At what point do claims concerning anti-wrinkle creams become misleading advertising? Britain draws the line using the same principles as Finland. Advertisers must be able to substantiate concrete promises about the effect of a product.
During the past year Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has intervened in numerous advertising campaigns arranged by large and well-known cosmetics companies. The ASA's decisions follow the same lines as the rules on cosmetics advertising that the Finnish Consumer Agency issued last spring.
According to those rules advertising must give a truthful overall impression at first glance. If percentage figures concerning the effects of a product or other measurable or visible claims are presented, the advertiser must be able to substantiate these. Advertising must tell on what scientific evidence or sample the result is based.
Limits on hype and scare tacticsThe latest case in which the ASA has taken action concerns Clarins Expertise 3P spray. In August the company had to pull a press ad that claimed the product protects the skin against damaging electromagnetic waves. The ASA decided that the studies presented by Clarins were not robust enough to substantiate claims. The ad also played on irrational fears by using statements such as this: "If electromagnetic waves can penetrate walls, imagine what they can do to your skin."
In July the ASA stopped a TV and press campaign for L'Oréal Telescopic mascara because advertising gave an exaggerated picture of results. The company promised lashes "up to 60% longer". Using the product did not result in an actual extension in the length of lashes, but only made lashes appear longer.
To make matters worse, it turned out that the actress puffing the product, Penelope Cruz, was wearing a few individual false lashes inserted into her natural lashes to make them look better. The ASA said that L'Oréal should always include a disclaimer in future ads featuring models wearing false eyelashes.
At home alternative to surgery?
Advertising claims concerning anti-ageing products seem to be especially problematic.
In January 2007 the ASA upheld a complaint against Avon concerning a catalogue ad for Anew Clinical wrinkle remover. The ad described the product as "the at home alternative to surgery" and "the new wave in face lifts". In autumn 2006 the ASA reprimanded Clinique for print ads that claimed Repairwear eye cream triggered the skin to smooth out wrinkles. In 2005 it halted a campaign for L'Oréal Wrinkle De-crease featuring top model Claudia Schiffer. In all these cases the cosmetics companies were not able to present adequate scientific evidence to back up advertising claims.
Advertising that is misleading and makes excessive claims ultimately hurts the cosmetics industry itself. If leading companies break professional codes, they erode the industry's credibility and put a dint in consumer confidence.
For more about the Advertising Standards Authority's decisions, see cosmeticsdesign-europe.com, which provides news on cosmetics formulation and packaging.