The television advertisement opens with a girl sitting on a sofa, her phone beeps and she picks it up to receive a text message with a photo from her friend, a conversation by text ensues as follows:
Friend 1 – Ready for the holidays?
Friend 2 – Wow you lost weight, you look great
Friend 1 – It’s XLS Medical, could help you to lose up to three times more weight versus dieting alone. (This friend is standing in front of a mirror in a clothes shop, she bends down to pick the XLS Medical box from her bag and then takes a picture of the box on her phone to send to her friend.)
Friend 2 – I’ll never fit into my holiday wardrobe (she looks at herself sadly in the mirror).
A female voiceover (FVO) then delivers the following message:
“Take new XLS Medical Max Strength to reduce calorie intake from carbohydrates, sugar and fat. So you can lose weight faster.”
The two friends feature again running with their suitcases, both are wearing dresses and appear very happy. They stop to take selfies on the boardwalk located by the beach.
The FVO speaks again:
“New XLS Medical Max Strength, our most effective weight loss aid yet.”
The on-screen text initially states:
“Can help slimming as part of a calorie controlled diet & healthy lifestyle. Contains fibre Litramine ™. Drink plenty of water.”
It then changes to
“Can help slimming as part of a calorie controlled diet & healthy lifestyle. Contains Clavitanol ™. XLS-Medical Max Strength vs dieting alone, over 12 weeks.”
The complainant considered that the models were young girls and both were very thin. She was concerned that the use of such models could lead teenagers to believe that they should lose weight when they did not need to do so.
The complainant noted that the advertisers’ website stated that the product was for people with a BMI of 18.5 or over.
The advertisers said that XLS Medical Max Strength was a Type 11b medical device certified under the EU Medical Device Directive 93/42/EEC for general weight management and the prevention and treatment of excess weight and general weight management.
It had also been the subject of a published clinical trial and shown to be effective. It was approved by a notified body for general weight management and the prevention and treatment of excess weight, and recommended for those with a BMI of over 19.
The advertisers said that the core of XLS Medical was their commitment to provide the most up-to-date and scientifically based healthy eating education and support, alongside the XLS-Medical product range, to build trust and transform the confidence and lives of the many consumers who had successfully used the product. They said that the advertising in question had been subjected to rigorous checks, prior to airing, to support the use of the product and the messaging regarding responsible weight management
The advertisers confirmed that the actresses featured were over 18 years of age. Female 1 was 24 years old at the time of filming and Female 2 was 29 years old at the time of filming, both had a BMI of greater than 19. They said that the product was not recommended to those aged 18 or under, unless under the supervision of a healthcare professional and therefore the advertising was not targeted at a young audience nor had it been placed in or around programmes which had an appeal to young people. They said their product was not recommended to those with a BMI of less than 18.5, under any circumstances, and this information was stated clearly both on the pack and the leaflet of the product, and also on their website as indicated by the complainant.
In order to emphasise the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and positive body image the advertisers said they had indicated through the use of a super, that the product could help ‘as part of a calorie- controlled diet and healthy lifestyle.’ In addition they said that data collated over several years from more than 10 countries had indicated that XLS Medical was also successfully used for weight maintenance, once a target weight had been reached or if already at a healthy weight, to help consumers keep within their weight goal when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.
In conclusion, the advertisers said they take their responsibilities very seriously in advertising their products for weight management and they always focus on promoting a healthy body image and lifestyle, whilst at the same time ensuring consumers are best equipped with all the relevant information to ensure that they use the products in a healthy and sensible fashion.
Addressing concerns that the models featured were of ‘normal weight’ and therefore the advertising was in breach of Section 9.5 of the Code, the advertisers said that before airing the television advertisement, they had edited the appearance of the model in order to make her appear to have a BMI of 25 and that after using the product, she then obtained a healthy BMI.
They reiterated that XLS Medical was not recommended to those with a BMI of less than 18.5 under any circumstances and this information was clearly stated on their packaging, the enclosed leaflet and on their website. They advised that they take their responsibility very seriously in advertising products for weight management and were always focused on promoting a healthy body image and lifestyle, whilst ensuring consumers were best equipped with all the information to ensure they used XLS in a healthy and sensible way. All, whilst maintaining a strong sense of responsibility to consumers.
In support, the advertiser forwarded a statement from the production company in which they confirmed that the enhancement to actress B was made so she would appear to have a BMI of 25 or over.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They noted the age of the actors involved in the advertising and did not consider that they appeared to be young girls.
They Committee referred to Section 9.5 of the Code which required that “A marketing communication should not suggest that persons of normal weight need to slim”. While they noted that actress B had been enhanced to portray what the advertisers considered to be a woman with a BMI of 25 or over, the Committee did not consider that the enhancement had shown a woman with a BMI of 25 or over. In the circumstances, the Committee considered that a woman of ‘normal weight’ had been featured which was in breach of Section 9.5 of the Code.
The advertising should not run in its current form again.