ASA Adjudication on Colgate-Palmolive (UK) Ltd
Colgate-Palmolive (UK) Ltd t/a
Guildford Business Park
20 June 2012
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A TV and VOD ad, for Colgate toothpaste, showed a nurse at work who stated "As a nurse I keep people healthy by fighting bacteria" while on-screen text stated "Representation of nurse". She was then shown visiting her dentist and continued "So I was shocked when my dentist showed me all the bacteria in my mouth, the cause of most dental problems. He recommended I switch to Colgate Total, and wow! The bacteria was [sic] practically gone." On-screen text stated "Creative representation. A male voice-over stated "No other toothpaste provides superior anti-bacterial protection and protects your mouth from these eight dental problems. On-screen text stated "CAVITIES, BAD BREATH, GUM PROBLEMS, STAINING, PLAQUE, SENSITIVE TEETH, TARTAR, ENAMEL EROSION". The nurse then said "Unbeatable protection. Which is good because smiling is an important part of my job." The male voice-over ended by stating "Unbeatable protection for a healthy mouth. Colgate Total. The number 1 toothpaste brand used by dentists." On-screen text stated "Gfk Survey, 300 Dentists 2010-2011".
Seven complainants challenged whether, by featuring a nurse at work and a reference to fighting bacteria, the ads misleadingly implied the product was endorsed by members of the nursing profession.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Colgate-Palmolive (UK) Ltd (Colgate) said the ad featured an individual actress who had been cast as a nurse and informed viewers that even a nurse, who was likely to deal with bacteria on a day-to-day basis, might not be aware of the levels of bacteria in the mouth. They said the ad included a disclaimer that stated "Representation of nurse" and told the story of a fictitious nurse visiting her dentist and his recommendation to use the product. They said the nurse appeared as an individual and as a consumer and made references only to herself, and not on behalf of any other members of the nursing profession. They believed that the overall impression was clearly fictitious and viewers would not view the ad as recounting the experience of a real nurse, or as portraying an endorsement by the nursing profession in general.
Clearcast said the ad featured an everyday consumer who happened to be a nurse, and that the creative idea was that of an ordinary consumer who was shocked at the amount of bacteria in her mouth. They said the "Representation of a nurse" disclaimer was included to clarify that the nurse was not a real nurse giving her professional opinion, but an actress playing a nurse and giving her personal rather than professional opinion.
The ASA noted Colgate said the actress made references only to her own experience of using the product, and not on behalf of any other members of the nursing profession. We noted the nurse was shown in non-uniform clothing for the scene in which she visited her dentist, but was otherwise show in a nurses' uniform and in a clinical environment. We also noted the actress stated "As a nurse I keep people healthy by fighting bacteria." We considered that, in the context of an ad in which antibacterial claims were made, and in conjunction with someone who appeared to be a healthcare professional, viewers were likely to infer that the product was endorsed by members of that profession. We acknowledged the ad included on-screen text during the first scene that stated "Representation of a nurse" but did not consider that this took away from the overall impression that the product was endorsed by members of the nursing profession and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The TV ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 11.8 (Medicines, medical devices, treatment and health).
The VOD ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Colgate not to imply that products were endorsed by healthcare professionals in future, unless that was the case.