The Most Complained About Weight Loss Adverts

A header image introducing the article


When promoting weight loss products, honesty is the best policy.


With trigger warnings and cancel culture becoming the new norm, it’s key that sensitive topics are handled with compassion and care.


Social media sites have been seeing increased backlash around the promotion of weight loss products, with many influencers using their platforms to advertise slimming products without explaining the impact these can have on individuals if guidance is not followed correctly.


Platforms and users are having to be careful with the content and advertising they are posting.


For example, Instagram has previously come under fire for promoting weight loss content to users with eating disorders [1].


However, weight management supplements, weight loss tablets and other slimming aids can be beneficial to individuals who need a helping hand to lose weight in a healthy manner, after seeking medical advice.


Therefore it’s key that brands and influencers alike are truthful, honest and open in order to safely market these products.


So in a heavily regulated market, due to the side effects and health risks of certain products, Chemist4U have analysed which weight loss adverts have received the most complaints, the key reasons for the criticism, as well as the years and mediums that received the largest number of complaints via the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).


Which weight loss adverts received complaints?


The advertisement with the most backlash was an Instagram post, receiving a total of 25 individual complaints.


The post from influencer Jemma Lucy (who was pregnant at the time of posting) was promoting ‘skinny cafe’ drinks for The White Star Key Group Ltd.


The main concerns raised with the post were around Jemma's pregnancy and lack of clarity around if the post was an ad.


The post was found to be a breach of several codes/rules and subsequently, the ruling was upheld.


A chart showing the weight loss adverts with the most complaints.


A TV advert from HJ Heinz Foods UK Ltd was the second most complained about advert (6 complaints), with claims that it was misleading viewers into believing eating Heinz beans was as beneficial as a workout.


The advert was found to be compliant with the rules and regulations surrounding advertisement and was therefore not upheld.


BoomBod Ltd, taking the 3rd most complained (5 complaints) about advertisement spot, was investigated over three separate issues all of which were upheld.


These issues all stemmed from Instagram, with the ad appearing on the accounts of BoomBod, Lauren Goodger and Katie Price. The posts made health claims around weight loss that were not approved by regulations and codes.


What were the key issues for complaints?


Looking at the reasoning behind complaints, there are arising themes with most complaints centred around content being either misleading, harmful or irresponsible.


Proving to be the biggest concern from the public is misleading content with 66% of total complaints.


Misleading content often refers to content that does not clearly present as an advertisement or makes claims that may confuse and therefore mislead consumers.


A chart showing the key reasons for complaints.


Which years have seen the most complaints?


When looking at the number of complaints each year, 2019 sees a huge incline that falls drastically in the following years.


In 2019 there was a rise in searches for influencers [2] suggesting that as the population grew to be more interested in influencers they also found more issues with them.


A chart showing the complaints over the years.


Which media has seen the most complaints

Social media was found to be the most complained about platform with over double the amount of complaints than any other format.


Shifts in attitudes, making social media more prominent than ever, could indicate why more traditional mediums such as TV and printed publications have received less complaints.


A graphic showing what medium had the most complaints.




Data was taken from the ASA between the years of 2017 - 2021 to discover how many complaints had been made about weight loss type adverts.


The data was then analysed to find out the reason for complaint/category of reason, if the complaint was upheld or not, subject of advert





The raw data can be found here

Chemist4U - Site News
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 15 March 2023
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