The first ad, for Asda’s Little Angels Comfort Dry nappies, included the claim "As absorbent as the leading brand". Pampers is not only the leading brand but, since Huggies withdrew from the market in 2012, the only major brand, accounting for 97.6% of branded sales (Nielsen, year to October 2015).
The second ad was for premium range Little Angels Supreme Protection and included the claim "Our … most absorbent nappy ever".
Pampers owner P&G UK challenged whether the two claims were misleading and could be substantiated. The ASA also chose to investigate whether the first ad breached the Code, because it did not contain a mechanism whereby visitors to the website could verify the comparison.
Responding to the complaint, Asda produced the results of extensive testing that it said proved both that the Comfort Dry nappies were at least as absorbent as Pampers’ best seller, Baby Dry, and that the Supreme Protection nappies were more absorbent than any of its other ranges of nappies.
It said that the claim "as absorbent" meant that its nappies were able to soak up and retain as much liquid as Pampers Baby Dry, a claim based on the results of Centrifuge Retention Capacity (CRC) testing.
In a CRC test, a dry nappy is weighed, soaked in a saline solution and then weighed again to calculate the amount of liquid absorbed by the nappy as a whole. It is then spun in a centrifuge and weighed again to calculate the amount of liquid retained by the nappy.
But the watchdog said that most people would understand the claim to refer to the nappy’s ability to absorb liquid in normal use, in which it might be wetted and dried more than once.
It also raised concerns about the chronology of the tests cited, which were carried out over a series of months – with the tests on the most popular size, Maxi, especially spread out. For both of the reasons the watchdog ruled that the claim could not be substantiated, and the ad should not be used again in the form complained about.
The ASA upheld the complaint about the second ad for similar reasons. On the third issue, which it raised itself, it ruled that the first ad breached the Code because it did not allow consumers or competitors to verify the comparison "As absorbent as the leading brand".