Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A TV ad and website for Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening toothpaste:
a. The TV ad featured a presenter who stated, "See this, it's baking soda, an amazing natural cleaner. And it's in every tube of Arm & Hammer Toothpaste. Try this, lick your teeth. Feel rough? The baking soda removes this rough feeling to give you a wow deep clean and whitens teeth brilliantly. With advanced whitening, it's up to three shades whiter. Or your money back." On-screen text stated at the end of the ad "Clinically proven up to 3 shades whiter". A picture of the product's packaging was shown. Text on the packaging stated "ADVANCED WHITENING 3 Shades Whiter Clinically Proven for BRILLIANT WHITE Teeth Long-Lasting Fresh Breath Protection".
b. The website, www.armandhammer.co.uk, was headed "ADVANCED WHITENING UNBELIEVABLY GENTLE TEETH-WHITENING". Further text stated "Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening is perfect for those of you who like to keep their teeth in tip-top condition but enjoy the added benefit of a gorgeous sparkling white smile!". A picture of the product's packaging was shown. Text on the packaging stated "ADVANCED WHITENING 3 Shades Whiter Clinically Proven for BRILLIANT WHITE Teeth Long-Lasting Fresh Breath Protection".
1. One complainant challenged whether the whitening claims made in ad (a) could be substantiated.
2. One complainant challenged whether the claim "3 Shades Whiter" made in ad (b) could be substantiated.
1. & 2. Church & Dwight UK Ltd (Church & Dwight) believed they were able to substantiate the whitening claims. They said the claims were based on a clinical study, which they provided, that was carried out by a leading dental research institute on the whitening efficacy of three toothpastes. The toothpaste relevant to the "3 Shades Whiter" was a formula very similar to Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening and contained the same levels of cleaning and whitening agents. They supplied full ingredient lists of the relevant toothpastes. They said that one of the cleaning agents had recently been substituted for another, due to supply issues. They said they had carried out both in vitro and in vivo testing to ensure equivalency of the ingredient and supplied the two studies. They said the other differences in formulation related to aesthetic modifiers only, which would not affect the product's ability to clean or whiten teeth. They said the subjects in the study brushed twice-daily with their assigned toothpaste and were evaluated by independent, trained dental examiners at the start, after two weeks and after four weeks, for the level of staining using a stain index and the level of whiteness using a shade guide, which they supplied. Church & Dwight said that it was recognised by scientists that the whitening of teeth was achieved by the removal of extrinsic surface stains and/or by the removal of intrinsic stains that had penetrated into the enamel. They said the whitening capabilities of a product were therefore examined by looking at changes to both stain levels and the overall shade. In relation to the tooth shade analysis, the results for the relevant toothpaste showed a mean decrease in shade (meaning teeth were whiter) of 2.16 after four weeks; 39% of the 51 subjects showed three or more shades of whitening after four weeks, and the results were statistically significant. They said the average amount of toothpaste used by consumers meant that they would use approximately three-quarters of a tube in four weeks, meaning a significant number of users could expect teeth up to three shades whiter after using one tube of toothpaste. In relation to the tooth stain analysis, the results for the relevant toothpaste showed that all subjects experienced a decrease in extrinsic stains after four weeks, and all but one subject exhibited a decrease of 20% or more. They said these results supported the whitening claims.
Church & Dwight said that although a number of subjects in the study were shown as having darker teeth in the shade analysis after four weeks, the four subjects whose teeth with the greatest darkening also showed staining reductions of between 20% and 40%. They believed that, given the number of subjects who saw a positive shade change of three shades or more, and the performance in the stain tests, the study substantiated the whitening claims.
In relation to ad (a), Clearcast said they had been supplied with the clinical study by Church & Dwight and had discussed it with their dental consultant. They were happy that the data submitted showed that 39% of the subjects were left with teeth three shades whiter according to an approved shade guide. Since well over 10% of subjects had achieved the full three shade changes, they were happy the claim "up to three shades whiter" had been "clinically proven". They said that overall they were happy that the ad clearly expressed proven benefits and that the claims had been substantiated.
The ASA considered that viewers of the ad would interpret the whitening claims made in ad (a) to mean that the product would whiten the teeth of regular users, and that some users of the product would achieve up to three shades of perceptible change on an incremental scale. Church & Dwight had based the claims on a clinical study of a toothpaste with a very similar formula to Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening. One difference between Arm & Hammer Advanced Whitening and the study toothpaste was one of the cleaning agents, but we considered that Church & Dwight had demonstrated the replacement agent was equivalent to that previously used. The other differences related to ingredients that did not affect cleaning and whitening, and so we did not consider them significant.
We took expert advice in relation to the evidence provided by Church & Dwight. Our expert said that, in the context of a toothpaste, "whitening" properties referred to the ability of the toothpaste to remove surface stains, as opposed to professional whitening treatments that involved a change to the actual enamel surface of the tooth. He said that extrinsic staining of teeth was mainly caused by food and drink products such as tea, red wine or cola, and that the staining potential of teeth could be affected by any restorations being present in the teeth. He considered it was a weakness of Church & Dwight's study that the groups were not stratified for these variables and that advice on beverage consumption did not appear to have been given to ensure that staining potential was the same for each treatment group. He also noted the wide range of the results, and considered that the report should have addressed this issue.
The shade guide used by Church & Dwight contained 24 incremental shades, and we considered that consumers would expect the claims to be based on such a scale. The study showed that 39% of subjects' teeth were three or more shades whiter after four weeks use of the toothpaste and considered this would be sufficient to meet consumer expectations for an "up to" claim. However, although the mean shade change after four weeks was 2.16 shades lighter the results ranged from 13 shades lighter to 5.5 shades darker. In addition, 25% of subjects had darker teeth after four weeks and 18% saw no change.
All of the subjects showed a reduction in stains in the stain analysis assessment. Church & Dwight had offered some possible explanations for the discrepancy in results between the staining and shade test results. However, we were concerned that they no longer had the raw data and considered that the possible explanations called into question the validity of the shade analysis data. The claim also specifically referred to "3 shades whiter", and it was the shade analysis data that Church & Dwight appeared to have based the claim on, rather than the stain analysis.
We considered the ad implied the product would whiten the teeth of regular users, and that some users of the product would achieve up to three shades of perceptible change on an incremental scale. Because the study by Church & Dwight was not sufficiently robust, and a significant proportion of subjects had darker teeth or no change after using the toothpaste, we concluded the whitening claims in ad (a) had not been substantiated.
On this point ad (a) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is 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).
The ad included the claim "3 Shades Whiter" on the product packaging. We considered that consumers would be aware that individual results might vary, but would also expect such an absolute claim to be based on evidence that most regular users of the product would achieve three shades of perceptible change on an incremental scale. Because the study was not sufficiently robust, a significant proportion of subjects had darker teeth or no change after using the toothpaste, and only 39% achieved three or more shades whiter, we concluded the claim had not been substantiated.
On this point ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 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).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Church & Dwight to ensure they held robust evidence to support whitening claims.