Scaling things back – Dieting and the Ad Rules

Jun 1st '22

There are various programmes available that are designed to help people lose weight, with numerous different methods seeking to achieve that goal, but often they boil down to the most conventional: reducing calorie intake so that the body uses more calories than it receives.  Whatever method you are promoting, it’s important to keep an eye on the facts and figures to ensure your marketing is compliant.


  • Facts

Many ads promote diets by showing the results previous participants have achieved, such as using testimonials or ‘before and after’ pictures of previous participants. Where these are permitted, marketers must ensure that they are signed, dated, and do not exaggerate the efficacy of the product or service (The Laser Treatment Clinic Ltd).


However, genuine testimonials or ‘before and after’ photos are still not adequate substantiation to prove that a programme works. Marketers should be able to back up their claims with rigorous practical trials conducted on people and be able to prove that these results were achieved through a loss of body fat, rather than water or muscle mass (Liquid Lipo Ltd).


Marketers must also not make claims that a person can lose a precise amount of weight within a stated period (Skinny Clinic t/a Germaine Smith and Michel Thompson).


If a diet ad is promoting specific foods to help participants lose weight, this is likely to be seen as a health claim, which would only be permitted if properly authorised (Jane Plan Ltd).


Speaking of food, marketers must also be able to show that diet plans are nutritionally well-balanced (aside from the calorie deficit), which must be assessed in relation to the category of people who would use them (ASC Twelve Ltd t/a Simple as Fat).


  • Figures

In addition to objective claims, marketers must also prepare their ads with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society. This means that ads must not promote an unhealthy body image, exploit insecurities, or create pressure to conform to a particular body type (including idealised gender stereotypical appearances).


Ads for dieting must not appeal particularly to people under 18, promote unhealthy rates of weight loss, or suggest that it is desirable to be underweight. The ASA Council has upheld complaints against ads that use models who appear to be unhealthily thin on a number of occasions (Rustin and Mallory Wholesale LtdCondé Nast Publications LtdYves Saint Laurent SAS, 15 June 2015), but featuring thin models in ads is not considered inherently socially irresponsible (Yves Saint Laurent SAS 07 May 2014).


  • Sticking With It

If you need help with your dieting ads, speak to Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Copy Advice team for free, bespoke advice on your non-broadcast advertising.


Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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