There were potentially serious consequences for people who used them because they believed there would be health benefits. In that context, and because the ad mocked those who raised concerns about the potential consequences of sunbed use and encouraged people to disregard those concerns, we concluded that, as well as not being substantiated, the ad was irresponsible.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Responsible advertising).
The CAP Code required that marketing communications for cosmetic interventions must not be directed at those under 18 years of age through the selection of media or context in which they appear. ‘Cosmetic interventions’ meant any intervention, procedure or treatment carried out with the primary objective of changing an aspect of a consumer’s physical appearance. That included surgical and non-surgical interventions, both invasive and non-invasive.
The ad was posted organically by Golden Tanning Salon. We noted that organic posts on TikTok could be targeted away from under-18s by utilising the ‘Audience controls’ toggle, but the advertiser had not done so. They also did not provide any data regarding the demographics of individuals who had seen the ads or a demographic breakdown of their followers on TikTok.
We also took into account the mechanics of TikTok and how content was shared with its users. We understood that TikTok’s “For You” page was the first one users saw after opening the app and was the main way in which its users engaged with content. We further understood that this page was algorithmically driven, and therefore users would see content from accounts they did not follow but was likely to be of interest to them. Because of the way organic content was disseminated on TikTok via the “For You” page, ads for cosmetic interventions, such as tanning beds, should have been appropriately restricted from viewing by under-18s. However, Golden Tanning Salon had not used the targeting tools available to them to do so. As such, we considered that insufficient care had been taken to ensure that the ad was not directed at people under 18, and therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.25 (Cosmetic interventions).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Golden Tanning Salon Ltd to ensure their ads did not misleadingly and irresponsibly claim or imply that health benefits were obtained from sunbeds unless they held adequate evidence for this. We also told them not to irresponsibly encourage people to disregard advice to not use sunbeds, and to ensure that their ads were appropriately targeted.