ASA bans Vitabiotics ads over health claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a TV ad for Vitabiotics, the vitamin supplements brand, after complaints references to a professor emphasised its health claims.

Mark Foster: the world championship swimmer promotes Vitabiotics
Mark Foster: the world championship swimmer promotes Vitabiotics

The spot, which features Mark Foster, the world championship swimmer, and made by Five Creative, has been found in breach of advertising rules because it made a health claim that referred to the recommendation of a health professional.

At the end of the ad, a voiceover says, "They were developed with pioneering British scientist professor Arnold Beckett".

The ASA referred to guidance published by the Department of Health that said: "It would not be permissible to include a statement such as 'developed with professor xx’ in a food supplement advertisement bearing a health claim."

By referring to Beckett as a "pioneering British scientist" and, in the context of an ad for food supplements, the ASA said viewers would understand him to be a health professional with expertise in that field.

It also said that although the ad did not specifically refer to his pharmacy qualifications, Beckett had been a former president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

The adjudication said: "Although we acknowledged that individuals were unlikely to seek personal health care advice from a scientist, we considered that a recommendation from a scientist with an expertise in the relevant field was likely to influence consumers' purchasing decisions."

The ASA noted that on-screen text stated: "Prof. Beckett is cited as a product inventor and former Vitabiotics chairman, not as a health professional."

However, the code states that ads for foods must not include health claims that refer to the recommendation of an individual health professional.

"The ASA said the disclaimer was not sufficient "because the overall impression of the reference to Professor Beckett in the ad was of a recommendation by a health professional".

The ASA dismissed concerns that the ad implied there were proven benefits to vitamin supplements structured specifically for men and for women because the authorised health claim in the ad applied to both men and women.

In a separate ruling the ASA has also banned a Vitabiotics national press ad promoting a vitamin supplement for menopause for making an unauthorised health claim.

The ad included the headline "Menopause?" and said that the product was "formulated for during and after the menopause". It also referred to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) saying, "this is not HRT" and "it is ideal whether or not you are on HRT".

The ASA said people might understand the ad to mean the product was a possible alternative to HRT, or something that could be taken to enhance the effects of HRT.

The adjudication said: "We considered that the overall impression of the ad was that the product regulated hormonal activity for menopausal women and could improve any associated negative symptoms that they were experiencing, and therefore considered that the ad made an implied health claim."

As that health claim was not authorised on the European Union register, the ad was banned.

The ASA also warned Vitabiotics to ensure its ads did not include stated or implied unauthorised health claims in future.

A complaint that said the press ad’s claims that it was the UK’s number one menopause formula and was voted number one supplement for the menopause in the Boots 2012 Awards was misleading, were dismissed after being substantiated.

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