UK advertising watchdog says Pfizer and Convits broke rules

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / RTimages
iStock / RTimages

Related tags Nutrition Skin Collagen

Complaints against Pfizer Consumer Healthcare Ltd and Convits Ltd were both upheld by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with the agency agreeing that both firms broke advertising regulations in their marketing campaigns.

In rulings released today (3rd​ Jan) the ASA said an advert for Pfizer’s ‘advanced beauty’ collagen shot Imedeen went beyond claims authorised for use in Europe in claiming to ‘build the foundation for beautiful skin from the inside’ and ‘help maintain your skin and to reach your deep dermal layer where creams cannot reach’. Meanwhile a complaint about the use of advertising through ‘social influencers’ on Instagram was upheld against Convits.

Pfizer: General of specific claim

In the case against Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, the ASA noted that the Imedeen advert did contain reference to that fact that the product contains vitamin C ‘which contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of skin’ – and that according to NHR regulations (EC Regulation 1924/2006) this is an approved claim.

However, the UK agency said wording of the advert went beyond the approved claim​: “We noted that the authorised claim was about normal function only and did not refer to a particular site of action. We considered that because the claim in the ad stated a particular site of action (the deep dermal layer of the skin), did not reference the substance for which the health claim was authorised (vitamin C) and did not fully reflect the reference in the authorised claim to the physiological process of collagen formation, it went beyond the authorised claim.”

Pfizer Consumer Healthcare had previously responded to the ASA stating that the advert had contained general health claims – as set out in guidance.

“They understood that a general health claim was a reference to a general non-specific benefit of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being. They said it was common practice for general claims to indicate a broadly beneficial effect on a specific aspect of health or the body, for example, "good for your skin" referred to by the Department of Health in their General Principles on Flexibility of Wording for Health Claims,” ​noted the ASA. “They believed that a non-specific phrase which only indicated where a product worked, as opposed to describing a specific ​health benefit, was considered a general health claim, akin to "good for [body part]".

The ASA disagreed that the claims were general, noting that the CAP Code stated that "References to general benefits of a nutrient or food for overall good health or health-related well-being are acceptable only if accompanied by a specific authorised health claim".

Therefore it considered that the claim "... reach your deep dermal layer where creams cannot reach ... Works where creams can't reach* ...",​ when viewed in the context of the other claims in the ad which stated "Build the foundation for beautiful skin from the inside"​ and "helps maintain your skin"​, therefore implied a specific physiological action on the body which would be beneficial to health – in particular by reaching and acting on an area that other products might not reach, said the ASA.

“As such, we disagreed with Pfizer that the claim was a general health claim; we considered it was a specific health claim,”​ it concluded.

Insta-row: Social influencer confusion?

A second ASA ruling upheld a complaint against Convits Ltd​ for the promotion of its vitamin range on Instagram using a social influencer.

It noted that an Instagram post on TV personality Stephanie Davis’ page promoted the vitamins. The text stated: “Just wanted to let you all know about @convitsuk - a great daily vitamin & mineral company I have just started using … Get your exclusive 50% off online today with code STEPH50”. [Love heart emoji]”.

A complainant challenged whether the ad was obviously identifiable as such.

“We noted that the post included the handle @convitsuk and also included an exclusive discount code which consumers could use. However, we considered that those elements did not indicate to users that the post was a marketing communication,”​ said the ASA.

“While we noted that Stephanie Davis had amended the post to include the identifier “#ad”, but because at the time of the complaint the post did not include an identifier such as “#ad”, we considered that it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and therefore concluded that it breached the Code,”​ it added. “We welcomed Convits’ assurance that future ads would be appropriately labelled.”

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