A post on JA Physique Ltd t/a Jake Abbott’s Instagram page, seen on 9 May 2022, showed front and back ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs of a young male wearing only shorts. It stated “Another young gun with his current update today! … Setting the foundations for one of the most incredible natural male physiques you will see in the future … Are you looking to transform your physique. Finally want to overcome the hurdles to fat loss and muscle gain that you’ve been unable to achieve alone?”
IssueThe ASA, who considered the person in the ad seemed under 18 years of age, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it exploited young people’s insecurities about their body image.
ResponseJA Physique Ltd t/a Jake Abbott said that the ad and the advertised regime encouraged readers to take control of, and responsibility for, their own health and that it was beneficial to individuals and society to take a healthy approach to nutrition and exercise at an early age. Mr Abbott said that the images were posted with the consent of the customer and his parents. He said that the post was not targeted at under 18s but was accessible to all and accepted that the post indicated that the advertised service was available to under 18s. Mr Abbott said that, the programme the customer featured had undertaken had been designed with his own goals in mind and had resulted in muscle gain, not weight loss. He confirmed that the images had been removed and said that, in future, he would not refer to “young” and “youth” and that images would be shown only from the neck down.
The CAP Code required marketers to ensure advertising was prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
The ASA noted that the advertised programme related to diet and exercise. We understood that the boy featured was 14 at the time the ad appeared and considered that the photographs showed someone clearly aged under 18.
We considered that young people who might already be more body conscious because of pre-existing societal pressures (regardless of their actual weight or size, and including those who were of a healthy weight) could be especially vulnerable to ads promoting changing body types being directed at them.
We considered teenage boys in particular would recognise the images in the ad as depicting someone of their age, and would see the ‘after’ image as presenting a body shape with significant increase in muscle as desirable for someone of their age, particularly when read in conjunction with the statement “Another young gun with his current update today!”.
We also considered that the text stating that the child featured was “Setting the foundations for one of the most incredible natural male physiques you will see in the future”, further reinforced that the body shape portrayed was the ideal for males, including teenage boys.
We considered that an ad which suggested a child should change their body shape was likely to exploit young people’s potential insecurities around body image, or risked putting pressure on them to take extreme action to change their body shape. We therefore considered the ad was irresponsible and in breach of the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again. We told JA Physique Ltd to ensure that future posts were responsible.