Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one was Not Upheld and one was Upheld.
A regional radio ad for a cosmetic surgery clinic featured music in the style of the television programme, Sex and the City and two women with American accents talking. The first woman said, "Hey! You look great! Did you have a fab' vacation?" and the second woman replied, "Yeah, amazing!" The first woman said, "Oh, I am dreading wearing a bikini this summer! My stomach seems to get bigger and my chest seems to get smaller! If only I could take the fat off my hips and put it into my breasts!" and the second woman replied, "Well actually, that's what I did!" The first woman said, "Seriously!! How?" and the second woman replied, "At the Stratford Dermatherapy Clinic. They can remove fat and, if you want, transfer it to another part of your body, like your breasts, your hands or face and it's all done under local anaesthetic!" A voice-over then stated, "Looking for that sculpted body shape you've always dreamed of? Get a FREE consultation with the professionals at the Stratford Dermatherapy Clinic."
1. The complainant, who had heard the ad on a Saturday morning, challenged whether it was offensive and inappropriate for broadcast at a time when children might be listening.
2. The complainant also challenged whether the ad irresponsibly suggested that cosmetic surgery was a minor procedure.
Stratford Dermatherapy Clinic (SDC) explained that the advertised procedure was called Autologous Fat Transfer (AFT). Patients were consulted twice before the procedure and, on the day, were prepared in an operating theatre. The procedure was performed under local anaesthetic, was minimally invasive without cuts and scars and lasted approximately two hours. Patients went straight home after the procedure and, although there was no overnight stay, all patients had a 24-hour mobile contact number and were called two to three times during the following week. Additionally they were followed up at week 1, week 4 and 3 months. Risks of the procedure were minimal and were local in terms of discomfort, pain, swelling and potential infection.
1. SDC said they believed it was the word "breasts" that had caused concern to the complainant. They did not believe that the word "breasts" constituted an inappropriate term, it was neither rude nor offensive and in no way sought to sexualise or to use gutter slang for that part of the body. They said the content of the ad was no different to that which was freely available in many daytime discussion medical forums on TV, the news and the Internet. They said the ad contained lightly-weighted wording and friendly information which was inoffensive and had been remarked upon by many of their patients as attractive in its presentation. They had run similar ads before and this was the first complaint they had received.
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) said they did not feel that the ad warranted scheduling away from when young children could hear it as they did not believe that its content was graphic, offensive or inappropriate. They felt that the ad highlighted an acceptable cosmetic procedure in a factual, responsible manner. The RACC said Touch FM was an adult oriented radio station which targeted the 25 to 54 age group. Their music policy was a balance of classic hits and the melodic end of today's music spectrum; they carried no specialist programmes targeting the under 18s. The RACC provided the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) figures that were available for the time the ad was broadcast.
2. SDC said the relaxed nature of the ad did not trivialise the nature of the treatment, which was a very serious undertaking for any patient. Rather they had sought to make it sound more achievable and available to the normal women they targeted without making it over-scientific and using medical jargon which might confuse a listener. The aim was to attract an educated audience into considering an alternative to silicone implantation and facial rejuvenation, and to invite them to come for a consultation, where a more formal structured consultation might take place.
The RACC said that the casual manner and the Sex and the City-type creative treatment were consistent throughout the ad. This explained why the two women discussed feeling nervous wearing a bikini in the summer and described the surgery in the same conversation and the same manner. Furthermore, by the ad stating clearly what the cosmetic surgery actually involved, i.e. "remove fat and … transfer it to another part of your body, like your breasts, your hands or face", it alerted listeners to the procedure in a responsible, rather than irresponsible, way. Listeners were invited to follow up via a free consultation with a qualified surgeon. The RACC did not agree that the ad trivialised cosmetic surgery or breached rule 1.2, through its content or treatment.
1. Not upheld
The ad featured a number of references to the female body and a description of how AFT might change a woman's breasts and hips. The ASA considered that some listeners would find those descriptions, and particularly the statement "If only I could take the fat off my hips and put it into my breasts!" delivered in brash American accents in the context of a Sex and the City-style treatment, distasteful. However, we considered that the references to the female body were relevant to the procedure being advertised and we understood that the description of the procedure itself was essentially accurate. We therefore did not consider that the ad was gratuitous or overly graphic, or used language in a way that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or result in harm to any children who might hear it.
We considered that, as a clinic offering immediate weight loss surgery (i.e. the removal of fat from a part of the body), SDC was a slimming establishment for the purposes of the BCAP Code, which required that ads for such establishments not be aired in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to under 18s. We noted that there was only very limited RAJAR information for the station at the time the ad was broadcast, but that only the under-18 segment that could be identified (children aged 10–14 years) comprised only eight per cent of the listening audience, which we considered minimal. We further understood that the station's target audience was those over 25 and we considered that, although some children would still hear the station, its easy-listening style was unlikely to appeal particularly to those under 18. We therefore considered that the ad had not been scheduled in a programme directed at or likely to appeal particularly to those under 18 and therefore had not breached the Code on this point.
On this point we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 4.1 4.1 Advertisements must contain nothing that could cause physical, mental, moral or social harm to persons under the age of 18. 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence), 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. (Scheduling), 32.2.4 32.2.4 slimming products, treatments or establishments (an exception is made for advertisements for calorie-reduced or energy-reduced foods and drinks, if they are not presented as part of a slimming regime and provided the advertisements do not use the theme of slimming or weight control) (Under-18s) and 32.3 (Under-16s) but did not find it in breach.
We understood that fat transfer was not as involved or as invasive as some other types of cosmetic surgery, however, it was a medical procedure which required anaesthetic, resulted in permanent changes to the body, had a number of side effects including pain and swelling, required several follow-up appointments and carried a, albeit low, risk of infection.
We noted that there was a reference to a consultation at the end of the ad. However, we considered that the Sex and the City creative treatment and the casual manner in which the second woman described the procedure suggested that such a procedure was something to be undertaken lightly. We concluded that, in making that implication, the ad trivialised cosmetic surgery in a way that was irresponsible.
On this point the ad breached BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not be broadcast again.