The company was making a number of marketing claims in regard to its eye-q supplements, most of which the voluntary body, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) took offence to, and ordered Equazen to amend its ads.
These included the fact the advert said eye-q could improve general school performance among children, whereas the studies referenced were more specific, making reference to specific groups of children with Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) and Child Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In addition, the ad’s "PAY ATTENTION!" headline, which in association with the text “Independently tested” implied the supplement could be a cure for ADHD when this was not the case.
In addition, it could discourage medical treatment for what is a serious medical condition.
In February, Equazen was told to remove claims that the same brand of supplements "... may help maintain concentration levels and healthy brain development", "the Clever Capsule”, "scientifically tested in schools", "proven in schools" and "proven by science" from its advertising.
However, the ASA rejected a complaint that the trials referred to in the advertising had not been independent, noting "they (Equazen) had not initiated the tests or supplied financial backing in any other context".
The trial referenced was the 2005 Durham Trial which gave Equazen supplements to school children in the north east of England and found it had behavioural and learning benefits.
In another ASA ruling, a UK dairy company, Dairy Crest, was told to cease linking its omega-3 fortified milk to the study, fundamentally because the omega-3 dosages gained from the omega-3 supplements were much greater than that from milk and so the milk was told to stop the link.
Equazen noted its adverts had been approved by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), an industry body, and said it did not claim the ad said all school children could benefit from the claim. The ad referenced those groups that had featured in the trial, it said, to avoid confusion that it referred to the general population.
Equazen said the use of the words, “PAY ATTENTION” was designed to attract attention or readers. It noted the inclusion of a telephone number to answer customer queries about how the product might work.
Equazen agreed its supplements should not be used to treat ADHD.THE ASA had some sympathy for Equazen’s position. “We understood that the text had been included in order to clarify to consumers that the studies undertaken had not involved a general population of children and to specify, therefore, that the claims made in relation to eye-q were not targeted at children generally,” it wrote in its verdict.But inadvertently, via the “PAY ATTENTION” headline and the arrangement and selection of other text, the company had done just that.
“Although we appreciated that it was not the message Equazen had intended to convey, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead about the likely benefit children in general could achieve from the intake of eye-q capsules or chews.”