Spain to Ban Some Diet, Beauty TV Ads Before 10 P.M.

Government Hopes Move Will Help Halt Growth of Eating Disorders

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LONDON ( -- Marketers in Spain could be banned from advertising certain beauty products and services before 10 p.m., as the government attempts to stamp out the growing number of eating disorders and improve the mental health of young women fixated on their weight and appearance.

Corporacion Dermoestetica, a national chain of cosmetic surgery clinics, is the biggest advertiser in the about-to-be-banned category.
Corporacion Dermoestetica, a national chain of cosmetic surgery clinics, is the biggest advertiser in the about-to-be-banned category.
Ads for diet products, some beauty treatments and plastic surgery are now officially considered more dangerous for young people than commercials for alcohol, which can be advertised from 9 p.m.

The lower chamber of Spain's parliament has passed the law, and the upper chamber is expected to ratify it within weeks. It's unclear when the ban will go into effect.

The new law states: "Broadcasters cannot carry advertisements for things that encourage the cult of the body and have a negative impact on self-image -- such as slimming products, surgical procedures and beauty treatments -- which are based on ideas of social rejection as a result of one's physical image or that success is dependent on factors such as weight or looks."

"The ban is about product function rather than the content of the communication," said Alex Pallete, chief strategic officer at Lowe Group's Lola Madrid. "The goal is that no under-18s will be affected by mental issues like anorexia and bulimia. In Spain, people tend to go for non-surgical methods of slimming, like not eating or vomiting, but we have had a lot of immigration from Latin America, where plastic surgery is much more common, and their culture has influenced our culture."

Mr. Pallete said that in 2008, 7,000 ads were broadcast that now fall into the banned "body worship" categories. The beauty and hygiene segment is the third-biggest TV spender in Spain, accounting for $708 million in airtime in 2008.

While debating the 10 pm watershed for slimming products and plastic surgery, the government considered -- but eventually rejected -- a far more drastic ban that would have included all products advertised as "lite," potentially banning ads for a wide range of food and drinks like Coke Lite and light beer.

The biggest advertiser in the about-to-be-banned category is Corporacion Dermoestetica, a national chain of cosmetic surgery clinics. Mr. Pallete predicts that advertisers will follow the example of cigarettes and alcohol, maintaining their budgets but diverting the money to sponsorships, events and online. Or they may just advertise late at night.

Lola Madrid works for the government's youth institute, Injuve. Mr. Pallette said, "Teenagers are worrying more about their self-image, which can handicap their physical and moral development."

The 6-year-old Spanish government has been pro-active on many social issues, including that of skeletal fashion models. In 2007, the health ministry agreed with major fashion retailers, including Zara and Mango, that the mannequins in their stores would not have proportions smaller than a U.S. size 6. And in 2006, Madrid was the first city to ban ultra-thin models from its fashion week runways.

In another move, Spain's government this month outlawed advertising on public TV, following the lead set by France last year, as the two countries attempt to match the cultural quality and diversity of the BBC's output in the U.K.

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