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ASA bans misleading use of filters on social media beauty posts

Gaelle Walker
08 February 2021

The UK’s advertising watchdog has vowed to take tough action against beauty brands and influencers who use "misleading" filters on social media, as it seeks to tackle the root causes of negative body image and confidence - particularly among young people.

Speaking out after it banned Instagram ads for Skinny Tan, by influencer Elly Norris and We Are Luxe, in association with influener Cinzia Baylis-Zullo, last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said filters should never be applied to promote beauty items that could exaggerate their efficacy.

Both influencers had used special filters in their videos and posts, which the ASA said “misleadingly exaggerated” the results that the products could achieve and breached the Code.

The ads must not appear again in the form complained about.

“The outcome of these rulings is applicable to all UK brands, influencers and celebrities,” the ASA said.

“Our initial sanction is to have ad posts that break the rules taken down and prohibit them from appearing again. This often results in damage to the advertiser and the influencer’s reputation.”

The ASA also said that it wanted to work with influencers to raise awareness of the rules and support them “with the guidance and tools they need to help get their ads right.”

“We’re also working closely with the social media platforms who can and will enforce our rulings where an advertiser is unwilling or able to work with us,” a spokesman added.

The ASA plans to launch a Call For Evidence on body image in the coming weeks, as it explores what more it can do to ensure that adverts “don’t adversely impact consumers’ mental health.”

It has also given evidence to The Women and Equalities Committee’s Inquiry into body image and the Beauty, Aesthetics and the Wellbeing All Party Parliamentary Group’s Inquiry into non-surgical cosmetic procedures – both of which are currently examining the impact that more regulation surrounding media and advertising could have on self-esteem.

In a post at the end of last year the ASA said: “In a 24/7 digital media world of ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘follows’, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that many of the images we see and interact with are curated.

“Whether it’s filters, lenses, photo shopping or air brushing, digitally enhanced images are part and parcel of the media landscape and our everyday lives.

“Add to that the scale and influence of the health and beauty industry in selling us an ideal, of the array of treatments and procedures to help us look younger or become slimmer, and the context for the concerns around body confidence is clear.”

“Advertisers have long sold the idea of perfection. In most instances they do so responsibly. But a body of evidence is building. If it’s shown that the volume and cumulative impact of this kind of advertising is causing harm, we will need to consider further action.”

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