CTPA criticises 'deceptive' advertising claims study


Response to cosmetic advertising study

The CTPA has responded to claims made in an academic study about advertising campaigns for cosmetic products.

A study published in the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing stated earlier this week that just 18% of claims made by cosmetics companies were 'acceptable'. The research, by Jie G Fowler, Timothy Reisenwitz and Les Carson, looked at print advertising campaigns in US magazines and presented them to a panel of three judges. Claims made in each of the 289 full-page ads were categorised into 'outright lie', 'omission', 'vague' or 'acceptable' based on the judges' own assessments.

The study concluded that 25.1% of claims about product performance were acceptable, with 23% of claims labelled an "outright lie". The study's authors also noted that consumers are increasingly distrustful of cosmetic claims and said the study had implications for advertisers.

However, the CTPA has criticised the study and its findings. Dr Christopher Flower, Director General at the CTPA, said: "The US study is based on the subjective views of just three judges who seem not to have separated true claims from general advertising words. After all, cosmetics are much more interesting than woodstain for example, so we should be using much more interesting language than just saying: ‘It does what it says on the tin'."

The CTPA also questioned whether the judges had requested to see any evidence the companies have regarding any advertising claims made. Flowers added that, while this study was based in the US, false advertising claims are illegal in the UK and rest of the EU. He said: "The picture is pretty clear: all cosmetics are covered by the European Cosmetic Products Regulation and these EU laws make false claims illegal. The evidence in support of claims must in kept in the Product Information File that each cosmetic product must have and this may be inspected by Trading Standards to ensure consumers are not being misled."

Flowers added that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has clear Codes of Advertising Practice that require advertisers to hold supporting evidence at the time the claim is made. He also said that the cosmetics industry often works to regulate itself, adding: "One of the strictest checks is actually the self-regulation imposed by the industry itself which can and does make complaints to the ASA if a company feels that a competitor is making a claim that is not capable of substantiation."