A TV ad and a video-on-demand (VOD) ad for breast enlargement surgery at MYA Cosmetic Surgery:
a. The TV ad, seen in May, June and July 2018, featured a voice-over which stated, "If you've been considering breast enlargements for a while, then visit mya.co.uk to book your free consultation". The ad showed young women posing, dancing and laughing around a swimming pool, on the beach and on a boat. The voice-over continued, "These girls had breast enlargements with MYA and all feel amazing".
b. The same ad appeared on the ITV Player on 4 July 2018.
Seventeen complainants, including the Mental Health Foundation, who felt the ad exploited young women's insecurities about their bodies, trivialised breast enhancement surgery and portrayed it as aspirational, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful.
MYA Cosmetic Surgery Ltd said they believed the ad focused on the positive aspects of women's lifestyles and did not explore the negative attitudes towards their body image prior to surgery. They said the ad did not make any direct claims about the positive impact of surgery and did not show a better time in social events as a result of surgery.
MYA said the ad featured real patients over the age of 21 and within a healthy body range. They said that the ad did not trivialise the decision to undergo surgery or imply that the only reason the women in the ad were able to enjoy themselves was because of breast enlargement. They referred to the on-screen text which stated, "if you have been considering breast enlargement for a while" and drew attention to the requirement for a consultation. They believed the on-screen text which stated "No surgical procedure is without risk. 18+" and "Any decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be undertaken lightly. Allow plenty of time to reflect before going ahead with a procedure" was prominent and stressed the seriousness of the procedure and the need to take plenty of time to reflect before proceeding.
Clearcast said they ensured that the ad did not mention anything about speed and referred to the language used such as "considering" and "for a while" in addition to the on-screen text, all of which they said alluded to the fact that the procedure should not be rushed into. They said the ad avoided any discussion of negative feelings towards women’s bodies and although the imagery was positive the on-screen text alluded to the risks involved. They said that there was nothing explicitly aspirational about the actions of the women in the ad other than that they were having a good time on holiday.
The ad began with the sun rising over the sea as electronic dance music played. It cut to a woman in a revealing one-piece swimsuit sunbathing by the side of a pool before showing a number of scenes of young women wearing different outfits, the majority of which revealed their cleavage to varying degrees, while they danced and posed for photos in multiple locations, including on a yacht. In the final scenes, the women walked together into the sea where they again danced. We considered that the group was depicted as though on an aspirational, luxury holiday. The posing, dancing and the clothes worn had the effect of drawing attention to the women’s bodies. All of the women had slim physiques and large breasts, and it was clear both from their appearance and the explicit statement "these girls had breast enlargements with MYA and all feel amazing" that all of the women had undergone surgery. That appeared to be the unifying characteristic of the group, and a crucial factor that had enabled them to enjoy wearing revealing clothing, dancing and taking photos of themselves.
The ASA recognised that the voice-over began “If you have been considering breast enlargement for a while" and that on-screen text stated, "No surgical procedure is without risk. 18+" and "Any decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be undertaken lightly. Allow plenty of time to reflect before going ahead with a procedure". However, we considered that those statements were inconsistent with the tone and content of the ad and that they did little to alter the overall impression it created.
We considered that the ad went beyond presenting the lifestyle of women who had breast enlargement in a positive light and implied that the women were only able to enjoy the aspirational lifestyle shown, and to be happy with their bodies, because they had undergone that surgery. We also considered that the focus on the aspirational lifestyle and the tone of the ad, in combination with the statement “join them and thousands more” – which suggested that it was common to undergo breast enlargement and acted as an explicit call to action – had the effect of trivialising the decision to undergo that surgery.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and harmful.
On that point, ad (a) breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Responsible advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and offence), and ad (b) 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).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told MYA Cosmetic Surgery Ltd to ensure in future that they did not imply women had only been able to enjoy an aspirational lifestyle and to be happy with their bodies because they had undergone breast enhancement surgery, and that they did not trivialise the decision to undergo that surgery.