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The ASA is the Advertising Standards Authority who regulate and oversee ads placed in the UK. It doesn’t really have enough clout in my view to clamp down on misleading ads but it can ban certain ads or prevent them appearing in the same way again. There are some brands who take absolutely no notice of the guidelines and consider an ASA ruling against them a small price to pay for the nonsense they’ve fed consumers before the ASA intervenes – and this is why I say they don’t have enough clout.. there is no fine that I am aware of for example for breaching ASA guidelines (in exceptional circumstances I believe that the Office of Fair Trading can step in and fine).

However, when it comes to beauty (and I expect other areas), you’ll quite often find that it’s other beauty brands complaining about the ads in the first place, and not the general public who really couldn’t care enough to complain if there’s air-brushing where it shouldn’t be. Some beauty brands rack up many ASA adjudications and keep on making the same – possibly deliberate – mistakes time and time again (yes, Rodial, amongst others). If there was a hefty fine involved, I am sure this would, for smaller brands at least, be a deterrent. Actually, there is a list of non-compliants..some going back years.. those who continue, despite ASA rulings to mislead in ads (and no, Rodial isn’t on it) and if that’s not reason enough for fines, then I don’t know what is.

The ASA have a really informative feature on their site HERE explaining that while there is nothing wrong with promoting your products in a positive light, there’s a line to be drawn between positivity and absolute rubbish (which they politely term ‘exaggeration’). They’ve already taken action on air-brushing, but what I find most interesting is their mention of the government’s Body Confidence Campaign. Who knew? Apparently, the campaign works with the beauty industry to promote more realistic ideals in health and beauty and that pretty much starts with responsible advertising.

It’s a very complicated issue – it’s not illegal (or wrong, in my view) to use pretty, slender people in ads, nor is it wrong to want your product to be aspirational and desirable. But if those images have been manipulated pre or post production to make an image completely unattainable from using the product (using lash inserts to promote mascara, for example) and not highlighting that the image is manipulated, well, that IS wrong.

One of this month’s complaints (not upheld) was against a Calvin Klein fragrance ad – complainants felt it was unsuitable for daytime; we might say they were wearing a minimum of clothing while Calvin Klein explain this away as ‘lightly dressed’ (surely that’s only for salads). I love this term.. ‘lightly dressed’.. but you can see it’s a fine line for the adjudicators to have to deal with.

Anyway, the article is well worth a read.

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