A TV ad for cosmetic surgery featured three people holding signs that indicated the treatment they had undertaken. A second sign was then shown that indicated the difference people had noticed in them. The first woman's sign stated “I’ve just had my breasts done ... but the biggest change you’ll see is on my face”. A man's sign stated “I’ve just had liposuction on my chest ... But everyone comments on my smile”. Finally, a second woman's sign stated “I’ve just had my tummy tucked ... But all my friends notice the spring in my step”. The three people laughed and smiled as they held their signs in front of the part of their body that had been treated.
Three complainants objected that the ad was scheduled irresponsibly at a time when children might see it because they believed it could have an impact on young peoples’ body image.
Transform Medical Group (CS) Ltd said that they had always aired the ad during the daytime when children were at school and the ad would not be shown during the summer school holidays. They said the ad was not socially irresponsible or likely to impact on young peoples’ body image. They also said that they do not consider cosmetic surgery procedures such as liposuction or a tummy tuck to be slimming products or treatments nor is their company a weight control establishment as they do not offer weight loss/weight control or bariatric procedures. The advertiser also said that the medical community would not classify liposuction or a tummy tuck procedure as weight loss or slimming.
Clearcast said that consumers would understand that ads for slimming and weight loss products or slimming establishments involved achieving results over a period of time. Also, weight loss establishments would offer supervised regimes. They said that this was in contrast to cosmetic surgery which had an immediate effect. Because of this differentiation they did not give Transform Medical Group’s ad a timing restriction.
The ASA noted that the people featured were smiling, did not look underweight and were clearly adults and not children. Because of this we concluded that the ad would not impact negatively on young peoples’ body image.
However, we noted the ad was seen around 4.30 pm when we understood some children would be at home after school. We also obtained the audience index figures for a programme which featured the ad during the ad break; this indicated that the programme had particular appeal to children under 16 years of age. We also acknowledged Clearcast’s assertion that a cosmetic surgery clinic did not fall under their interpretation of a slimming product. However, we noted that the BCAP Code included “clinics and other establishments” in its weight control and slimming definition. We considered that as some of the procedures advertised resulted in a slimmer appearance, the ad would fall under the Code’s definition. As the ad was shown during a programme that had particular appeal to audiences under 18 years of age, we concluded that ad was inappropriately scheduled.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules, and 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) and 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling of television and radio advertisements).
The ad must not be broadcast again without a relevant timing restriction. Specifically, it must not be broadcast in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18.