Coke vitamin drink ads canned by ad watchdog

LONDON - Three poster ads and a leaflet extolling the nutritional benefits of the Vitaminwater range have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

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The ads attracted three complaints from people who felt various health benefits were misleadingly attributed to the range and implied that the drinks could be substituted for one of your five-a-day vegetables.

Complainants further challenged the ad’s claim that the drinks were healthy, as they believed the range contained high levels of sugar.

Coca-Cola, the advertiser, said the Vitaminwater brand used humour in its advertising and the packaging reflected this, linking fictional stories to ingredients in the drinks.

The phrase "more muscles than brussels" used in one poster was intended to be a reference to the "muscles from Brussels" actor Jean Claude Van Damme rather than brussel sprouts.

The word brussels was not capitalised, in keeping with the brand’s house style.

The ad watchdog considered this made the claim ambiguous, particularly with the added claim "Popeye had it easy", and felt consumers may believe it to be a comparison between the nutritional benefit of the brand’s Power-C drink and brussel sprouts.

The advertiser said a further claim, "Keep perky when you’re feeling murky", related to mood as opposed to illness.

However, the ASA felt that because it was used in conjunction with references to the doctors waiting room and pull a sickie consumers would interpret it as meaning the drinks could increase resistance to illness.

On both these points the watchdog found the ads to be in breach of the CAP Code.

Coca-Cola said its products were clearly labelled and detailed the sugar content in the drinks.

It did not believe the Vitaminwater range contained high sugar because a 500ml serving contained less than 7.5g per 100ml.

However, the ASA noted from the figures supplied to it that the drinks contained 4.6g sugar per 100ml, which amounted to 26 per cent of the recommended daily allowance.

The regulator ascertained that the advertiser’s claim that the product was a low-calorie drink was misleading because the drinks contained a significant proportion of a consumers RDA for sugar.

The ads must not be shown again in their current form.