Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Pheromones are chemical signals released by animals to attract a sexual partner. Whether pheromones have an effect on human behaviour, and whether we produce pheromones at all, is uncertain.
The ASA ruled against an ad for a perfume described as an “Ancient Sexual Compellant”, which claimed that "Pheromones combine to produce a powerful natural scent which scientists say reaches to the mammalian centres of the female's brain compelling her to notice your readiness for an encounter and fixing her own response so that she is subconsciously drawn to the mating game" and “Apart from its obvious advantages with the opposite sex Ruthvah is said to also give you an edge in business and commerce”. The marketer failed to provide supporting evidence and ASA therefore ruled that the ad was misleading (Sorcerers Apprentice Ltd, 2 April 2014).
To date, neither the ASA nor CAP has seen evidence to substantiate claims about the existence of human pheromones or their effects and as such, no efficacy claims should be made about these types of products unless robust evidence is held.
Marketers of pheromone devices for pets, such as calming diffusers, collars and sprays, should ensure that their evidence can substantiate any claims of efficacy. In 2019, the ASA upheld a complaint against a TV ad for a plug-in diffuser which contained a “dog appeasing pheromone”, because the body of evidence was considered insufficient (Ceva Animal Health Ltd, 17 April 2019).