Brush with the law

There is nothing new in saying that advertisers must show restraint when using airbrushed images (‘Airbrushing damages consumer trust in brands’). The CAP Code (UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing) is clear that advertisers cannot use post-production techniques in cosmetic advertisements when the result is an image that could never have been achieved from use of the product. The ASA has recently banned ads which ended up being misleading because of post-production techniques, and awareness of this issue is at an all-time high.

But the issue of misleading airbrushing must not be confused with post-production techniques that simply correct and improve stylised ads. Consumers expect adverts to look beautiful – it’s how advertising sells a brand promise. Post-production techniques are a vital tool in selling the image to consumers.

Provided post-production doesn’t lead to a misleading effect, no consumers will have been harmed. Displaying kitemarks when post-production techniques have been used seems a misguided proposal. Advertisers won’t be able to simply put a kitemark saying ‘Airbrushed’ and then show a heavily airbrushed image for a skin firming cream, as that would still be a breach of the CAP Code, leading to ASA sanctions. But forcing advertisers to put a kitemark whenever they use post-production techniques where it doesn’t have a misleading effect seems heavy handed – and not something consumers need for their protection.

Jo Farmer
Partner in the media, brands and technology department
Lewis Silkin LLP

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