A TV ad for Transform Cosmetic Surgery, seen in August 2017, featured a female voice-over which stated, “We had our little girl and she’s our world, getting back in shape was really hard. I lost the weight but I lost my chest too. I just thought, I’m gonna [sic] do something about it. So I had breast surgery with Transform. It’s not something I think about now. I just get on and enjoy my life and I love being able to wear what I want.” A separate voice-over stated, ”Visit transforminglives.co.uk to find out more about breast surgery and book a free appointment.” The ad was accompanied by scenes of a woman packing a lunch-box, walking down a road, exercising in a gym, shopping for clothes and relaxing in a pool with the text “Lou Newton, aged 34, Breast Enlargement” at the beginning of the ad. The text “No surgical procedure is entirely without risk. 18+ only” appeared in small font at the bottom of the screen towards the beginning of the ad, followed by the text “The decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be taken lightly. Before going ahead with a procedure, allow time for reflection”. Those were followed by the voice-over stating, “I did it for me” accompanied by text stating “Do It For You”.
Four complainants, who believed that the ad exploited the insecurities of new mothers about their body image, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
THFC Ltd t/a Transform said that the testimonial in the ad was genuine and the voice-over was taken directly from an interview conducted prior to the ad being filmed. It represented the decision of a real customer who had decided that breast surgery was the appropriate solution for her as she wanted to return to how she had looked prior to having a baby.
Transform argued that the ad did not persuade people towards an unachievable or aspirational aesthetic. They stated that it was a natural occurrence that some women would experience a loss of volume or shape in their breasts after pregnancy, but that they did not claim at any point that breast surgery was the solution to those who experienced body changes when they became a new mother. They stated that the ad did not trivialise breast surgery by using colloquial terms to describe it, or by depicting any graphic, gratuitous or overtly sexual nudity. They also highlighted the qualification in the ad which stated “No surgical procedure is without risk” and “The decision to have a cosmetic surgery should not be taken lightly. Before going ahead with a procedure allow time for reflection”.
Clearcast said the ad used a mother aged 34 and so did not target under 18s. They stated that the ad was based around the woman’s personal decision which was emphasised by the statement “I did it for me”. They pointed out that the ad stated that the woman had considered her options before opting for surgery, did not focus on any negative ‘before’ images, and did not feature images that prominently focused on her chest.
The ASA noted that subject of the ad was a 34-year-old mother, who had used breast enhancement surgery as a way to return to her pre-pregnancy body shape. We considered that the ad’s focus on her personal experience meant that it would have been directly targeted at women who had recently become mothers.
We noted the woman said “… getting back in shape was really hard. I lost the weight but I lost my chest too. I just thought, I’m gonna do something about it.” We were concerned that the ad’s focus on the negative perception she had of her body after child birth would encourage other new mothers to think about and dwell on their own insecurities about their bodies. We considered that new mothers who had recently given birth and experienced significant changes in their body shape, could be particularly vulnerable to a breast-enhancement surgery ad directed at them. We considered that by directing the ad at new mothers and focusing on the negative perception a new mother had of her body after giving birth, the ad was likely to have exploited new mothers’ insecurities about their bodies. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
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 appear again in its current form. We told Transform to take care to ensure that their service was advertised in a socially responsible way and to take particular care when targeting potentially vulnerable groups such as new mothers.