A TV ad for 'My Perfect Eyes', an eye cream, broadcast on 26 February 2016, included a ‘before and after shot’ for one woman who was shown having her face 'photographed' to reveal the lines and wrinkles around and under her left eye. It then showed and compared the 'before' and ‘after’ photographs side by side.The 'after' photograph showed that the puffiness under her eyes and wrinkles around her 'crow's feet' area had decreased. A voice-over stated, "We're so confident in the performance of 'My Perfect Eyes', we had it examined by UK dermatherapist Dr Hugo Kitchen, using a VISIA scanner and here's what he found." Dr Kitchen said, "As you can see from the screen where we've measured her wrinkle scores on VISIA, to be honest, they've virtually disappeared and the computer does give us the score of 27 before and 10 afterwards. I really am very impressed by the effectiveness."
A viewer challenged whether the claims made by the dermatherapist about the temporary reduction in wrinkles, as demonstrated by the 'before and after photos' taken by the VISIA scanner, were misleading and could be substantiated.
The Perfect Cosmetics Company confirmed that the VISIA photographs were taken on the day the ad was filmed. They understood from Dr Kitchen that VISIA was used on a daily basis for assessment and treatment of ageing skin and to monitor the progress of any treatment. He was satisfied that the data shown by VISIA in the ad was repeatable, and was a clear and accurate representation of the photographs taken on the day.
Perfect Cosmetics said that the female featured in the segment with Dr Kitchen presented with cleansed skin and had a VISIA scan, which allowed them to examine many features including skin pore number/score, skin hydration, pigmentation and UV damage and a wrinkle score. The product was applied as per the instructions in a clinical setting, and another VISIA scan was completed immediately after application. That second scan allowed them to quantify the results of any improvement or otherwise.
Clearcast said that the claims, which related to a topical cream applied to the eye area and the subsequent results achieved by such products, were well established in the cosmetic industry. They understood that the product worked by forming a tightening film on the skin and while the effects were superficial, they were nevertheless very quick and visible immediately after the product had dried on the skin.
Clearcast said Dr Kitchen’s opinion referred to the ‘virtual disappearance of wrinkles’, not that the wrinkles had actually disappeared. They noted that superimposed text, which appeared almost continuously throughout the ad, stated “Temporary results” and added that claims such as “appears”, “wrinkles seem to have disappeared” and “change appears to happen” were also included in the voice-over. Therefore, they believed in that context, viewers were likely to understand that the results seen were not long lasting.
In addition, Clearcast sought advice from a consultant who reviewed the evidence submitted to them by the Perfect Cosmetics Company. The consultant confirmed that the product had ingredients which resulted in an immediate temporary effect on lines and wrinkles around the eye. It was, therefore, a product where the effects could last several hours.
Clearcast provided a copy of their consultant’s report, copies of other VISIA photographs, which had been taken using the machine’s “Print Screen” function, as well as the evidence provided to them by Perfect Cosmetics. Taking all of that into account, they cleared the ad for broadcast.
The ASA noted that the ad was for a topically applied eye cream and featured a number of customer testimonials. The ad focused on the product’s efficacy on lines and wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness under the eye (bags). On-screen text featured in the ad which explained that the effects of the product were temporary and in that context, we considered viewers were likely to understand the eye cream did not deliver permanent results.
Efficacy claims about topically applied creams which temporarily improved the appearance of wrinkles were well established and accepted within the cosmetics industry. Given the context of the ad and that consumers were likely to understand what effect the cream would have, we considered Dr Kitchen’s claim that “… [the subject’s] wrinkles have virtually disappeared …” was likely to be understood by viewers to mean it had a temporary effect on the appearance of wrinkles.
Clearcast had sought advice on the evidence submitted in support of the claim. Their consultant confirmed that the product contained ingredients which dried out when applied to the skin and formed a film. That process tightened the skin which made wrinkles appear to reduce dramatically. The consultant confirmed that those ingredients had an immediate effect, which was temporary, but its effect could last for several hours.
We assessed the clinical trial, which was a ten-hour study across 24 subjects and all were considered to be within the target market for the product. Each subject had the product applied to either the right or left eye (allocated on a random basis), with the remaining eye acting as the control. Baseline measurements were taken, and measurements were taken again at one minute, seven and ten hours after application. Although there was no control group of subjects and no placebo product was used, the untreated eye acted as the control which we understood was not uncommon in trials for this type of product.
The performance of the product was assessed in three different ways: dermatologically examining fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes and eye puffiness; digital photographs by a blinded independent assessor; and self-assessment by the subject.
For the purposes of the dermatological assessment, the subjects’ fine lines and wrinkles and eye puffiness were graded between 0 (no lines/wrinkles visible or no swelling) and 3 (marked lines visible or marked swelling). After ten hours of application, the study reported an improvement from ‘moderate’ to ‘fine’ with regards to fine lines and wrinkles, and an improvement from moderate to some swelling in certain areas in respect of eye puffiness (swelling). The study reported an improvement in a significant majority of subjects with fine lines and wrinkles, as well as swelling. In both cases, no improvement was reported in the untreated eye and in its absence, we considered the results seen in the subjects could be ascribed to the product.
At one minute after application, the photograph assessor reported an improvement (which ranged from ‘slightly to markedly better’) in all subjects and an improvement was seen again in a significant majority of subjects at seven and ten hours after application; no improvement, however, was reported in the untreated eye. In addition, the study showed that in 50% of the subjects, the treated eye was assessed to be ‘markedly better’ than the control eye, at all three time points. We noted the improvement seen in fine lines persisted across the majority of subjects and given the lack of any improvement in the control eye, we considered the effects seen were down to use of the product.
Finally, all subjects self-assessed and reported an improvement which ranged from ‘slight to marked’ for lines and wrinkles around the eye at one minute, seven hours and ten hours. Similarly, all subjects reported an improvement which ranged from ‘slight to marked’ for eye puffiness, and again, all subjects reported no improvement for the control eye.
We also assessed the ‘before’ and ‘after’ VISIA photographs that featured in the ad. We acknowledged there was a distinct difference in facial expression and appearance of the subject between the two. In the ‘after’ photograph, her eyebrows were raised and her eye lids appeared more extended compared to the ‘before’ photograph, in which she looked as though she were squinting. Additionally, in the ‘after’ photograph, the patient was wearing make up, which included eye shadow and brow liner, whereas none was used in the ‘before’ photograph. That notwithstanding, we considered the study had shown that the product had a temporary effect on the skin and that it had a noticeable effect on the appearance of wrinkles in and around the eye area. We recognised the VISIA photographs reported a difference and that the facial expression of the patient between the two photographs differed. However, we considered the differences in the appearance were comparable to the effects reported in the study. Therefore, we considered the change in facial expression did not exaggerate the likely effects to be experienced when using the cream.
For the reasons given above, we concluded the claim made by Dr Kitchen, which was accompanied by the ‘before and after’ VISIA photos, did not misleadingly exaggerate the effects of the cream.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) and 3.45 3.45 Testimonials or endorsements used in advertising must be genuine, unless they are obviously fictitious, and be supported by documentary evidence. Testimonials and endorsements must relate to the advertised product or service. Claims that are likely to be interpreted as factual and appear in advertisements must not mislead or be likely to mislead. (Endorsements and Testimonials), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.