Tetley folk square up to PG Tips' Monkey but lose in ASA ruling

PG Tips has been taken to task by Tetley through the Advertising Standards Authority over an ad that boasts the "brewing efficiency" of its pyramid teabags are superior to that of round teabags, which its rival felt denigrated its own brand.

The ad drew just a single complaint, from Tata Global Beverages, the owner of PG Tips’ rival Tetley.

The TV ad, created by agency Mother London, featured PG Tips puppet brand character Monkey in the kitchen with comedian Johnny Vegas.

"Monkey, you know how you always say there's no other tea to beat PG," Vegas asks. "What if you're lying?"

Monkey makes two cups of tea, one using a PG Tips pyramid bag and the other using a round bag – the latter a shape used by Tetley, albeit also common among other tea brands.

Vegas says: "PG Tips uses pyramid bags, so if we test one against a regular tea bag, you'll see the tea has got more room to move, freeing the great fresh taste for a perfect cuppa."

Tata complained on three counts: that the visual demonstration was misleading and exaggerated the qualities of the advertised product; that the claim "the tea has more room to move, freeing the great, fresh taste" was misleading and could not be substantiated that a specific shape produced a better cup of tea; and that the comparison of the pyramid bag to a round bag denigrated Tata’s Tetley brand because it was an identifiable competitor and the ad portrayed the brand in a negative light.

PG Tips parent Unilever countered with research that compared three different-shaped teabags and concluded that the pyramid-shaped bag performed best at infusing hot water.

The company added that the ad was not making a direct comparison with Tetley, arguing that no other tea brand was shown or mentioned and that the ad did not refer to superiority of taste, rather that because the pyramid bag gave the tea leaves more room to move around it was easier and faster to infuse the boiling water with the tea during the brewing process.

Unilever also pointed out that the round-shaped "regular" bag dominated the tea market, that 30.8% of regular teabags sold in the UK were round and that although Tetley commanded 50% share of the round teabag market, the shape was not identifiable as Tetley.

Clearcast backed Unilever’s points, and while the ASA noted that Tata provided its own research claiming that there was no difference between the brewing efficiency of a pyramid teabag and round teabag, it believed that consumers would not interpret the claims of the PG Tips as the results of a rigorous scientific test.

The watchdog did not consider the ad misleading, nor did it consider that consumers would immediately identify a round teabag as a Tetley product, and therefore the ad did not denigrate Tata’s tea brand.

The complaints were not upheld and no further action was deemed necessary.

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