A TV ad for a collagen-based drink. The ad opened with a shot of a woman looking at a reflection of her face in a dressing-room mirror and smiling. The voice-over stated, "I drink Pure Gold Collagen every day." She was then shown sitting at the dresser with a vase full of flowers, jewellery and perfume bottles on its surface. She then picked up a small bottle and drank from it. The voice-over stated, "It contains a blend of collagen, hyaluronic acid and borage oil", and she was shown on stage in a theatre, bowing to applause from the audiences. A close-up of her face showed her smiling and clapping under the stage lights. She was then shown sitting in front of the dressing-room mirror again, screwing the lid back onto the bottle and turning her head from side to side while looking at her reflection. The voice-over stated, "Pure Gold Collagen."
Eight complainants challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied the product could directly affect the quality and collagen properties of a consumers' skin.
Minerva Research Labs Ltd (Minerva) said they did not believe the ad was misleading. They stated they did not believe anybody would think the ad implied the product directly affected the quality and collagen properties of a consumer's skin. They said there was no mention of skin, collagen quality or collagen properties in the ad. Minerva provided a list of ingredients contained in the product, which included vitamin C, zinc, biotin and copper. They said these ingredients corresponded to health claims relating to skin and collagen, which had been authorised by the European Commission (EC). Minerva said that if they had wanted to make claims about collagen qualities, properties and skin, they would have used the claims as approved by the EC. Minerva said however, that if it was considered the ad implied the product would have a beneficial effect upon the appearance and beauty of a consumer's skin, then they could substantiate this claim. Minerva provided three test reports and associated data, which they believed substantiated this claim.
Clearcast said there was no indication in the ad about the performance of the product, because it only showed a woman looking into a mirror as she used the product and whilst the voiceover stated "I drink Pure Collagen Gold every day". Clearcast pointed out that the voice over did not state why the woman drank Pure Collagen Gold every day, nor did it state that the product had any type of beneficial effect upon her. Clearcast explained that the voiceover merely stated a personal subjective preference. Clearcast said there was no indication in the ad that the product could affect the quality and collagen properties of a consumer's skin and there was no direct or implied reference to how the product affected collagen levels either in the voiceover or in the visuals.
THIS RULING REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED ON 16 JULY 2014. THE VERDICT REMAINS UPHELD BUT THE WORDING HAS CHANGED.
The ASA noted ads for food which stated or implied that there was a relationship between the food or one of its constituents and health were subject to the requirements of EC Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims made on Foods, which was reflected in the BCAP Code. We acknowledged there were authorised health claims for ingredients in the product, which related to the maintenance of normal skin and the formation of collagen. However, the ad did not include these health claims, nor did it make any statements or implications that the product could have a beneficial effect on health. Furthermore, we considered the focus of the ad was the appearance and beauty of the woman and her skin and we therefore considered that the ad was making implied appearance and beauty claims which did not fall under the scope of the Nutrition and Health Claim Regulations. We therefore assessed whether the ad made implied claims that the product could have a beneficial effect on the appearance of skin, and if so, whether those claims were substantiated by evidence.
The ad made no specific claims relating to the qualities of collagen and the effect it may have upon the appearance of a consumer's skin. There were also no specific claims that the product itself would have any effect upon the appearance of a consumer's skin. However, we considered that most consumers would be likely to associate collagen with improving the appearance and beauty of skin, and in this context we considered that the woman admiring herself in the mirror implied that the product would have a positive effect upon the appearance of a consumer's skin. We therefore considered whether that implied claim was substantiated by the three studies provided by Minerva.
The first study was carried out by an independent clinical research organisation and at the time the ad appeared had been submitted for peer review and publication. A 50ml dose of the product was administered daily to 108 participants for 12 weeks, and the study was double-blinded and placebo controlled. The stated objective of the trial was to measure the product’s effect on skin hydration, elasticity and wrinkles (measured in a sub-group) through dermo-physiological measurements at 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks, as well as self assessment questionnaires completed at the beginning and end of the 12 week study. The measured results for hydration were reported as showing that after three weeks the difference in improvement of skin hydration between the placebo and product compared to the starting point was 12%, and the same difference for elasticity at nine weeks was 20%. The measured results for wrinkles were reported as showing a 15% reduction in fine lines and a 27% reduction in the mean depth of wrinkles after six weeks compared to the starting points. However, the paper did not specify whether any of these differences were statistically significant compared to the placebo or whether similar results were seen at the other measurement points, and in particular at the 12 week end point of the study (the data for which was not reported). Furthermore, in relation to the three measurements, we had not seen evidence that the purported changes would be perceptible by consumers. A number of results were reported in relation to the questionnaire, two of which related to skin, specifically skin elasticity and stretch marks. In the context of the ad we considered that only the skin elasticity results were relevant because the ad made no clear or implied reference to stretch marks and they were unlikely to be seen on the face, which was the focus of the ad. The paper reported that compared to the placebo 66% more people agreed their skin felt more elastic after 12 weeks. We were provided with copies of the questionnaire subjects had completed as well as a breakdown of results for the questions reported in the study. The questionnaire asked subjects to fill in some basic details at the start of the study, including whether they had any dry or oily skin and then given a further section to fill in at 12 weeks. Subjects were provided with 13 comparative statements, in the section to be filled in at 12 weeks, relating to the effects of taking the products (including placebo) on their skin such as “My skin feels more elastic” and were asked to rank their agreement from “Agree strongly” to “Disagree strongly”. In their response Minerva also stated that out of 46 respondents who had taken the product or placebo, of those who took the product 79% saw an overall improvement in the appearance of their skin, 89% agreed their skin looked healthier and 89% said their skin felt smoother. They also provided the percentage of respondents who answered positively to the 13 statements in relation to both the placebo and product. However, this was in relation to the 46 subjects aged 40-64 only rather than all 108 participants and the results were not analysed for statistical significance or reported in the study. The structure of the self assessment questionnaire and lack of clear benchmarking at the beginning of the study also meant we were unable to tell if subjects in the active and placebo groups had similar starting points. For the reasons stated above, we did not consider that the evidence provided in relation to the first study was sufficiently robust to substantiate the implied claim in the ad, that the product would benefit the appearance and beauty of skin.
The second study was carried out by Minerva and had not been published or peer reviewed at the time the ad was broadcast. A 50ml dose of the product was administered to ten participants for 12 weeks and the participants' collagen density was then measured. Seven out of ten participants in the study experienced an improvement in collagen density in both their forearm and head after having taken the product for 12 weeks. However, the number of participants was small and the trial was not double-blinded or placebo controlled and was therefore less reliable as an indicator of whether the product had a genuine effect. We had also not seen evidence that any improvements measured in the study would be perceptible by consumers and the statistical reporting did not demonstrate that the two collagen measurements showed a statistically significant improvement over the 12 week period. Minerva also provided the results of a short questionnaire which they said participants filled in at the end of the study (although it was not referenced within the study itself) and nine out of the ten subjects agreed their skin felt more hydrated and the majority also agreed their skin felt more supple and elastic. However, given the small number of participants and the other concerns about the study outlined above we did not consider those results were sufficient to demonstrate a perceptible benefit for the product. We therefore considered the study and questionnaire results were not sufficiently robust to substantiate the implied claim in the ad.
The third study related to the same 108 subjects as the first study, with a focus on a sub group of 17 subjects, and at the time the ad appeared had been submitted for peer review and publication. A controlled sub group of 17 participants had been tested for the anti-wrinkle effects of the product, and the total surface area of wrinkles, total length and mean length of wrinkles were objectively measured at weeks 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12. The commentary focussed on the results at nine weeks rather than at 12 weeks and Minerva said this was because the results for week 12 were inconsistent with previous weeks for both the placebo and the product. The study concluded that consuming the product decreased the surface area and length of wrinkles. In particular it stated that there had been a statistically significant reduction in the area and length of wrinkles in those participants who took the product over the course of nine weeks when comparing the results at week 0 to week nine. The commentary included various comments regarding the placebo results compared to those for the product, such as on the lack of trend in the results. However, it specifically stated that for area occupied by wrinkles and total length of wrinkles the differences between the placebo and product results at week 9 were not statistically significant (defined as a p value of 0.05 or less), and for the mean length of wrinkles it did not comment. Although we acknowledged that the ad made only a general implied claim that consuming the product would have a beneficial effect on the appearance and beauty of skin, rather than relating specifically to wrinkles, we considered that the study results did not demonstrate with a sufficient degree of certainty that any effects seen were likely to have been the result of consuming the product.
Overall, we did not consider that the evidence provided by Minerva was sufficiently robust to substantiate the implied claims in the ad. Because we considered that the overall impression of the ad was that the product would have a beneficial effect upon the appearance and beauty of a consumer's skin, and we had not received sufficient evidence to prove that that was the case, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad 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 must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Minerva Research Labs Ltd not to imply that the product could have a positive effect upon the appearance of a consumer's skin, unless they held new robust documentary evidence to demonstrate that was the case.