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Product: Health and Beauty
Advertiser: Stephen Travers (The Healing House)
ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6(c), 2.9, 2.57, 8.1, 8.5, 8.9, 8.13
Press advertising for Stephen Travers referred to the following:
“Advanced clinical hypnotherapy will get results”
“Stephen Travers has personally trained and worked with Paul McKenna so you can be assured you are getting the best treatments that are available in the field of hypnotherapy.
Stephen is Ireland's best-known clinical hypnotherapist, for the excellent results he quickly achieves for his clients. Would you like to “Stop Smoking in One Session” that comes with a 100% lifetime guarantee? Would you like to achieve your ideal weight and regain optimum health? Would you like to overcome your anxieties, panic attacks, addictions, insomnia, depression, stress or phobias? Would you like to feel more confident and happier within yourself?
Testimonials were then provided and referred to as “Stephen’s success stories.”
Further down the page a further advertisement appeared which stated:
“Lifetime Guaranteed! You will stop smoking in one session or get free sessions until you do.
Think yourself thin & the Hypnotic Gastric Band Weight Loss: 3 session program.
Highly effective treatments for panic attacks, anxiety fears, phobias, stress, confidence issues, depression, addictions, alcohol control, public speaking, insomnia, IBS & more.”
Readers were then invited to visit the advertisers’ website for more information or to call the number provided to make an appointment.
The complainant considered that it was unclear from the newspaper article that the information provided was in fact advertising. He queried the reference to “Would you like to stop smoking in one session with a 100% lifetime guarantee” and also the statement that “Advanced clinical hypnotherapy will get results” as he considered that there no basis in evidence to support such claims.
The Secretariat separately asked the advertisers for their comments on the fact that they were also offering to treat serious or prolonged ailments for conditions that may require the attention of a registered medical or other qualified practitioner.
The Secretariat also asked the media concerned if the article in question was an advertorial. In reply they said that the word ‘advertorial’ should have been included at the top of the copy and they would ensure that this was the case for future copies.
The advertisers said they had removed the reference to “Stop smoking in one session that comes with a 100% lifetime guarantee” and continued to offer free sessions to any client who did not stop smoking after the initial session until such a time as they had completely ceased smoking i.e. “You will stop smoking in one session or get free sessions until you do.”
In the initial response the advertisers referred to a range of studies from a variety of resources on the efficacy of hypnosis.
In relation to offering treatments for serious ailments, Mr. Travers said that he had trained in ‘Amygdala Depotentiation Therapy’ also known as ‘Havening Techniques' which was developed by an American doctor, Doctor Ronald Ruden. He said that Dr. Ruden had trained him in the use of this technique. After attending trainings with Dr. Ruden and completing case studies, science exams, ethics and legal exams, he became a qualified Certified Havening Techniques Practitioner. Mr. Travers also provided links to testimonials and articles to substantiate the validity of this method of treatment.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They acknowledged that while the media concerned should have made it clear that the copy in question was an advertorial piece, they had committed to making this clearer in future copies.
The Committee noted the changes which the advertisers had made to their advertising and that they had removed the reference to “100% lifetime guarantee”. They nevertheless considered that it was contradictory on the one hand to inform consumers that “You will stop smoking in one session” while on the other hand offering them free sessions, if this was not the case, until such a time as they did stop smoking. They also queried how the advertisers could offer a ‘lifetime guarantee’ to those who did manage to stop smoking as no substantiation had been offered for this claim. They considered that the reference to “stop smoking” had breached Sections 8.9 and 8.13 of the Code.
The Committee noted that the advertisement referred to a number of serious and prolonged ailments and to conditions which required the attention of appropriately qualified practitioners. It also considered that the reference to “Highly Effective Treatments” implied that the advertiser was offering treatment for these aliments and conditions. They reminded the advertiser that testimonials did not constitute substantiation and that claims about health treatments should be backed by substantiation including the results of practical trials on human subjects of sufficient rigour, design and execution as to warrant general acceptance of the results. The Committee considered that the advertisement had breached Sections 8.1 and 8.5 of the ASAI Code. They also noted that Section 8.5 prohibited the use of a marketing communication for serious ailments requiring the attention of a registered medical or other qualified practitioner.