Geordie Shore star in trouble with ASA for encouraging unsafe sale of contact lenses

The ASA bans reality TV star's Instagram post for encouraging the unsafe sale of contact lenses

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) been reprimanded Geordie Shore star Marnie Simpson and iSpyEye, for encouraging the unsafe sale of contact lenses.

The ads in question appeared on the reality TV star's Instagram page, that promoted iSpyEye's range of coloured contacts.

One post read "The hottest fires burn blue, and her eyes are no different... Lenses | my range @ispyeyes …”.

Another stated “Omg I’m so excited for Halloween this year! I've [sic] got some amazing ideas!! Make sure to follow iSpyEyes for all the latest updates on new style [sic] of lenses available! Check out these scary ones I wore last year!!!!!”.

Given zero-powered contacts can only be legally supplied under the supervision of a registered optometrist, a complainant challenged whether the ad implied the products could be legally sold by the advertiser in the UK.

In response, iSpyEye believed the coloured lenses were not classified as an optical appliance in the UK and could be sold across the UK and EU without the supervision of an eye care practitioner.

Simpson responded through her solicitors, who pointed out on the FAQ section of iSpyEyes website stated: "...you should visit your optician for a lens fitting prior to purchase as all our lenses are one size" and therefore, consumers would understand that the sales of the lenses should be under the supervision of a registered practitioner before the point of sale was effected.

Given that the rule that optometrists must supply contacts applies to the UK, her solicitors argued that the posts were not directed to a particular territory but to her fan base in general.

Despite this, the ASA decided to uphold the ad for encouraging an unsafe practice and for implying that they could legally sell zero-powered contact lenses in the UK.

The ad watchdog argued that because Simpson is a UK-based celebrity, who appeared on a British TV show and the majority of her social media followers were based in the UK, the target audience would be predominantly British.

It considered that consumers who saw the ads would assume that zero-powered contact lenses could be legally sold by the advertiser in the UK. It was worried that there were no safety concerns associated with purchasing the product directly from the advertiser.

The ad watchdog referred to The Eyecare Trust website in relation to zero-powered contact lenses, which stated that contact lenses sat directly on the surface of the eye, so the risk of infection and causing trauma or injury was high, and that poorly fitting lenses, extended wear and poor hygiene habits could all lead to eye infections, corneal ulcers, abrasions and even loss of vision.

This is not the first time Simpsons and iSpyEyes have been at the receiving end of an ASA ban.

In 2017, a Snapchat story on Simpson's account received a complain which challenged whether the snap promoting iSpyEyes was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.

In response, iSpyEyes said it would ensure it would be #ad in future.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.