Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
The website www.instantwhites.com, for teeth whitening products, was seen on 4 April 2016. The ad stated “Home of the Instant Whites 7 Day Whitening System … SAFE - EFFECTIVE - PEROXIDE FREE … NOW For Home Teeth Whitening … 9 SHADES WHITER IN 7 DAYS”. The ad also included a video and the presenter stated “…our Instant Whites home range represents one of the world’s most fast acting whitening systems with visible results in less than 5 minutes”. The ad also included an image of the product packaging which included the text “Rapidly Removes Plaque And Surface Stains”.
Under the link “Clinical Study” the ad stated “7-Day Teeth Whitening System Clinical Study … An examiner blind, parallel group, randomized and controlled clinical study: Instant Whites Swabs clinically proven to Whiten teeth up to 9 shades with an average improvement of 6 in 7 days … First 5-minute application will whiten teeth 2 shades on average … One 5-minute application per day for 7 days will whiten teeth up to 9 shades whiter with an average lift of 6 shades”.
The complainant challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. “Visible results in less than 5 minutes … first 5-minute application will whiten teeth 2 shades on average”;
2. “Instant Whites Swabs clinically proven to Whiten teeth up to 9 shades with an average improvement of 6 in 7 days … One 5-minute application per day for 7 days will whiten teeth up to 9 shades whiter with an average lift of 6 shades”; and
3. “Rapidly Removes Plaque And Surface Stains”.
1. 2. & 3. O Care Ltd t/a Instant Whites provided one paper in support of the advertised claims. They also said they had industry licensing and full certifications, and that they adhered to the relevant Codes of Practice.
1. 2. & 3. Upheld
The ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim “Rapidly Removes Plaque and Surface Stains” and the reference to “Visible results in less than 5 minutes” to mean that the product whitened teeth by removing plaque and stains, and that a noticeable result could be achieved after one 5-minute application. We also considered that consumers would understand the claim “… clinically proven to Whiten teeth up to 9 shades with an average improvement of 6 in 7 days … with an average lift of 6 shades” to mean that additional whitening would be achieved over the course of one week with regular application of the product and that it had been subject to independent testing which confirmed those results.
We assessed the trial provided by O Care, which at the time was not published or peer-reviewed. We noted that the control used in the trial was a competitor’s teeth whitening product, and its design and application was dissimilar to O Care’s product. In addition, we noted that the study’s statistical analysis was based on a comparison between O Care’s and the alternative teeth whitening product. We did not consider that the control or the statistical analysis were appropriate because the claim complained of did not include comparative claims between O Care’s 7 Day Whitening System and another teeth whitening product. We also noted that the study assessed teeth colour at the start of the trial, after one day, when the treatment had finished and one week post treatment. Therefore the trial did not assess whether O Care’s product produced “visible results in less than 5 minutes”, as claimed in the ad. The advertiser declined to allow the ASA to share the trial paper, in confidence, with an independent expert.
Because consumers would understand that O Care’s 7 Day Whitening System whitened teeth by removing plaque and stains and that its effect would be noticeable after one 5-minute application, but we had not seen adequate evidence to substantiate this or Instant Whites’ additional claims, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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.
Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product.
Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Instant Whites not to claim that their product could whiten teeth within certain timeframes or that it rapidly removed plaque and surface stains in the absence of adequate evidence.