An Instagram post by Transform, a cosmetic surgery provider, posted on 24 November 2021, featured before and after shots of a woman showing the results of breast augmentation. The post included a caption which stated “If you have been considering breast surgery and haven’t yet booked, there is no better time. We have Black Friday prices on breast surgery starting from just £5990. Click the link on our bio to book your free consultation”. The caption ended with the hashtags “#Blackfriday” and “#Breastaugmentation”.
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the offer of time-limited “Black Friday prices” pressured consumers into purchasing surgery, challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible.
ResponseTransform Hospital Group Ltd t/a Transform said they did not believe that the Instagram post was inappropriate, irresponsible or pressured consumers into booking surgery. The phrase “If you have been considering breast surgery …” was targeted at consumers who may have already been considering surgery. They stated that they ensured consent via a two-stage process which had a cooling off period of at least two weeks between the stages to allow a patient to reflect on the decision. They said patients were given a detailed and holistic understanding of the clinical nature of the intervention they were enquiring about prior to any form of surgery. They also respected the right of a patient to change their mind up to the point of the procedure starting.
The CAP Code required marketing communications to be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. The ASA considered that although it would not necessarily be irresponsible to offer promotions for surgical procedures, marketers would need to take particular care when executing and administering them.
We understood that the ad was aimed at consumers who were already considering surgery and noted it was addressed to people who “have been considering breast surgery and haven’t yet booked”. The ad was posted on Transform’s own Instagram page and it was likely it would have mainly been seen by people who were already following them or had an interest in similar content. However, whilst many people who saw the ad were likely to have had an interest in cosmetic procedures, not everyone who saw the ad would have already been considering breast surgery.
The ad referenced “Black Friday prices” and used the hashtag “#Blackfriday”. We understood that “Black Friday” referred to a specific day in the year. Whilst many retailers ran “Black Friday” promotions which lasted for several days or weeks around that time, we considered consumers would, in the absence of a specific timeframe in the ad, interpret the refence to “Black Friday” to mean that there was a strictly time-limited opportunity to take up the offer.
We considered that cosmetic surgery should be portrayed as something which required time and thought from consumers, because of the seriousness of a decision to undertake an invasive medical procedure. By advertising “Black Friday” prices for surgery and by stating “there is no better time”, with no indication of a specific time frame, consumers would be rushed to make a decision for fear of losing out on the offer. We acknowledged that there was a two-week cooling off period, but did not consider this was relevant to the presentation of the offer in the ad because by that point the consumer had already made a transactional decision to purchase and would therefore be psychologically committed.
Because the ad created a sense of undue urgency to respond quickly, we considered that the ad had not been prepared in a socially responsible manner, and therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
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. (Social responsibility).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Transform Hospital Group Ltd t/a Transform to ensure that future ads were prepared with a sense of responsibility by not creating an undue sense of urgency for consumers considering cosmetic surgery.