Article by Zara McDonald /
July 01, 2017 /
Click here to view original /
As your fingers scroll down the screen, she catches your eye.
Her head is down, her eyes cast to the side, a black eye covering a good portion of her face. If you look a little closer, you notice it’s not just anyone’s eye, and it’s not just anyone’s face.
It’s Kate Middleton.
The text below the advertisement reads: Kate Finally Reveals What Caused The Dispute.
Kate, black eye, the mention of a dispute. Your mind moves. Domestic violence, perhaps?
You click through the ad, and you stumble upon an article, or so it purports to be.
“Princess Kate Middleton Will Spend Time Away From the Royal Family To Campaign For Breakthrough Skincare Line!” says the headline, with the article sitting on a website that looks a lot like PEOPLE Magazine, though it’s not. There are no mentions of black eyes or disputes and the implication of domestic violence? All but forgotten.
You’ve been sucked in by the premise of domestic violence and the promise of celebrity news, a fake article of fake news, a fake celebrity endorsement to boot.
This is the pop-up ad brandished across many a major news sites at the moment. A clearly photoshopped Kate Middleton with a black eye finding itself beside countless webpages, a jarring but fake image of abuse.
The premise of the ad may be bogus, but the skin care line called Junivive is certainly real. A skincare line with online advertising space and the ability to reach an international audience, using domestic violence and manipulating a famous face for a buck.
Interestingly, it’s certainly also not the first time a skincare scam has used a celebrity without their consent to sell a product, but perhaps the first time one has fished for punters using a story of abuse.
In April this year, Priscilla Chan, pediatrician and wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was forced to publicly acknowledge an ad – that took much the same form – was both “misleading” and “false” after it claimed she had formulated her own “natural, holistic” skin care line. American comedian Joy Behar was the victim of a similar scam, where her face and a false testimonial were used for a brand and product she had no knowledge of. Behar is leaving American TV show, The View, the ‘article’ said, to spend full time working on her “wildly popular anti-aging skin care line” called JuvaLux that is “highly potent and effective.”
Of course, there are two layers to this. The first being the use of famous faces for financial gain, and the second being the depiction of domestic violence to pull an audience in. For Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, both layers need to be acknowledged and condemned.
“There should be no place for references or allusions to domestic violence as part of any marketing strategy,” she tells Mamamia.
“In Australia, complaints about the use of violence in advertising regularly end up being upheld by the Advertising Standards Board. Pop-up, fake-news style ads however, are almost impossible to do anything about given that it is notoriously difficult to unravel who has put the ad up and, more importantly, to determine who can do anything about it.”
Mamamia, too, tried to get in contact with Junivive – the brand who ran the ad in question. After multiple attempts, getting in touch seemed almost impossible to do. It is unclear where the skincare line is based, who owns it and where the ad actually came from.
In fact, the nature of the article in the ad – one that said The Duchess took “leave of absence” after “Queen Elizabeth insisted that Princess Kate do something about her wrinkles” – would be laughable, if it wasn’t for the fact an altered image of abuse is brandished across thousands of webpages.
What’s important to note, Dr Rosewarne says, is that advertising in pretty much every country in the world is self-regulated, meaning there’s no real punishment for bad advertising other than a request to withdraw the offending material.
So although the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) tells Mamamia they take ads depicting violence “very seriously”, they’re in a tough spot, particularly when considering the Kate Middleton ad.
A spokesperson for the ASB said the organisation does not look into “misleading and deceptive advertising”, nor do they look into cases of faces used as advertising without consent.
Citing our national advertising Code of Ethics, the ASB said they do not tolerate ads that “portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product”. So, sure, the advertisement is violent but it’s also misleading. And until people make an actual complaint, there’s not much they can do about it. In fact, the ASB think this one falls more cleanly in the court of the ACCC, for they are the ones who investigate misleading advertising in Australia.
When asked by Mamamia whether this ad – a fake ad depicting a fake story of abuse – falls in the category of illegal, the ACCC were hesitant to comment on specific examples. They did, however, give a more generalised idea of what’s illegal in advertising. Namely, it “is illegal for a business to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression”.
Interestingly, here we have an ad that clearly breaches what’s appropriate when it comes to depicting violence in advertising, and could also be considered illegal in it’s misleading nature.
And yet, all things considered, there’s not much anyone can do. As Dr Rosewarne says, pop-up ads are a different ballgame; the origin of the ad too difficult to get a handle on.
In simple terms, until we complain about things, ads can do – and be – as they please.
For an organisation like White Ribbon, a depiction of violence for commercial gain is one that worries them greatly.
“Sensationalising domestic violence and men’s violence against women for commercial reasons is inexcusable and unacceptable. It continues to normalise behaviours that result in ongoing violence,” the organisation’s CEO Libby Davies tells Mamamia.
The confronting image of violence aside, and the grotesque way Kate Middleton’s bruised face is, apparently, incentive for us to click, the idea that famous faces can be taken and attached to anything without their consent is frightening.
Just ask celebrity chef Julie Goodwin, who, in 2016, stumbled upon an ad with her face right alongside it, endorsing a weight loss pill she didn’t even know existed.
“I have nothing to do with it, it’s lies and propaganda and the very last thing I would ever endorse. Please don’t give it the time of day. It’s libel,” Goodwin wrote on Facebook at the time.
“I have never, would never and will never endorse a weight-loss supplement … I am devastated to have my name and image put against this type of product,” she later told Daily Telegraph.
Which is exactly the point. These skincare companies work in an especially underground culture, their websites are sparse, their presence confined to the odd pop-ad on your screen and their currency in what would appear to be scams. There’s no way to determine whether the product they’re using the face of a celebrity to spruik is healthy, let alone legitimate. And so you would think, of course, that this would land them in a legal minefield.
When it comes to course of action, an Australian celebrity essentially has two options. They can sue under something called passing off, or another called misleading and deceptive conduct. All it means is that a celebrity can sue on the grounds their reputation has been taken and attached to something they don’t approve of. It’s harder in Australia, than, say, the US, because a celebrity has to prove a company was using their name to endorse a product. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to argue that their face was used next to – or in association with – a product.
Naturally, someone like Kate Middleton probably isn’t going to sue for something like this, but for Australian celebrities, it’s perhaps a little warming to know there are things that can be done.
And for us? While it’s been determined there’s not a tangible course of action to remove ads like these from our screens, Dr Rosewarne doesn’t despair.
“In Australia, people can complain to the Advertising Standards Board but it’s almost guaranteed that a complaint about these types of ads won’t go anywhere. The best use of our resources is to educate ourselves on how to recognise fake news,” she says.
“Generally these ads take the form of very-real looking fake news sites. The easiest way to check the legitimacy is to look at the URL. Invariably the web address is actually quite different to the address of the real news site: oftentimes, these URLS are very long, frequently have ‘.net’ instead of ‘.com’ and instead of just ‘People.com’.”
And so, there we go. Being literate in fake news – or in this case, fake ads – is important. The more we complain, the less they appear. And that might be the best result of all.