ASA Adjudication on Express Newspapers
Northern and Shell Building
10 Lower Thames Street
Orthotics Online Ltd
12 New Cavendish Street
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 almost identical pages on the product, Copper Heeler, four times in ten weeks. 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 Christopher Biggins had bought Copper Heelers for his mother and how using them had stopped the pain of her arthritis. It included a large photograph of Christopher Biggins with a caption “Christopher Biggins: Helps his mother with Copper Heelers”. The telephone number of Orthotics Online, the makers of the product, and the Copper Heeler’s website address were given for more information.
The bottom half included testimonials entitled “THE PROFESSIONALS’ OPINION” Chiropodist - “Unbelievable results from trials carried out on my patients”, Rheumatology Researcher - “I have worn a copper bracelet for years, but now find the Copper Heelers far more effective and discreet”, Dr K.J. Henderson Osteopath - “My patients have been overjoyed with the results, noticing a vast improvement in their joint pain” Mrs E. J. Cheshire - “It’s pure magic! I’m very grateful for the Copper Heelers which quickly cleared up my old age aching joints” and Mr and Mrs D S - “Having suffered with painful knees we found relief after only a few days.” It included a skeleton with red lightning bolts over the joints and a caption “works all over the body” and it featured the same but a smaller version of Christopher Biggins’ photograph with the caption “Christopher Biggins recommends”. It also stated “The Copper MIRACLE Insole”, “The amazing Copper Heeler dramatically eases discomfort” and listed statements with ticks besides each one: Drug free, Look after those joints, Can copper stop your pain?” Orthotics Online’s telephone number was listed as a hotline order number and an order form was made available on the lower part of every page.
Monitoring staff challenged whether:
1. the top half of the pages was controlled by Orthotics Online Ltd 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 the Copper Heeler would stop arthritis and joint pain.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. The Daily Express explained that Alison Coleman had followed the usual journalistic practice of speaking to Orthotics Online 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 the Orthotics Online and the advertiser had no right to change the content of the text.
Orthotics Online, the advertiser for TheOriginalCopperHeeler, did not comment.
2. Orthotics Online stated it was doing a clinical trial in Wolverhampton to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Copper Heelers. Unfortunately the rheumatologist who was conducting the trial had had a car crash so it had had to find someone else. That had delayed the trial. However, it was reviewing the trial protocols and hoped to start it soon.
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 the Compliance team had, in January 2008, alerted the Daily Express to compliance problems with Orthotics Online. The team had asked the Daily Express to seek CAP Copy Advice before taking ads for the Copper Heeler. Despite that advice, we noted that the top half of the pages explained how the Copper Heelers had taken away Christopher Biggins mothers pain caused by arthritis. We considered that that testimonial as well as testimonials in the bottom half of the pages made efficacy claims for the product, as did the image of the skeleton with red lightning bolts over the joints and the claims "works all over the body", "The amazing Copper Heeler dramatically eases discomfort", "Drug free", "Look after those joints", and "Can copper stop your pain?". Because we had seen no evidence to substantiate the claims we considered the pages were misleading.
On this point, the pages breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness), 50.1 and 50.3 (Health & beauty products and therapies).
We told the Daily Express and Orthotics Online Ltd to ensure that their advertorials were identified as advertisement features in future. We told Orthotics Online Ltd to remove the claims and advised them to seek CAP Copy Advice before advertising again.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)