A cosmetic surgery advert that appeared during ITV’s ‘Love Island’ has been banned following complaints that it “exploited young women’s insecurities about their bodies”.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the breast enlargement ad by cosmetic surgery company MYA must not appear again “in the form complained of”.
Although the ad appeared on UK TV’s throughout May, June and July 2018, a number of campaigners, including the Mental Health Foundation, raised issues about it appearing during ‘Love Island’ in particular, due to the show’s young fanbase.
Isabella Goldie, director at the charity, welcomed the latest news saying: “The conclusions of this ruling are a step towards tackling the pressure around body image.”
Janey Starling, campaign manager at feminist organisation Level Up also called the ruling “a huge victory”, adding: “Broadcasters are responsible for taking viewers’ wellbeing into consideration - and we’re so happy to know that next year’s Love Island won’t be bombarding viewers with plastic surgery ads.”
The MYA advert featured a voiceover which stated: “If you’ve been considering breast enlargements for a while, then visit mya.co.uk to book your free consultation”. The ad showed young women posing, dancing and laughing around a swimming pool, on the beach and on a boat. The voiceover continued: “These girls had breast enlargements with MYA and all feel amazing.”
The ASA received 17 complaints, including from the Mental Health Foundation who felt the ad “exploited young women’s insecurities about their bodies, trivialised breast enhancement surgery and portrayed it as aspirational, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and harmful”.
In response to complaints MYA Cosmetic Surgery Ltd said it believed the ad focused on the positive aspects of women’s lifestyles and did not explore the negative attitudes towards their body image prior to surgery. The company said the ad did not make any direct claims about the positive impact of surgery and did not show a better time in social events as a result of surgery.
On-screen text accompanying the ad stated: “No surgical procedure is without risk. 18+.” It added: “Any decision to have cosmetic surgery should not be undertaken lightly. Allow plenty of time to reflect before going ahead with a procedure.” MYA said it believed this text was prominent and stressed the seriousness of the procedure.
Clearcast – the clearance body for TV ads in the UK – claimed there was nothing explicitly aspirational about the actions of the women in the ad other than that they were having a good time on holiday.
However, ASA disagreed and banned the ad from appearing again in its current form.
“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,” ASA said.
“We also considered that the focus on the aspirational lifestyle and the tone of the ad, in combination with the statement ‘join them and thousands more’ – which suggested that it was common to undergo breast enlargement and acted as an explicit call to action – had the effect of trivialising the decision to undergo that surgery. For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and harmful.”
The Mental Health Foundation welcomed the news, saying concern around body image is one of the root causes of mental ill health in young people.
“Our research shows that almost half of young people aged 18-24 have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope,” director Isabella Goldie said.
“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.”
ASA may have received 17 complaints, but Janey Starling said thousands of Level Up members also sent “impassioned messages” to ITV about the ad.
“Today’s result shows how powerful it can be when people speak up,” she said. “Broadcasters are responsible for taking viewers’ wellbeing into consideration - and we’re so happy to know that next year’s Love Island won’t be bombarding viewers with plastic surgery ads.”
ITV told HuffPost UK it acted in compliance with the BCAP Code and Scheduling Rules, pointing out neither ITV nor Love Island are specifically mentioned in this ruling.
“We work very closely with the advertising regulatory bodies to make sure we are compliant with all the relevant regulations and we have been at all times on Love Island,” a spokesperson said.
“We really care about our viewers. In addition to being fully compliant with regulations, we also aim to be sensitive to the juxtaposition of programmes and ads and that’s something we continue to monitor closely.”