Body image issues: UK advertising regulator calls for evidence
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) have announced an open call for evidence to assist them in regulating advertisements that may cause body image concerns. Petra Green, a lawyer at PromoVeritas, explains why the tide is turning.
CAP and BCAP recognise the detrimental impact on mental health that body image related harms from advertising can have on consumers. The advertising codes currently offer protections intended to mitigate such harms, CAP and BCAP want to develop an up-to-date understanding on the potential body image related harms from advertising and the impact of these on consumers. The call to action aims to help determine whether the protections which are currently offered by the UK Advertising Codes are adequate in addressing body image harm that arises out of advertisements.
There have been recent high-profile rulings by the ASA in which they have removed adverts that may harm consumer body image. For example, the ruling against Motel Rocks which featured models who appeared to be overly skinny on the basis that it was irresponsible to glamorise such an image. They have also upheld rulings which involved the use of post-production techniques, to exaggerate the performance of a cosmetic product, such as fake tan and teeth whitening, on the basis of misleading consumers.
The ASA have acknowledged that the current enforcement regulations do not prevent ads from appearing which feature glamourous, successful, healthy people or lifestyles unless the ad is irresponsible or likely to mislead. The ASA maintain that they take strong action against ads which they consider to be harmful, but they want to improve their regulation in the following areas:
- Types and themes of ad content that give rise to body image concerns
- Impact of advertising on self-perception of body image experienced by different audience groups
- Impact of social media advertising, including influencer marketing, on body image concerns, in light of increased online media use
- Potential impact of advertising content for specific product sectors (for example, cosmetic interventions, weight control and reduction, beauty and cosmetics, etc.)
- Positive impact of advertising on consumers’ body image perceptions
The ASA has also acknowledged the concern that ads for cosmetic interventions might exploit individuals insecurities about their bodies especially in children, young people and vulnerable groups, especially given the increasing power of social media. The ASA welcomes the call for evidence and will continue to take action on ads that may have a harmful effect on body image. CAP and BCAP will publish its analysis, together with an outline of any related actions, in 2022. For help with ensuring that your campaigns won’t cause offence or invite risk contact PromoVeritas at firstname.lastname@example.org.