A poster, seen in the toilets of a motorway service station stated "Did you know … 'Boob job' is the most popular cosmetic procedure for women". The ad also included simple visuals that conveyed that it was a procedure for breast enlargement. The ad then stated "Malaysia is proud to be amongst one of the only countries within the region where medical tourism is promoted by the government. Hence medical tourists can have the assurance of quality care and be guided by the regulation, safety standards and the governing laws within this industry. Our private hospitals bagged 3 out of 9 awards at the international Medical Travel Awards 2014".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible because it trivialised cosmetic surgery by suggesting it could be incorporated into a holiday.
The media space buyer Admedia, responded on Medical Tourism Association's behalf. They said the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC) was an initiative that co-ordinated and promoted the healthcare travel industry in Malaysia which operated under the Ministry of Health, Malaysia (MOH). They said the MHTC reported to an Advisory Committee which included Malaysian Government Ministers.
Admedia said the ad appeared in female washrooms in several motorway service stations and shopping centres. They said the ad used a common colloquial term for breast augmentation, often across several types of media. They said the ad had not advertised a holiday due to the absence of pricing, tourist or accommodation information nor did it include an option to sign-up for a cosmetic procedure. They said the ad was informative and promoted safety and high standards, demonstrated by examples of internationally recognised awards.
The ASA noted that the ad contained the words 'boob job' which we considered would be understood as a common reference to breast augmentation. The text "'Boob job' is the most popular cosmetic procedure for women" was more prominent than other wording in the ad. It was also accompanied with simple visuals that conveyed that the procedure was to increase breast size. We therefore considered that consumers would understand that that was the main message of the ad.
We considered the description of breast augmentation in the context of medical tourism. We considered that the ad was not likely to be interpreted as promoting a holiday; rather, its purpose was clear that it was for medical tourism. However, because the overall emphasis of the ad, the wording and visuals, focused on the intervention, followed by an encouragement to undertake breast augmentation abroad it was likely to detract from the seriousness of the surgery offered. We considered that could be interpreted as suggesting that surgery was a decision that could be undertaken lightly, without serious consideration of the nature of the intervention. We therefore concluded the overall presentation of the ad was likely to be seen as trivialising breast enhancement surgery.
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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Medical Tourism Association to ensure they did not trivialise or undermine the seriousness of cosmetic surgery by implying it was a straightforward and risk-free procedure that could be incorporated into travel abroad.