An Instagram post by reality star Jemma Lucy has been banned by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The post broke several rules, including encouraging unsafe practices (implying that the star had used slimming products during pregnancy) and making unsubstantiated and ambitious claims about a weight loss product.
Skinny Caffe said Jemma had posted the message as a favour to a friend and had not been paid by the brand for it. However, the ASA considered that there was a ‘commercial relationship’ between Jemma and the brand, in addition to a personal one.
What's more, the post had been written by the brand.
The fact that the brand provided the wording of the post and that Jemma published it shows a general lack of thought by both Jemma and the brand in this case.
Even though the post made no mention of the fact that Jemma was pregnant at the time, given that many of her followers knew she was pregnant and assumed she had therefore used the product while pregnant, this made the diet claim even more likely to be socially irresponsible and harmful, and the ASA could not ignore it.
Haven't we been here before?
There are plenty of responsible influencers and brands in the UK who take great care to play by the rules. However, we are still seeing a steady stream of upheld complaints against this kind of irresponsible social post coming through the ASA.
The ASA has shown it is ready and willing to take action. The days when influencers and brands could just shrug their shoulders, plead ignorance and expect to get away with this kind of behaviour are over.
Given the inability of the ASA to impose meaningful sanctions, we wonder at what point the ASA will lose patience and ask the CMA to pick up the baton and to use the CMA’s more significant powers to procure undertakings, or to pursue prosecutions and fines.
Clearly an ad though, right?
It is interesting that so many people complained that this post wasn’t identifiable as an ad, when they obviously knew to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about it. The ASA’s efforts to raise its profile in this area seem to be paying off.
In this case, it wouldn’t have been enough to use #ad. It would still have resulted in an upheld ruling because the content of the post was irresponsible and potentially harmful/unsafe.
The ASA noted that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence does not recommend dieting during pregnancy as it can harm the health of the unborn child. "We concluded that the ad encouraged an unsafe practice and was irresponsible," the watchdog concluded. It also highlighted the fact that the text also claimed the products featured could help users "lose up to 7lbs [3.2kg] in seven days". According to the regulator, any health claims that refer to specific amounts of weight loss are not permitted in ads.