ASA Adjudication on Express Newspapers
Northern and Shell Building
10 Lower Thames Street
12-16 Addiscombe Road
12 August 2009
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
The Monitoring team identified that the Daily Express was routinely publishing what appeared to be full-page features for various products. The top half of the pages was presented as an article containing information about a product, including efficacy claims for that product. The articles were written by Alison Coleman and they appeared under the heading “express lifestyle - to advertise in this section call 0871 xxx xxxx or e-mail”. The bottom half of the pages featured an ad that contained information on where that same product could be bought.
The Daily Express featured two almost identical pages on the product, LIPObind, in a six-week period. The top half of those pages was presented as an article and the bottom half was presented as an ad.
The top half explained how Katy Hill had used LIPObind to lose weight. One of the pages had a photograph of Katy with the caption “SLIM PICKINGS: Katy Hill has lost four stones [sic] since giving birth” and the other had a woman crouched on bathroom scales with the caption “LIGHT WORK: You can reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs”. It explained that LIPObind cost £24.95 for 60 tablets and was available at various outlets. It gave a website and telephone number for more information.
The bottom half outlined where LIPObind could be bought and gave the same telephone number as well as an order form.
Monitoring staff challenged whether:
1. the top half of the pages was controlled by Goldshield rather than the publisher and if so, why this had not been made clear, for example, by inclusion of the term advertorial;
2. evidence substantiated the claims that LIPObind was effective at binding fat and causing weight loss.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. The Daily Express explained that Alison Coleman had followed the usual journalistic practice of speaking to the advertisers of LIPObind (Goldshield) as part of her research. She sent them the finished text to check for factual inaccuracies. The Daily Express added that the journalist had not been paid by Goldshield and the advertiser had no right to change the content of the text. The Daily Express explained that Goldshield had then contacted the Daily Express advertising department and let them know when they expected an article to appear. The Daily Express had then sold them ad space adjacent to the text.
Goldshield admitted that the ads were intentionally sited adjacent to the text but denied any involvement beyond supplying product information to Alison Coleman for the article she was proposing to write and ensuring that it was factually correct. Goldshield stated that the CAP Copy Advice team had approved the bottom half of the page and it believed it was fully compliant with the Code.
The ASA noted that the articles were always and uniquely favourable to the product featured in the accompanying ad and contained claims that have been or would be likely to be prohibited in advertisements. We noted that the same or substantially similar articles had appeared on different dates; we considered that whilst it was normal for advertising copy to be repeated on different dates, it was unusual for genuine editorial pieces to appear in the same or similar form in the same publication on different dates. We noted that the articles gave the companys website address and telephone number for more information about the product featured in the ad. Although we accepted that, at first sight, the articles appeared distinct from the ads that featured below it, we considered the information presented in the articles complemented and added to the information provided in the ads. We considered that the average reader would have understood the entire page to be a feature on the product, no matter the distinct styles of the top and bottom of the pages. We considered that by using that approach, the publisher and advertiser were intentionally attempting to circumvent the Code by asserting the top of the pages were not advertising. We concluded that the routine publication of these pages and the nature of the articles strongly suggested a commercial arrangement existed between the newspaper and the advertiser and that the advertiser exerted a sufficient degree of control over the content of the articles to warrant the term "Advertisement feature" or the like being placed above the articles.
On this point, the top half of the pages breached CAP Code clauses 23.1 and 23.2 (Advertisement features).
We noted that an ASA adjudication in May 2008 concluded that evidence presented by the advertiser did not demonstrate that LIPObind helped weight loss or that it could "bind to fat". We noted that the top half of the pages referred to LIPObinds effectiveness at binding fat and causing weight loss. Because we had not seen new evidence to demonstrate that this was the case we considered that the top half of the pages were misleading.
On this point, the articles breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies).
We told the Daily Express and Goldshield to ensure that their advertorials were identified as advertisement features in future. We told Goldshield to remove the claims and advised them to seek CAP Copy Advice before advertising again.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)