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Ad watchdog gets tough on weight loss brands

Skinny Revolution's code-breaking Barbie ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has thrown the book at three separate brands promoting weight loss products and services on social media for endangering public health. The trio of rulings from the regulator follow a Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) ban on cosmetic surgery ads targeted towards teenagers.

The ASA zooms in on ‘skinny’ brands

  • Skinny Revolution, Skinny Clinic and Skinny Jab each felt the full wrath of the ASA in separate cases of irresponsible marketing.

  • In Revolution‘s case, the authority upheld a complaint that promotional claims its products ‘guaranteed‘ loss of a stone in weight within four weeks was a brazen attempt to “irresponsibly exploit people’s insecurities around body image.“

  • The brand posted a before and after image of a slim and obese Barbie doll to sell its claims, captioned ‘Me in Quarantine‘. This carried no weight with the ASA however, which ruled that promising a specific weight loss in a set amount of time broke the code.

  • Skinny Clinic was the second weight loss brand to fall foul of the ASA after it ran a social media ad featuring glamour model Jema Gilsenan, claiming that its Skinny Pen appetite suppressant would ensure she emerged from lockdown ‘half the size‘.

  • This also fell foul of a ban on claims that people could lose a precise amount of weight within a stated period – as well as failing to ensure its ads did not “irresponsibly imply“ the product could be used by people who were not overweight.

  • Skinny Clinic was also rapped for suggesting uses beyond the licensed medicine designation of the product.

  • Rounding off the batch of advertising fails was Skinny Jab, which came to the ASA‘s attention with an Instagram story for Towie star Gemma Collins, who used the platform to discuss how the brand was helping build her ‘summer body while in isolation‘.

  • Unfortunately, this was not identified as a valid marketing message and the company‘s website also promoted misleading claims that ‘average weight loss is 12-20lbs within the first four-week course.‘

  • As a consequence, both Skinny Jab and Collins were ordered to use the #ad tag and cease implying its products were suitable for people who were not overweight.

Why it matters

The spate of judgements follow a proposed CAP ban on cosmetic surgery ads around content directed at children, amid fears over the promotion of unhealthy body images.

The ASA has previous form for intervening in social media marketing, with Katie Price and Lauren Goodger among a host of celebrities and influencers to fall foul of strict rules around ‘irresponsible‘ diet promotions.

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