ASA Rules Ads for Turkish Cosmetic Surgery 'Irresponsible'

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for ConsultingRoom.com, (www.consultingroom.com) the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 


Adverts promoting surgery at three cosmetic clinics in Turkey have been banned in the UK for "trivialising" the decision to go under the knife abroad.

The ads, all paid for on Facebook and seen in May, were investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for making irresponsible claims and misleadingly omitting information about the need for medical pre-consultations.

Note: In June 2023 the United Nations confirmed that, following a request from their government, the Republic of Turkey would henceforth be identified as the Republic of Türkiye. Although the change has been implemented, we have used the former here because it is currently more commonly understood by consumers.

This Ruling forms part of a wider piece of work on cosmetic surgery abroad. The ads were identified for investigation following intelligence gathering by our Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to proactively search for online ads that might break the rules.

ClinicHaus Health

Ruling - https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/ersoy-health-services-tourism-ltd-a23-1199872-ersoy-health-services-tourism-ltd.html

A paid-for Facebook ad for ClinicHaus Health, promoting cosmetic surgery in Turkey, seen in May 2023, featured the caption “Rhinoplasty surgery, one of the most successful doctors in the world […] Fill out the form now for the big summer campaign VIP transfer 5 star package Holiday in the most beautiful city in the world […]”. An image underneath showed a woman in profile.

The ASA challenged whether the:

1. claim “Fill out the form now for the big summer campaign” implied a time-limited promotion and therefore irresponsibly pressured consumers into purchasing a cosmetic intervention;

2. ad, including the reference to a “Holiday in the most beautiful city in the world”, trivialised the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery and was therefore irresponsible; and

3. ad misleadingly omitted information regarding the need for a pre-consultation to assess the patient’s potential contraindications and suitability for the procedures, including where such pre-consultation would take place.

1., 2. & 3. Ersoy Health Services Tourism Ltd t/a ClinicHaus Health said they had legal certification and authorisation from the Turkish government. As part of the medical tourism industry they had summer offers from time to time, and highlighted that their clinic was in Turkey.

They said that for ads relating to aesthetic procedures it was usual to include an image demonstrating the procedure’s effects. If people had searched online for information about certain procedures, they would see ads for those procedures, with related images.

Meta said they did not have any comments.

The ClinicHaus Health advert was banned

ClinicHaus Advert

Erdem Clinic

Ruling - https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/erdem-clinic-a23-1199873-erdem-clinic.html

A paid-for Facebook ad for Erdem Clinic, promoting cosmetic surgery in Turkey, seen in May 2023.

The caption stated “Don’t let your nose overshadow your face. Get the look you dream of with Nose Job treatment. Choose to be the greater beauty that you can be”. The ad included a profile image of a woman. Additional text stated “RHINOPLASTY IN TURKEY Up to 30% discounts on combined operations www.erdemclinic.com”.

The ASA challenged whether the:

1. claim “Up to 30% discounts on combined operations” pressured consumers into undertaking more cosmetic interventions and was therefore irresponsible;

2. claim “Don’t let your nose overshadow your face […] Choose to be the greater beauty that you can be” exploited insecurities around body image and was therefore irresponsible; and

3. ad misleadingly omitted information regarding the need for a pre-consultation to assess the patient’s potential contraindications and suitability for the procedures, including where such pre-consultation would take place.

The advert for Erdem Clinic

Erdem clinic advert

AsproMED

Ruling - https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/aspro-atlantic-medikal-turizm-ticaret-limited-irketi.html

A paid-for Facebook ad for AsproMED, promoting cosmetic surgery in Turkey, seen in May 2023.

The caption stated “[megaphone emoji] Are you ready to unleash your inner beauty, dear friend? [star emoji] [briefcase emoji]”, “Look no further than AsproMED, your trusted partner in the realm of medical tourism! [earth emoji] [airplane emoji]”, and “Let us guide you towards the path of radiant transformation! [sparkles emoji] [massage emoji]”.

The ad included a photo of a slim woman holding a balloon while she pointed to her stomach, together with a smaller illustration of a gastric balloon in a stomach. Text next to the image stated “BARIATRIC TREATMENT -Gastric Balloon -Gastric Bypass -Gastric Sleeve -Liposuction -Lifting” and “Get a permanent beauty with Gastric Balloon”. Text underneath stated “4, 5 Stars Hotel + Travel to Istanbul + Professional Team”. Another image featured the Hagia Sophia skyline with several boats in front of it.

The ASA challenged whether the:

1. references to “inner beauty” and “permanent beauty” were irresponsible because they exploited insecurities around body image;

2. ad, which encouraged consumers to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery, was irresponsible because it trivialised the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery;

3. claim “permanent beauty” was misleading regarding the effects of bariatric surgery; and

4. ad misleadingly omitted information regarding the need for a pre-consultation to assess the patient’s potential contraindications and suitability for the procedures, including where such pre-consultation would take place.

The AsproMed and Erdem clinics did not respond to the ASA's investigations, while ClinicHaus Health said it had legal certification from the Turkish government.

As a participant in the medical tourism sector, the clinic occasionally provided summer promotions, added the clinic.

The ads were considered irresponsible

AsproMED clinic advert

All 3 complaints were upheld by the ASA for breaching CAP code.

Earlier this month, a coroner expressed her intention to communicate with the government due to apprehensions that individuals are insufficiently informed about the risks. This follows the tragic death of a British woman last year after undergoing a 'Brazilian butt lift' procedure in Turkey.

"I am concerned patients are not being made aware of the risks or the mortality rate associated with such surgery," the coroner said.

"I do have concerns there will be future deaths and I'm of the view future deaths can be prevented by way of better information."

An ASA spokesman said while many visitors may be happy with the result of cosmetic surgery abroad, there are still "inherent risks".

"That's why it's so important that ads for these services aren't misleading or irresponsible, and why this is a high-priority area for the ASA," he said.

"Advertisers targeting people in the UK need to ensure that they're following the code, even if the service isn't based here.

"They mustn't trivialise the decision to get cosmetic surgery or put people under pressure to take up time-limited offers.

"They should also make clear the need for a pre-consultation, including where it will take place."

He added the group is monitoring the situation and preparing "further regulatory action".

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