12 Jun, 2021 04:07 AM4 minutes to read
Simone Anderson and husband Trent Forsyth. Photograph / Norrie Montgomery
Complaints over social media posts influencer Simone Anderson made about collecting her baby's umbilical cord blood have been dismissed by the Advertising Standards Authority.
But the decision reveals the nature of the complaints, with Anderson accused of deleting comments by medical professionals who questioned the practice and blocking others.
Anderson, who is in her third trimester, worked with New Zealand company CordBank, which stores stem cells from babies' umbilical cord blood in case they need them to treat a medical condition later in life. But medical experts debate the benefits.
The process costs $2900 upfront and $225 a year for storage. The company has been going since 2002 but recently started using influencers.
The ASA received five complaints. One pointed to the fact Anderson's posts - which were on Instagram and Facebook - said "you have one chance to do this".
"I believe she is preying on a vulnerable audience being pregnant women and parents who may not be able to afford this service and she is implying there is no other option to save your child's life. New Zealand is part of the stem cell and international bone marrow network and if your child was sick your oncologist would use this network for donor products."
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The complainant said that in the comments section of the post, Anderson claimed the procedure could be done with delayed cord clamping - when the umbilical cord stays attached so blood can flow back to the baby.
"Many registered midwives have commented to say this is not possible - Simone deleted these comments after 48 hours. When I contacted Simone with my concerns she blocked me."
Another complainant said: "The advertising is one-sided and comments providing information that cord blood banking is harmful to newborn babies are being deleted by Simone. I believe this to be misleading, deceiving and abuses the trust of consumers and exploits the lack of knowledge of the public."
In her response to the ASA, Anderson said she and husband Trent Forsyth had planned to bank their baby's cord blood before meeting the company and had worked with them to create accurate content.
Anderson has been referred to the ASA a number of times over other posts.
"Given that CordBank has been conveying similar messages to mine for over 19 years across various media platforms including social media it would be reasonable to assume I am continuing to be targeted by individuals who incite their followers to report my social media content to the ASA.
"As I've mentioned before to the ASA, as result of this targeting I am hyper-vigilant of only accepting campaign work with messaging which has been fully sanctioned by my agents; any advertising or PR agencies involved, and the client's advisors. I am aware that everything I post is under scrutiny and go out of my way to ensure my content complies with regulations."
She said her Instagram and Facebook posts display comments from people for and against the practice.
"Any comments I limited were due to personal attacks on me as a person."
CordBank said it was licenced by the Ministry of Health, audited by Medsafe and it was confident all claims made could be substantiated by scientific evidence.
They pointed out that people could not sign up for the process through Instagram. Prospective clients completed an extensive informed consent process and their lead maternity carer completed training on how to collect the blood.
Most of the ASA board said the posts met the standard of social responsibility and did not portray unrealistic outcomes or prey on vulnerable audiences.
A minority said the text pressured new parents and over promised "about what is currently achievable through this service".
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