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Out-Law News 1 min. read

Guidance on misleading airbrushing in adverts issued

The UK's advertising regulator has re-issued guidance on the use of digital enhancements in cosmetic ads after recently ruling two such ads were misleading.

Last month the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that two magazine adverts for L'Oreal beauty products were misleading because airbrushed images, including one of actress Julia Roberts, exaggerated the performance of the product to readers.

Misleading advertising is prohibited under UK advertising rules. The rules governing print ads are set out in the The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) while the The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) states the rules for broadcast ads.

The ASA guidance (Click through for 5-page / 54KB PDF), originally released in April, states that re-touching photographic images will be likely to mislead if the alterations relate "to any characteristics directly relevant to the apparent performance of the product being advertised".

Removing or reducing the appearance of lines or wrinkles in an advert for eye cream or increasing the length or thickness of eyelashes in mascara adverts are examples of post-production activity that would be misleading, the guidance said.

Changing problems with an original photograph of a model, such as making minor lighting corrections, is unlikely to mislead so long as the finished image accurately reflects the model, the guidance said.

"While advertisers are not prohibited from altering or enhancing images in all circumstances, if they do decide to reach for the airbrush, they have to be careful not to exaggerate the capability or performance of a product," the ASA said in a statement.

"The ASA accepts that advertisers can promote their products or services in the best possible light. But if an ad goes too far and uses a technique in a misleading or irresponsible way, we’ll take action to have it removed or amended," the statement said.

The ASA said it was prepared to stop the use of irresponsible adverts, such as those that portray women as being unhealthily thin, and that it would continue to monitor whether altering images has a harmful effect on the public or children.

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