CAP issues “Do’s and Don’ts” for weight loss ads.

Posted 14 January 2013

CAP issues “Do’s and Don’ts” for weight loss ads.  

The United Kingdom’s Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) write and maintain the UK Advertising Codes that are implemented by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). CAP’s recent advice for diet claims includes: 

  • Don’t claim people can lose a precise amount of weight in a set period of time or that weight can be lost from specific parts of the body. Claiming “Lose up to two pounds a day” could mean your name will be posted for up to five years on the ASA website.  
  • Make sure you don’t imply the weight loss is permanent or easy.  
  • Don’t make claims that foods can help you lose a specific amount of weight in a set amount of time.  
  • It would be useful if the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued trade regulation rules banning deceptive claims and held advertising media jointly responsible for the financial damage done by misleading ads that violate the rules.

Detox and diets
10 January 2013
http://www.cap.org.uk/News-reports/Media-Centre/2013/Detox-and-diets.aspx
Detox and diets follow Christmas as inevitably as TV ads for summer holidays and magazines containing scale models of steam engines. Over the years, the ASA has seen a whole range of claims for a variety of different products, from calorie-controlled diets to weight-loss tablets to hypno-gastric bands. Here we explain how to get it right, whatever you’re offering.

Weight loss ads: do’s and don’ts
Don’t claim people can lose a precise amount of weight in a set period of time, or that weight can be lost from specific parts of the body. Claiming “Lose up to two pounds a day” could mean you spend up to five years on the ASA website. Make sure you don’t appeal to under 18s or imply the weight loss is permanent or easy. Do hold evidence for your claims and explain how the diet or technology works, and don’t make claims that foods can help you lose a specific amount of weight in a set amount of time.

Remember, slimming claims for foods are considered health claims, see the online guidance on Food: Health claims. They’re also covered by the Food Rules in the CAP Code.

Testimonials
Testimonials are popular in weight loss ads, but if someone’s rate of weight loss works out at more than 2lbs a week, the ad is likely to be seen as incompatible with good medical and nutritional practice, or as offering to treat obesity. Obesity is frequently associated with serious medical conditions, so treatments for it should only be advertised by those who are suitably qualified (CAP Code rule 13.2). Ads that show a similar rate of weight loss through before and after photos are also likely to be seen as offering to treat obesity.

If you present your testimonials in a magazine-style editorial, make sure the ad is immediately identifiable as marketing material.

Weight loss tablets
Some diet aid products claim to assist with weight loss, such as those that bind fats in the stomach so they won’t be absorbed by the body and will help you shed those excess pounds. Those products must make clear how they work and so far, the ASA hasn’t seen persuasive evidence that fat-binding products work, as in this recent adjudication. They’re also likely to be classified as a medical device, so will need the relevant medical device certification.

Weight-loss and clothing
Although it’s fine to claim tight-fitting clothing can achieve “short term loss of girth” (CAP Code rule 13.12), advertisers should ensure they don’t imply they can actually help you achieve weight loss by warming the skin or making you sweat.

Detox
Drinking plenty of water and eliminating alcohol from your diet might help reduce the number of toxins in your system, but to show a supplement has the same effect you’d need to have robust clinical data. We haven’t seen that yet, and the ASA has also upheld complaints about ads that suggest a massage or body wrap can help get rid of toxins. See the Advice Online entry on detoxing.

Hypnotherapy
The ASA accepts that hypnotherapy can sometimes help people lose weight, for example by enabling them to control their cravings, but the ads need to make clear will power is required and should not suggest you won’t need to control calories. Advice online: Weight control and complementary therapies. There’s lots to consider when making weight loss claims, and it’s a sector the ASA adjudicates on frequently. To make sure your ads are compliant and you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew, contact the CAP Copy Advice team on 0207 492 2100 or submit a query via the website. 

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