Critics will claim that I wrote this short article simply to use that headline and a load of eye-related puns. Well, it's one in the eye for the critics because most of these tenuous references barely count as puns. Besides, it's actually a mildly interesting and very topical ruling... because it was published today and, um... well... that's it really.
While the ruling was published today, it relates to a paid-for Facebook ad from February 2023 - hindsight being a wonderful thing.
The advertiser was Fancy Drops Community, an online retailer of cosmetic eye products. It advertised eye drops which, it claimed, would change your eye colour. The ad stated, “SOLD OUT 5 TIMES – and for a good reason. You will throw away your color [sic] contacts! Introducing the revolutionary color [sic] changing product … Fancy Drops reduces even the dark brown eye color [sic] who want light eye color [sic] …”.
Nothing to see here
One person, who could scarcely believe their eyes, complained to the ASA. They challenged the claim that the eye drops could change the colour of eyes. They thought it was likely to be misleading and doubted the claim could be substantiated. Reading between the lines, it seems the complainant had the foresight not to buy the product to try it for themselves.
They didn't see fit to challenge the claim "Sold out 5 times", and the ASA didn't raise it either. A fairly blinkered approach if you ask me.
Don't 'contacts' us, we'll contacts you...
Fancy Drops Co did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.... which, ironically, meant the ASA saw red!
The ASA expressed concern over FancyDrops Co’s "lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code". The ASA "reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future".
Take a long, hard look at yourself
Incidentally, if you are ever tempted to ignore an approach by the ASA, you should know they will simply uphold the complaint against you on sight... ok, not quite that quickly. The ASA will consider whether the complaint has any merit first; but if it does, and it seems worth investigating, the ASA will be in touch. If you fail to respond, they will consider that a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay) in and of itself.
The ASA might occasionally send the notice to the wrong email address, or a general email address, in which case it might not be seen by anyone for a long time, but it's usually no good arguing you didn't see the initial notification, the ASA is fairly unsympathetic. Not a pun, just sound adv(eye)ce.
The ASA considered readers would interpret the Fancy Drops ad to mean that using the eye drops would have the effect of changing the user’s eye colour, including from dark to light - because that's what it said.
Fancy Drops Co did not provide any evidence to demonstrate that their product had that effect. A symptom of the fact they didn't respond at all. Therefore, the ASA concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
Eye, Eye, Capt'n
Twelve lashes! Ok, not quite. The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay) and rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), and the ASA ruled that it must not be seen again.
Don't make a spectacle of yourself
The ASA is laser focused on misleading claims in social media ads, and is using AI to spot (and then investigate) more and more ads that do not comply with the CAP Code.
Keep a watchful eye on the claims you make, in order to ensure they are compl-eye-ant. And remember that my colleagues and Eye will be happy to help review them for you.