ASA Adjudication on Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd
Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd
27 June 2012
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A TV ad for pain relief tablets showed people doing various activities whilst seeming to grimace in discomfort and stretching or rubbing various parts of their bodies. The voice-over stated "For millions of aches and millions of pains Nurofen has been there to help deal with them." A man was shown holding his hand to his temple where a red light was pulsing. A maze was superimposed on his torso and an animation representing the pain killer tablet with a wheel, arms and a target design on it was shown to navigate from the man's stomach area, through the maze, to the pulsing red light at his temple, which turned into the target logo associated with the advertiser's product. The man smiled and the voice-over stated "Nurofen goes to the source of pain to work where it's really needed." On-screen text stated "Later on" and those shown in discomfort earlier in the ad were seen going about their activities. Text stating "TARGETED PAIN RELIEF" was visible on a pack-shot of the product.
Two complainants challenged whether the claim that Nurofen "goes to the source of pain," and the implication that the product 'sought out' the area where the pain was felt, was misleading and could be substantiated, because they noted that the product was taken orally and distributed via the bloodstream.
Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare (UK) Ltd (Reckitt Benckiser) and Clearcast said that the claim was based on the mechanism of action of ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen 200 mg tablets. They said that ibuprofen was a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and therefore scientifically well-established to relieve pain by inhibiting the production of pain-causing chemicals called prostaglandins, which were released at the site of pain. They said that pain originated when locally-elevated concentrations of those prostaglandins sensitised the nerve endings found in tissue and triggered pain signals to the central nervous system (the spine and brain). They stated that, by blocking the production of prostaglandins, ibuprofen inhibited the sensitisation of nerve endings and prevented the transmission of signals, thereby providing a targeted pain relief and the pain was therefore relieved where it was really needed. They said that ibuprofen therefore went to the source of pain, to work where it was really needed.
Reckitt Benckiser said that was further illustrated through the visual which showed the drug travelling through the stomach and then to act at the source of pain which was where the prostaglandins were present.
Clearcast said their medical consultant was happy with the data and stated that Nurofen was a well-established product where the clinical mode of action and appropriateness for mild musculo-skeletal pain was well validated and not in contention. They said they did not consider that viewers would take the depiction of the product literally, but would understand it was rather a hyperbolic view of the way it worked. On that basis, they did not consider that the ad would mislead viewers.
The ASA noted that Nurofen worked by inhibiting the sensitisation of nerve endings and preventing the transmission of pain signals to the central nervous system. We therefore understood that the product did have an effect on the area that was experiencing pain, for example, through the sensitisation of nerve endings.
We considered that viewers were likely to understand the claim that Nurofen "goes to the source of pain to work where it's really needed" and that it provided "TARGETED PAIN RELIEF" to mean that it would provide relief to the area of the body in which they were experiencing pain. We noted Nurofen had been shown to have that effect.
We noted that the ad showed people experiencing pain in different areas of their bodies throughout the ad, and did not concentrate on one specific area. In light of that, we did not consider that viewers would interpret the animation through the maze on the torso as a literal representation of the drug's precise path through the body, but would infer that it represented the notion that Nurofen would provide relief for the part of the body in which the man was experiencing pain, namely a headache.
Because we considered that the claims and images in the ad would be interpreted to mean that Nurofen would provide relief in the area in which someone was experiencing pain and because we noted that the product had been shown to do so, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 11.2 (Medicine, medical devices, treatments and health), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.