Circle of mistrust: Flab to abs ad banned

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 05:00 08/09/2011

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An exercise machine advertisement showing a flabby torso morphing into a set of glistening abdominal muscles has been banned because it "portrayed unrealistic outcomes" and was likely to mislead consumers.

The Advertising Standards Authority's complaints board has upheld a complaint about the Ab Circle Pro V2 infomercial, which touts exercise equipment on free-to-air television.

Simulated images of bodies getting smaller and becoming more toned, and testimonials from sporting celebrities and "real people", were accompanied by a disclaimer saying "results not typical".

The ASA said the disclaimer was written over the images in a small font and set against "busy backgrounds which made it hard for the viewer to read".

The simulated images were "powerful in trying to demonstrate dramatic results" that could be achieved using the equipment, said the ASA.

"The likely consumer take-out of the advertisement was that by using the Ab Circle Pro alone the consumer could achieve the results illustrated by the toned models, real people and simulated images of the models."

ASA chief executive Hilary Souter said the ads would be banned until improvements were made and had been approved by the Commercial Advertising Bureau - a broadcaster-owned organisation that vets all television advertising before it hits the screen.

The CAB had previously approved the ad in question and, given a chance to explain its initial decision, it argued the combination of graphic disclaimers and a 30-day money-back guarantee meant the commercial was fair.

The advertiser, Brand Developers, did not return calls, but in its response to the complaint the company said the advertisement had played more than 2000 times since it was approved by the CAB in January.

Brand Developers said the testimonials did not show "outlandish results" and they were "typical of weight loss achievable by the majority of users if they adhere to the Ab Circle Pro weight loss system", which included a reduced calorie diet and regular aerobic exercise.

This was stated in the disclaimer said the company, but it would be happy to reword the statement to say something like "results may vary''.

Souter said the decision reinforced the need for clear context to be given when advertising weight loss products.

"There are a number of these ads on television and I think people understand that there is no miracle cure for weight loss, it's a range of things you have to do... so if you're making claims about the product and what it can do you have to give context around that information."

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