Advertising Standards Agency bans influencer ads using filters

The Advertising Standards Agency (UK) has banned ads that use filters when showing the effectiveness of beauty products.

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Murray Hinton
February 13, 2021 9:33 pm

I understand the idea behind this but it still doesn’t prevent ads from misleading potential customers of beauty products. I see it as a small step in a long journey. An influencer could take a ‘before’ photo. Then they could eat a diet of healthy foods that are good for the skin such as tomatoes, nuts and seeds. The ‘after’ photo will look a lot better and they might not have even used the beauty product they are promoting. How can we as followers and consumers know that the beauty product has been used at all? It really depends on what level of trust you have in the influencer and the manufacturer. There’s really no way to tell, and so a decision to buy something from an influencer-promoted post probably comes down to the popularity of the influencer instead of the product. That’s why influencer marketing is such big business.

Banning influencer ads that use filters isn’t enough. To me it’s attacking a small part of a much wider problem. If there is an intention to overstate the effectiveness of a product, there are so many ways to work around this new ban. Here’s an example that shows how limp the ban can be. Diet pills. We’ve all seen the ads that claim miraculous weight loss. The ‘before’ photo is one of a downcast-looking individual, slouching and sticking his gut out. He probably had a huge meal before taking this photo. In the ‘after’ photo the same individual is smiling and hasn’t eaten anything for several hours. He’s improved his posture and is sucking in his belly. Wow, what a miraculous transformation thanks to the amazing diet pills.

The reality? He didn’t take any diet pills. The before and after transformation was literally 4 hours apart. Importantly, the ad is very misleading yet no filters were used. If marketers want to overstate the effectiveness of something, they’ll find a way to do it. This ban is a step in the right direction, but a lot more work needs to be done.

Carly Sembre
February 16, 2021 10:11 pm

We are likely to see more regulation along these lines as we unearth the detrimental nature of social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. Instagram is widely recognised as being the platform that’s worst for your mental health. No surprise here when everyone is perfect!

What we don’t often hear about is how that perfect snap is taken. It’s usually one of many staged photos that came out the best. The angles have to be perfect and you shouldn’t have even a hair in the wrong place. Then it’s time to edit your photo and apply the most complimentary filters. After 4-6 hours of work on the photo, you’re ready to post!

In 2019 Instagram actually banned augmented reality filters associated with cosmetic surgery. I’m still using a phone I bought in 2016 and when I switch the camera to selfie mode, it gives me the options to slim my face, enlarge my eyes and to get shape correction. This is pushing it. It’s unlikely new phones will have these features, maybe from new regulation or just societal pressure, as we better understand the detrimental effects of such enhancements.

One point that people raised when Instagram banned it’s cosmetic surgery AR filters was that it wouldn’t make much difference to the mental health of its users. Why? Because some of the most popular Instagram users are those who’ve actually had cosmetic surgery. They are ‘augmented’ in real life and don’t need a filter anyway 🤷‍♀️

Camille Lansac
February 13, 2021 10:49 am

This is a good move as far as I’m concerned. Filters are so prevalent now. When used to show how good a beauty product is, it’s encroaching on false advertising. How can you say a face cream helped reduce your wrinkles if you just use a face smoothing filter?😅

From what I’ve seen there is more expertise in filtering photos. You can edit photos in finer detail than you can with a video. For example, if you want to look like you have lost weight, it will be easier to show this in a photo than in a video, where you have to be mindful of your movement. This is why people can look totally different on a YouTube thumbnail than in their actual video.

In 2014 the #nomakeupselfie campaign went viral. People would post selfies of themselves without makeup. Cancer Research UK became attached to the campaign, though they didn’t start it, and raised $11 million as a result. It was so successful that users are still posting with the hashtag today. I remember a friend of mine posting her #nomakeupselfie but complaining that others were definitely using makeup when posting their selfies 😄

I’m 99% sure there will be filters developed to make you look like you’re not using a filter while hiding your so-called ‘flaws’. Watch this space!