Complaints against health and beauty adverts up 40%, says ASA
Complaints against health and beauty ads were up 40% year-on-year, with 5,285 complaints registered in 2020 in comparison to 3,779 in 2019, the data found. The sector also reported 3,088 cases with the regulators during 2020, which equated to 16%.
Some of the key issues surrounding ads focused on body image, specifically limiting young people’s exposure to ads for cosmetic procedures and posts that promote dangerous weight loss.
In January 2020, the ASA stated that it was cracking down on beauty salons illegally advertising anti-wrinkle injections on social media. For example, the ASA banned an ad from Royal Tunbridge Wells Skin Clinic Ltd in 2019 for “normalising lip fillers for young women and teenagers and presenting this as something responsible parents should support”, the report states. Meanwhile, it also banned a post by Gemma Collins for Skinny Jabs Ltd as it promoted a prescription-only medicine on social media.
“2020 heightened concerns about putting on weight as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. This context made it even more important that we investigated and published rulings against three advertisers promoting the use of licensed injectable prescription-only medicine for weight loss, including by influencers on Instagram,” the report says.
Although complaints about influencer posts (across all sectors) decreased by 8% in 2020, they still made up almost a quarter of online cases, the report found. For example, in February this year, the ASA banned two Instagram influencers’ tanning ads for using “misleading filters” to exaggerate the effects of the products.
Cracking down on poor advert labelling on social media has been a key task, with CAP monitoring Instagram Stories of 122 influencers in September 2020 over 21 consecutive days to assess whether the content was being properly labelled.
The accounts monitored belonged to influencers who has been given guidance about when and how to label ads. Of the 24,208 Instagram Stories captured, only 35% of the ads were labelled correctly, which is what the regulator states is far below the compliance rates they would expect.
When it came to comparing ad disclosure on social media across sectors, of the 1,406 beauty-related posts monitored, there was a 45% compliance rate, the report states.
The most common issues with advert labelling on social media posts reported were inconsistent disclosure across stories (i.e. when not every Instagram Story which is part of an ad is labelled); inconsistent disclosure across Stories, IGTV, Reels and grid posts; and the visibility of the ad labels (where the label was in a small font, obscured or hard to spot).
The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media, while CAP writes the UK advertising codes and provides authoritative guidance on the rules.
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