Brief description of the plunge:
Pinterest bans weight-loss ads: Pinterest has announced a new policy that bans all ads containing language or images related to weight loss as part of its efforts to create a more inclusive platform for users. The company says it is the first platform to adopt such a policy.
The updated rules, developed with input from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), prohibit a wide range of weight-loss messages, including personal reviews, references to body mass index or similar metrics, products that claim to promote weight loss when worn on the body or on the skin, and ads that belittle or idealize certain body types.
The move is in response to a surge in unhealthy eating habits and eating disorders among young consumers identified by NEDA, as well as an increase in wellness-related searches reported by Pinterest. These trends have intensified with the coronavirus pandemic, and consumers may feel additional pressure to lose weight when personal appointments resume after COVID-19 restrictions are eased.
Pinterest is banning ads about weight loss as part of its broader effort to create a platform that serves as an inclusive and safe environment for users. The company has a long history of trying to distinguish itself from other social networks by emphasizing positivity and discovery. It has previously taken a stance against bodybuilding and banned ads promoting appetite suppressants, diet pills and liposuction-like procedures.
The weight loss and diet category is notoriously rife with scammers – the Federal Trade Commission even has a special page to identify “red flags” – so the Pinterest decision could serve to shrink the advertiser base. Multi-level marketing distributors and other dubious entities have used the pandemic as a means to expand their online presence and business, according to the Time report.
But the diet and exercise category, including more legitimate players, is likely to ramp up spending in the coming months as consumers look for ways to burn off “Covid 15,” a cheeky term for weight gained during quarantine. The NEDA study also indicates that serious eating disorders have become more prevalent in recent months as a result of the recession, which could place a greater burden on platforms to protect users’ health.
“We hope this global policy will encourage other organizations and companies to think about potentially harmful advertising messages and develop their own working policies that will make a meaningful difference,” Elizabeth Thompson, NEDA’s interim executive director, said in a press statement.
Pinterest is positioning the new policy as a response to changing user habits. According to Pinterest, the number of requests for “body neutrality” – a movement promoting acceptance of one’s body as it is – has increased fivefold since last year, and the number of requests for “healthy mindset quotes” has jumped thirteenfold.
Pinterest, whose revenue has increased as people are spending more time at home because of COVID-19 restrictions, has introduced similar initiatives to combat what it sees as growing online toxicity. In April, the company released a “Maker’s Code” that urges influencers to practice inclusivity, be aware of triggers and not talk down on others, among other recommendations. Last year, the company faced its own inclusivity controversy after former employees made allegations of racism in the workplace and unfair pay.
Advertisers themselves are increasingly struggling with a history of supporting constrictive ideals of beauty and health. Earlier this year, Unilever, the packaged goods giant behind brands like Dove and Axe, banned the use of the word “normal” in the advertising and packaging of its cosmetics and personal care brands.