Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, two of which were Upheld and one Not upheld.
Three Facebook posts on the Linia Cosmetic Surgery Facebook page:
a. The first, posted on 10 November 2021, included text that stated, “SAVE UP TO £1000 Christmas Special – Book your Consultation before Christmas and save up to £1000!”. The ad included an image of a woman holding Christmas presents and included further text that stated, “Save up to £1000 on Breast Implants Book your appointment before Christmas”.
b. The second, posted on 24 November 2021, included text that stated, “Check out this amazing before and after breast surgery. These breasts now look perkier, fuller and younger!”. The ad included before and after images of a woman who had had breast surgery.
c. The third, posted on 18 November 2021, included text that stated, “Check out these amazing results!” and “Our breast augmentations are an easy process, with our doctors walking you through every step of the way. Each procedure is completely tailored to the individual”. The ad included before and after images of a woman who had had breast surgery.
1. The complainant, a Trustee of the Joint Council of Cosmetic Practitioners, who believed ad (a) put pressure on consumers to book a surgical procedure before Christmas, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
2. The complainant, who believed ad (b) exploited women’s insecurities about their bodies and the aging process, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
3. The ASA challenged whether the claim in ad (c) that breast augmentation was an “easy process” was irresponsible.
1. Linia Cosmetic Surgery t/a Linia said that they did not believe the wording “offer for a consultation” could be understood as pressuring a consumer. They explained they had procedures in place, including a two-stage consultation policy and consent process, so that there were several steps between someone booking a consultation and having the surgery.
2. Linia explained that the posts were on their own social media feed and therefore would not have been seen by those who did not follow them. They said that the description “perkier” was used across the industry and only described what the purpose of breast surgery was.
3. Linia stated that procedures performed under local anaesthesia were safer than those under general anaesthetic, and that the patient would recover quicker and better. However, they did not believe that the ad’s reference to that would mean there were no risks associated with the procedure. They said customers usually waited six weeks for surgery and so had plenty of time to think about the procedure.
Linia confirmed all the ads were old and they had all been removed. They said that they had spoken to their social media creators to be careful in the future and bear in mind the complainant’s concerns.
1. Not upheld
The CAP Code required marketing communications to be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. The ASA considered that although it would not necessarily be irresponsible to offer promotions for surgical procedures, marketers would need to take particular care when executing and administering them.
Ad (a) had been posted on 10 November 2021 and explained that consumers could obtain the advertised saving of £1,000 by booking before “Christmas”. Therefore, we understood consumers potentially had up to six weeks to decide whether to apply for the promotion, at the time the ad was published.
Furthermore, in order to obtain the saving we noted that a consumer would have to book a consultation. We understood that there was a two-stage consultation process and if the patient then consented to surgery, there was a six-week gap before they had the operation. We considered that provided potential customers with further time to consider any procedure.
We considered that the six-week timeframe for consumers to respond to the promotion meant they were not put under undue pressure to make a decision about undertaking the procedure. Further, the ad made it clear that a consultation was the first step in the process and therefore any respondent would understand that the procedure was not guaranteed but dependent first on the consultation. We therefore concluded that the ad, as published at that time, six weeks before the deadline, was not irresponsible.
On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising), but did not find it in breach.
The focus of ad (b) was on the before and after photos of a woman who had had breast augmentation surgery. Next to that, text stated, “Check out this amazing before and after breast surgery. These breasts now look perkier, fuller and younger!”. We considered that while the words “fuller” and “perkier” could, in isolation, have been seen as purely descriptive, in conjunction with the language on the rest of the page, including the word “younger” and the use of a ‘star-struck’ emoji, those words were unlikely to be seen as merely descriptive. In the context of an ad for breast enhancement, we considered the ad would be understood by consumers to be promoting a body image that was youthful and focused on reversing the natural aging process.
We therefore considered that the ad was likely to encourage consumers, particularly older women or those anxious about getting older, to focus on concerns about their bodies as a reason for cosmetic surgery and therefore the ad exploited those insecurities. For that reason, we concluded the ad was irresponsible.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Responsible advertising).
CAP guidance stated that marketers should avoid irresponsibly describing cosmetic interventions as “safe” or “easy”, because it was likely that all such interventions would carry some level of risk to the patient.
We considered the focus of ad (c) was on the before and after photos of breast augmentation, alongside which text stated, “Our breast augmentations are an easy process, with our doctors walking you through every step of the way. Each procedure is completely tailored to the individual”. While we noted the ad’s reference to the bespoke service provided by Linia’s doctors, given the focus of the ad on breast augmentation, we considered that the use of the wording “easy process” would lead consumers to interpret the claim as intrinsically linked to surgery itself. Therefore, because the claim “easy process” suggested breast augmentation was easy, when all such interventions would carry risk to the patient, we concluded the ad was irresponsible.
On that point, 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. (Responsible advertising).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Linia Cosmetic Surgery t/a Linia to ensure that their future ads were responsible by not exploiting insecurities about the natural aging process and not stating or implying that surgery was easy and without risk.