L’Oréal withdraws TV campaign in wrinkle row

London: The international cosmetics company L’Oréal was yesterday told to withdraw a multimillion-pound television advertising campaign starring the model Claudia Schiffer after the UK’s advertising watchdog found it could not back up the claims made for creams to combat cellulite and wrinkles.

The ruling is the latest to suggest some claims made by manufacturers of expensive creams and lotions that promise to defy the ageing process are more mumbo-jumbo than miracle cure.

In May, the Advertising Standards Authority also branded adverts for an anti-cellulite cream from L’Oréal’s rival Estée Lauder “misleading”. Advertising for cosmetics and shampoos from Chanel, Max Huber, Procter & Gamble and Dior have also been criticised by the ASA in the past.

In a £15bn cosmetic market that has become increasingly competitive, the ruling against L’Oréal is one of the most damning to date.
In the UK, women spend an estimated £6bn a year on beauty products, fuelled by adverts on TV and in glossy magazines, and extravagant packaging.

In the adjudication, to be published today, some of the claims made in the TV adverts for the anti-cellulite cream Perfect Slim and L’Oréal’s Anti-Wrinkle De-Crease were found to be misleading.

The advert for the latter, which featured Ms Schiffer, claimed that 76% of women “reported visible reduction on expression lines” and rapidly reduced wrinkles “in only one hour”. But the ASA’s expert found evidence supplied by L’Oréal was insufficient to support the claims, implying as it did that the cream had a physiological effect on the body rather than just a cosmetic one.

Another claim, that the cream was “the first with Boswelox to counteract skin micro contractions” was accompanied by on-screen text that made clear that the claim applied to isolated skin tissues in laboratory tests and not to the human face. But because the camera zoomed in on Ms Schiffer’s face as she pulled a variety of expressions at the same time as the clarification appeared, the ASA said the overall effect was misleading.

The advert for Perfect Slim, which promises to reduce cellulite and comes in both gel and patch form, was found to be similarly obtuse.

The ASA objected to the use of the term “anti-cellulite” because it implied that the product could reduce or eliminate cellulite, the “orange peel” effect often mocked by women’s magazines and tabloid newspapers when detected on celebrity skin.

It said the evidence produced by L’Oréal was again insufficient to back up the claim that the product made a physiological difference, rather than a purely cosmetic one. The advert also claimed that the product “visibly reduces the appearance of cellulite” on the basis of a survey of 48 women, 71% of whom agreed with the claim. But the ASA expert found no evidence to back up the claim, pointing out that the survey used no control or blind testing.

The French cosmetics giant, which in 2004 recorded annual profits of £1.4bn and has a presence in 130 countries, said the adverts had been approved by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, which was set up to provide pre-approval for TV ads. The ASA expert disagreed with the centre on several key points.

L’Oréal said that while it disagreed with the verdict, it would amend the adverts as directed. “All L’Oréal products are the result of rigorous research and development. The benefits offered by all our products are substantiated by scientific evidence as well as customer research,” said a spokeswoman.