ASA Adjudication on Anatom Ltd
The Old Barn
2 September 2009
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A magazine ad, for insoles, showed an image of a misaligned human skeleton next to a “+”, then an image of an insole next to an “=” and finally an image of a properly aligned skeleton. Text stated “Promotes Ideal Skeletal Alignment Increases Comfort and Performance Improves Fit and Durability Decreases Muscle Fatigue and Foot Pain Increases Stride Length THE BENEFITS ARE CLEAR AS REPORTED BY SUPERFEET USERS”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the illustrations alongside the claim "Promotes Ideal Skeletal Alignment" misleadingly implied the product could treat serious misalignment of joints;
2. the ad was irresponsible, because it might discourage consumers from seeking suitably qualified medical advice for skeletal alignment problems or abnormalities;
3. the claim "Improves Fit and Durability" could be substantiated;
4. the claim "Decreases Muscle Fatigue and Foot Pain" could be substantiated;
5. the claim "Increases Stride Length" could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. Anatom argued that the ad neither stated nor implied that the insoles could treat a serious misalignment of joints and gave no indication of the level of severity of misalignment.
2. They said the ad did not refer to skeletal problems or abnormalities and thought it unlikely that readers would infer from the ad that the insoles could be a replacement for appropriate medical advice. Anatom also said the ad only referred to general ailments and not serious medical conditions and was therefore acceptable for health and beauty claims.
3., 4. & 5. Anatom sent a number of articles concerning orthotics and their benefits they could confer. They also provided us with a statement from their Director of Education and Training which said that, in his experience, orthotics promoted skeletal alignment, a decrease in muscle fatigue and foot pain, increase in stride length, and were capable of improving the fit and durability of footwear. Anatom also sent their own study titled 'The effect of vacuum moulded orthotics on lower extremity overuse injuries' in support of the claims.
The ASA noted that the ad made no explicit reference to serious skeletal misalignment. However, we noted the before and after images in the ad showed a pronounced difference in the alignment of the shoulder, spine, knee and foot and showed a significant shift in the alignment of the spine between the images. We considered that readers were likely to infer from the images that the insoles were capable of correcting serious misalignment of the joints. We noted the evidence supplied by Anatom referred to the use of orthotics as treatment for injury or pain and understood that orthotics which had a medical function were required to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a medical device. We considered that Anatom had not substantiated the implication in the ad that the orthotics could treat misalignment of joints and were further concerned that such claims were not permitted for an unregistered device.
We considered that skeletal realignments and references to pain could be indicative of serious conditions such as scoliosis and spinal curvature disorders for which the reader should seek medical advice. We therefore concluded that the images and the claim "Promotes Ideal Skeletal Alignment" could discourage readers from seeking essential medical treatment for serious ailments.
On these points the ad breached CAP Code Clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) 50.1, 50.2, 50.3, 50.11 (Medicines) and 50.27 (Health and beauty therapies).
We considered that most readers were likely to understand that the claim "Improves Fit" was the subjective opinion of the advertiser about the benefit that wearing orthotics can have on shoe comfort. However, we considered the claim that they could improve the durability of footwear was capable of objective substantiation and, because we had not seen any evidence to support that claim we concluded it was likely to mislead.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code Clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).
4. & 5. Upheld
We noted that the study Anatom sent was based on a small sample of athletes with injuries caused by overuse and an inappropriate training programme which we considered was not likely to be representative of the target audience for the ad. Whilst we noted 57% of respondents reported an improvement in the level of pain and athletic ability, we considered that the study was conducted on a very small number of people with specific lower extremity problems, which we considered was an inadequate basis on which to make the advertised claims. Because we had not seen robust evidence to show that the insoles could increase stride length, reduce pain and muscle fatigue among those who were not involved in athletics, we concluded the ad was likely to mislead.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code Clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products).
The ad should not appear again in its current form. We told Anatom to ensure that ads did not imply the product could correct serious misalignments or alleviate pain and muscle fatigue.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)