The voluntary watchdog responded to several complaints that the interactive online tool would not deliver the promised objective heart health advice, but the ASA found these concerns to be unwarranted, and advised no censorship of the ads.
ASA said its Clearcast advisory agency had contacted Unilever’s nutrition consultant, as well as an independent medical consultant, and both stated the advice given on the www.Floraheartage.com website was likely to be unbiased.
ASA said Clearcast’s consultant, along with its own people had “played around” with the website and determined it did not give falsely elevated heart ages designed to provoke people into buying pro.activ products.
“Because the tool was developed by experienced, medically trained professionals and used well-known CVD risk factors to assess heart age, and because we considered users would understand that the results provided a general indication of the users heart health, we concluded that the claim "its a good measure of how healthy your heart is" was not misleading,” the ASA stated.
It said that just because the tool appeared on a heavily branded website, it didn’t necessarily follow that all information presented on that site would be biased in some way.
“Because we were satisfied that the Heart Age Tool based its results on relevant CVD risk factors, and did not always produce enhanced ages, as alleged by the viewers who complained, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.”
The ad featured a UK TV presenter stating:
"And now for the good news. Enjoying Flora pro.activ every day could significantly lower your cholesterol and in turn that could lower your heart age. As for your real age, just make it up. Flora pro.activ actively combats cholesterol.”
Viewers were directed to Unilever’s Heart Age Tool website where they were requested to input factors such as age, cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking.
Unilever said the Heart Age Tool had been developed with Boston University Statistics and Consulting Unit, was based on generally accepted scientific research, and did not need to be operated by medically trained professionals to function properly and effectively.
Clearcast’s consultant confirmed this as well as the fact pro.activ products could benefit heart health.