Ad description

A TV ad for Colgate Total Proof toothpaste, viewed on 21 April 2017, featured a voice-over that stated, “You brush your teeth every day. But wouldn’t you feel better if you could see and feel it cleaning? Colgate Total Proof. It turns into a blue foam as you brush, fights bacteria and reduces plaque. So you feel ready for your day. Colgate Total Proof for a healthier mouth”. The ad also included an animation of the toothpaste as it turned blue in the mouth. At the same time, an on-screen graph labelled “BACTERIA REDUCTION” filled from white to red.


The complainant, who believed the ad implied that the change in colour was directly related to the product’s interaction with bacteria and plaque, challenged whether it was misleading and could be substantiated.


Colgate-Palmolive (UK) Ltd t/a Colgate said they had made changes to the ad following a previous informally resolved complaint with the ASA. They believed the asterisk made it clearer that the graph was related to the length of time that the triclosan-copolymer formula fought bacteria, rather than the amount of bacteria that was reduced as the paste turned blue as brushed.

Clearcast said that prior to clearing the ad they consulted with their dental expert who said that the change of colour had no effect on the anti-bacterial action. They said the line was delivered in such a way that it was clearly a list of the three things that the toothpaste did. There was a break between ‘It turns into a blue foam as you brush’ and ‘fights bacteria’ so they did not believe there was a link between the foaming and the anti-bacterial effect of the paste. They therefore did not believe the ad was misleading.


Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that the complainant believed the ad implied that the change in colour was directly related to the product’s interaction with bacteria and plaque. However, we considered consumers would generally understand from the ad that the colour change was not directly related to the anti-bacterial effect of the toothpaste but, instead, an indicator of time spent brushing teeth. Further, we considered consumers would likely understand the effect was intended to help one manage a more effective brushing regime. This impression was supported by particular distinctions made in the voice-over such as “[S]ee and feel it cleaning” and the distinction made between the claim “It turns into a blue foam as you brush” and the other subsequent anti-bacterial claims made in the ad. Furthermore, we considered the use of the colour changing bar whilst the voice-over said, “[F]ights bacteria and reduces plaque” alongside the asterisk next to the text "BACTERIA REDUCTION", which related to the small on-screen text “*for 12 hours with continued daily use”, emphasised that the colour changing bar was connected to the anti-bacterial effect of the toothpaste not the colour change of the toothpaste.

For these reasons we concluded that the ad was not misleading.

We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules  3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  and  3.2 3.2 In setting or revising any such standards, Ofcom must have regard, in particular and to such extent as appears to them to be relevant to the securing of the standards objectives, to each of these matters:

a) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes generally, or in programmes of a particular description;

b) the likely size and composition of a potential audience for programmes included in television and radio services generally, or in television and radio services of a particular description;

c) the likely expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme's content and the extent to which the nature of the programme's content can be brought to the attention of potential members of the audience;

d) the likelihood of persons who are unaware of the nature of the programme's content being unintentionally exposed, by their own actions, to that content;

e) the desirability of securing that the content of services identifies when there is a change affecting the nature of a service that is being watched or listened to and, in particular, a change that is relevant to the application of the standards set under this section...".

Section 319(4).
 (Misleading advertising),  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) and  3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service.  (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


3.1     3.12     3.2     3.9    

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