Beauty brands most guilty of misleading ads

According to the latest statistics by the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), while there was an overall decline in the total number of feedback on advertising advice, queries and complaints, the volume of feedback on the beauty industry has risen to an all time high.

In a statement, ASAS said that not only has the number increased, it also topped the 2014 list with the highest percentage (42.8%) of feedback. While beauty brands have been aggressive in their advertising, they have often used claims that are misleading, unclear or lack substantiation in a bid to lure customers away from their competitors, said ASAS. In addition, ASAS has also seen an increasing number of companies advertising new types of technology of which effects could not be scientifically substantiated. Some businesses had to withdraw certain claims when probed by ASAS. The ad censorship board has said this is a growing concern for the local market.

However, it has declined to reveal any brand names.

It noted that the number could also be on the rise simply because of the increasing demand consumers have for beauty services and products as compared to in the past.

"An emotive category to market"

Subarna Prabhakar, Lowe Singapore’s global business director for the Unilever brand Clear echoed this sentiment adding that in Asia, perhaps more than anywhere else, there is a desire for "idealised perfection-achieved quick and easily".

"This can result in the vicious circle of claims and disappointments,” said Prabhakar.

Dan Gibson, managing director of Havas Worldwide Singapore, which recently worked with both Pond's and Lux, added that beauty is an emotive category and when people feel misled on anything relating to their appearance, the frustration is all the more palpable.

He added that the recent trope in this space has also been for advertisers to take the higher emotional ground. However, while this might have worked well for some brands, constantly telling people they're "beautiful as they are" may not reflect the reality of their daily experience. Instead, it may just create further frustration.

Giving the example of the recent controversial Protein World ad campaign, "Are you Beach Body ready?" he explained that despite the campaign getting hundreds of complaints and petitions to pull it down, the ad showcased the need for a real disruption in the beauty category.

"The ads honest and bold approach that beauty is also about looking good on the outside might have upset people but it undeniably cut through the clutter and got folks talking," he added.

Both Gibson and Prabhakar agreed that making a claim that doesn't stand up is the fastest way to shred a brand's reputation in the beauty category. Hence there is an immense need for natural self-regulation.

"Unless you're in the business of plastic surgery, you're very rarely making a fundamental change to someone's appearance. Be very clear about the intended product benefit, and what entitles you to make the claim. If you're credible, and if you've activated the right beauty network online to help tell your story, you'll be alright," said Gibson.

(Photo courtesy: Shutterstock)