An Instagram story by influencer Cinzia Baylis-Zullo @cinziabayliszullo, seen July 2020, promoting We Are Luxe t/a Tanologist Tan, included a video of her applying the product using the “Yourbeauty by giorgiopivaa_” filter.
She stated, “Hi guys, I wanted to tell you all about how I’ve been tanning my face recently using this Tanologist face and body drops” and held up the product to the camera. She continued, “So basically I’ve just been taking my normal moisturiser and then popping a few drops in. And this is just how I’ve been applying it.” She applied the product to her face and stated, “You can do it you know, like just direct from the pipette with no moisturiser but I just find you get more of an even coverage with the moisturiser, and usually I go to sleep and wake up with a beautiful glow. They’re really good because they’ve not been breaking me out at all. My skin has been pretty good while I’ve been using them and they’re dermatologically approved so that’s fantastic, it’s why we’re not breaking out … I’d use them maybe like three times a week just to keep up the lovely glow on my face, so swipe up if you’d like to try them out. I really do recommend”. The caption stated “#ad” and tagged the brand @tanologisttan.
IssueThe complainant, who believed the Instagram filter exaggerated the efficacy of the advertised cosmetic product, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
ResponseWe Are Luxe Ltd said that the video was a demonstration of how to apply the product and Ms Zullo did not describe its efficacy. The product’s after-effects were yet to be developed and the filter was therefore irrelevant. They said that there was a subsequent “after” image of Ms Zullo, in which she described the product’s efficacy. They said the ad had been removed and would not be used again. Ms Zullo responded that the filter used in the ad changed her appearance by adding freckles, but that the video was intended to explain how to use the product, not to demonstrate how it looked, and the use of the filter was therefore not misleading.
The ASA understood that filters were included as an in-app feature on Instagram, and they included ‘beauty filters’ which were designed to enhance a person’s appearance. It was common for such filters to be applied when sharing selfies and videos to social networks. We considered that the use of filters in ads was not inherently problematic, but that advertisers of cosmetic products needed to take particular care not to exaggerate or otherwise mislead consumers regarding the product advertised.
We welcomed the removal of the ad. We considered that consumers would understand from the ad that Ms Zullo had been using the product and that the video reflected the results of the product. We considered that consumers were likely to understand from the product name "Tanologist Tan” and the claims "I wanted to tell you all about how I’ve been tanning my face recently using this Tanologist face and body drops”, “… usually I go to sleep and wake up with a beautiful glow” and “They’re really good because they’ve not been breaking me out at all. My skin has been pretty good while I’ve been using them and they’re dermatologically approved so that’s fantastic, it’s why we’re not breaking out” to mean that Ms Zullo had been using the product for some time and that her appearance was reflective of that. This impression was emphasised by her smoothed and tanned complexion. We therefore considered that consumers would expect to experience similar results to Ms Zullo’s appearance in the video.
Although the video included text at the top which stated the “Yourbeauty by giorgiopivaa”, which some users might have recognised a reference to a filter, we did not consider that impacted the overall impression of the ad, which was that it demonstrated the effects of the product. We understood that the filter “Yourbeauty by giorgiopivaa_” resulted in a slightly darker skin tone, with added freckles, and smoother complexion. The filter’s effects were therefore directly relevant to the intended effects of the product. Because the ad conveyed a tanning and smoothing effect of the product, we considered that the application of the filter “Yourbeauty by giorgiopivaa …” to the video was directly relevant to the claimed performance of the product and gave a misleading impression about the performance capabilities of the product.
We therefore concluded that the ad misleadingly exaggerated the results the product could achieve and breached the Code. The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading Advertising) and 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained about. We told We Are Luxe Ltd and Ms Zullo not to apply beauty filters to photos which promoted beauty products if such filters were likely to mislead regarding the effect the product was capable of achieving.