Pfizer says ASA ruling won’t affect wider supplement marketing

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Pfizer says ASA ruling won’t affect wider supplement marketing
Pfizer Consumer Healthcare says the marketing slap it received this week from the UK advertising watchdog for its Centrum multivitamins range, won’t provoke a mass revision across its food supplements range.

“The ASA ruling does not have any wider implications on the marketing of other Centrum multivitamins or other Pfizer products,” ​the drug and supplements giant told us today.

The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) this week ruled against a Centrum multivitamin TV campaign because the agency found that it implied that, “a balanced and varied diet could not provide appropriate quantities of nutrients”​.

The campaign made claims like, “He'd like immunity support, so would she. But while he needs more B vitamins, she needs more iron and folic acid.”

Pfizer said the advertisement sought to highlight potential health benefits of its customised blends for men and women, rather than make any comparison between the merits of supplementation and whole food diets.

“Our intention behind the TV ad was to communicate some of the different nutritional needs of men and women and why the products had therefore been tailored to be gender-specific.”

“It was not designed to directly or indirectly imply that dietary supplements are necessary or that a healthy diet could not provide appropriate quantities of vitamins and minerals.”

“We are disappointed that the ASA has upheld a complaint made against Centrum Men and Centrum Women multivitamins.”

No other changes

Pfizer has complied with the ASA ruling and removed the ads but said it would not be changing other marketing materials for other products.

“There are no requirements for amendments to other marketing material currently supporting Centrum,” ​the company said.

centrum multivitamins (1)

“Pfizer Consumer Healthcare takes compliance very seriously and has extensive approval procedures in place for all external materials, to ensure we are meeting relevant code and regulatory requirements.”

In the current case, the campaign was Ok’d by broadcast reviewer Clearcast, but the ASA disagreed.

“Tough approach”

But UK-based food lawyer, Owen Warnock, partner at Eversheds, said the ruling indicated an increasingly hard line being taken by the ASA over food and supplement-oriented claim making under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

“The ASA is taking a tough approach to applying the NHCR to advertisements – where there is room for argument about the message conveyed by words or images they are tending to rule against the advertiser.”

“It does seem that a small tweak would have saved this advert: ‘Wants’ rather than ‘needs’.”

He said the ASA is also taking into account how images can alter or embellish the meaning of words in advertisements.

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