Adverts for cosmetic surgery aired during episodes of ITV’s Love Island have been ruled “irresponsible” and “harmful” by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) following complaints from mental health groups.
The Mental Health Foundation was one of 17 complainants to contact the ASA after adverts for MYA Cosmetic Surgery were aired, arguing they “exploited young women’s insecurities” and “trivialised” breast enhancement surgery.
MYA has been told it cannot show the advert – featuring a group of women who have had breast enlargements posing in swimsuits in various luxury locations – or others which raise the same issues.
The charity said the decision was a “watershed moment” for cosmetic surgery advertising and could help address body image concerns, which are a "root cause" of mental ill health in young people.
MYA argued that the advert has disclaimers which stress the seriousness of the decision to undergo surgery, and that all the women shown were actual patients.
However this wasn’t considered to be sufficient mitigation for the aspirational tone of the advert.
In its judgement, the ASA said the unifying characteristics of the group were that they had “slim physiques and large breasts” and that they “felt amazing” as a result of breast enlargements.
It said the disclaimers did little to alter the overall impression of the advert and MYA’s appeal to join “thousands of women” who’ve had the procedure was an explicit call to action.
The ASA said: “We considered that the ad went beyond presenting the lifestyle of women who had breast enlargement in a positive light and implied that the women were only able to enjoy the aspirational lifestyle shown, and to be happy with their bodies, because they had undergone that surgery.
“For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and harmful.”
ITV has already admitted it made a mistake in some advertising choices for cosmetic surgery and weight loss products during the hugely popular show. Though it says it complied with all broadcast regulations for the programme, which airs after the watershed.
Commenting on the ASA’s ruling the Mental Health Foundation’s director Isabella Goldie, said: “Today’s decision marks a watershed moment for cosmetic surgery advertising which we wholeheartedly welcome.
“It is important that this advert has been recognised as “irresponsible and harmful” – the conclusions of this ruling are a step towards tackling the pressure around body image.
“Implying that people can only enjoy body confidence and an aspirational lifestyle by undergoing cosmetic surgery is dangerous and unacceptable. All of us, including commercial organisations, have a role to play in strengthening our young people’s resilience.”
Professor Ash Mosahebi, a consultant plastic surgeon and council member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic surgeons (BAAPS), said: “It is unethical to suggest that cosmetic surgery provides a solution to all problems, and irresponsible to trivialise surgical procedures such as breast augmentation by promoting them as an aspirational lifestyle or as a club that can be joined by going under the knife.
“For Britons’ health and well-being, we must demand stricter regulations on surgery advertising, and that clinics who repeatedly disregard guidelines on ethical marketing are appropriately penalised.”
A spokesperson for MYA Cosmetic Surgery said in a statement that the company is seeking to work with mental health groups and the ASA about their concerns.
They added: “Although we disagree with the decision of the ASA we respect the role that they play in regulating TV advertising and therefore we will not appeal their decision.
“We understand at MYA that cosmetic surgery is, to some, a controversial subject and certainly a misunderstood one.
“We believe that our services make a positive difference to peoples’ lives.”
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