Cosmetic surgery company Transform ordered to pull ‘irresponsible’ ad for exploiting young women’s body insecurities

Sarah Ashcroft

A TV ad by cosmetic surgery company Transform has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for using a blogger’s personal experience to suggest surgery can fix young women's body insecurities.

The ad, which ran in April, featured a 21-year-old female fashion blogger, Sarah Ashcroft, who spoke about her experience of breast enhancement surgery. In the ad Ashcroft stated that she before surgery “[She] never really looked at any part of [her] body past [her] neck”, whereas after her surgery she felt “… 10-times more confident” and “… like a new person”.

Ashcroft, who has a social media following of over 500,000 people, was cited to be a “positive role model” by Transform who reflected the “emotional and physical outcome” of her surgery in an unscripted testimony rather than “exploiting insecurities about bodies”.

The company argued that there were “parts of society who objected to the sector itself, as opposed to advertising” and asserted that Aschroft was representative of “many independently minded, responsible, thoughtful, sophisticated and successful young females who chose to undergo cosmetic surgery”.

However the ASA said it was concerned that the focus on the negative perception Ashcroft had of her body prior to cosmetic surgery might encourage viewers, particularly young women and teenage girls, to think about their own insecurities about their bodies.

The watchdog therefore ruled the ad was “irresponsible” and harmful to those under 18 years of age since the ad suggested more generally that success and popularity would be enhanced by achieving an idealised body image, which could be done by “correcting” any perceived imperfections.

Despite the ad being scheduled after the 9pm watershed, the ASA ruled that it was likely to cause harm to those under 18, since the ad’s focus on her personal experience meant that it would have a direct appeal to young women and teenage girls.

The ad must not appear again in its current form, and the ASA told TFHC Ltd to “take care to ensure their service was advertised in a socially responsible way” that was not likely to cause harm to those under 18 years of age.

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