A website, www.challs.com, for the 'Buster' range of drain cleaners, seen in August 2015, featured a page headed "BATHROOM PLUGHOLE UNBLOCKER" that stated "No.1 for Bathroom Plughole Blockages" and featured a picture of a Buster product for the bathroom. A further page, headed "KITCHEN PLUGHOLE UNBLOCKER" stated "No.1 for Kitchen Blockages" and featured an image of the kitchen Buster product.
SC Johnson Ltd challenged whether the claims that the products were 'No 1' were misleading and could be substantiated.
Challs International Ltd stated that the claim "No 1" did not make a comparison against any other competitor and that it had been intended as puffery. They said that the Buster products were intended to be used in specific circumstances because bathroom blockages (usually of hair and soap) were different to kitchen blockages (made of grease and food), but that the SC Johnson product was marketed for both types. As such, the claims on the ad were specific that Buster Bathroom Unblocker was No 1 for bathroom blockages and Buster Kitchen Unblocker was No 1 for kitchen blockages. Challs stated that they were, however, the No 1 selling specialist products on the market.
Challs provided a summary of Kantar consumer purchasing data for Plughole and Drain products in the UK. They stated that it showed that the market share ranking changed by period; that on occasions Buster Bathroom Unblocker had outsold the SC Johnson product; and that the Buster brand was the fastest growing in the category. They said that SC Johnson's data was from Nielsen, which was collected at point of purchase from selected retailers, whereas the Kantar data came from consumers and therefore included all retail channels.
The ASA understood that the two Buster products were intended for use on different types of blockages. We acknowledged Challs' statement that the claims were intended to show that each product was best for its particular intended use, but we did not consider that this was in line with how consumers were likely to interpret the claims. We considered that consumers would understand the "No 1" claim for each product as a statement that the product was the best-selling plughole and domestic drain cleaning product that could deal with the specified type of blockage, outselling competitors’ products. We understood that some products were marketed as clearing both types of blockage problem, and considered that Challs would therefore need to demonstrate that each Buster product separately outsold type-specific products and the generic products, since the latter could deal with the same type of blockage.
We understood that SC Johnson believed that Mr Muscle Sink & Plughole Gel 500 ml outsold both Buster products, as Nielsen till data showed this to be the case. The Kantar data provided by Challs showed that on some occasions, including the first half of 2014 and 2015, Buster Bathroom Plughole Unblocker outsold Mr Muscle Sink & Plughole Gel 500 ml and the other competitor products named on the report. However, we noted that the 1000 ml version of Mr Muscle Sink & Plughole Gel had not been included in the advertiser's comparisons. We considered that, as the product differed only in volume and would be used for the same purpose (replacing a purchase of two separate 500ml bottles) it was reasonable to include that product in the comparison. When the 500ml and 1000ml Mr Muscle Sink & Plughole Gel units were compared with Buster Bathroom Plughole Unblocker, the Kantar data showed that they outsold the Buster product on each occasion. When compared with Buster Kitchen Plughole Unblocker, they also outsold that product. We also noted that the Kantar data presented nearly half of all sales as a single “All other” category and that, the above issue notwithstanding, in the absence of further information to clarify the contents of that category it was not possible to tell whether the Buster products outsold each brand contained therein. Because the data provided by Challs did not demonstrate that their products outsold all others in their category, we considered that the claims "No.1 for Bathroom Plughole Blockages" and "No.1 for Kitchen Blockages" had not been substantiated and concluded that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Challs International Ltd not to make best-selling claims, including "No. 1," unless they held evidence to demonstrate that they outsold all competing products.