A VOD and a TV ad for Procter & Gamble’s Fairy Liquid washing up liquid, seen in May 2018:
a. The VOD ad stated in the voice-over, “Here’s a very scientific experiment to see how much easier new Fairy with Lift Action makes the washing up.” Images compared Fairy Liquid and the “Next best-selling brands” being used on a red sauce in a white container. The ad showed people adding the new Fairy Liquid and warm water to stained containers before closing the lids and shaking them. After the cleaning process, the Fairy Liquid resulted in a container which was clean and the other brand resulted in a container which was still stained by red sauce. The voice-over continued, “It’s why it’s been awarded Which? Best in Test. New formula Fairy. Shaking up the washing up.”
b. The TV ad had the same content as ad (a).
Five complainants, who did not believe that Fairy Liquid would leave a container without any marks if the competitor’s washing up liquid did leave some, challenged whether the ads misleadingly exaggerated the efficacy of the product.
Procter & Gamble UK said that the demonstration shown in the ads was an accurate depiction of what would happen when using new formula Fairy Liquid, which they stated was an improvement on their older Fairy Liquid in its ability to emulsify grease. To substantiate their results, Procter & Gamble provided an assessment from an independent laboratory that they said showed that new formula Fairy Liquid performed better than other tested samples, including products from all their key UK competitors and their previous Fairy Liquid product.
Procter & Gamble provided a report from the same independent laboratory that confirmed the results achieved in the demonstration shown in the ads. The report included the results of three tests that they carried out on the product and on different competing products. Two tests simulated the shaking action used by the people in the ads (the ‘shaking tests’), and a third test used a methodology which simulated consumer washing up habits. Procter & Gamble stated that the ‘shaking tests’ were not intended to provide a robust scientific result and that they were intended simply to show that the action performed in the ad (i.e. by adding the new formula Fairy Liquid to a container with a mixture of grease and warm water and then shaking the container). However, they said that the methodology and results of the third test were robust. They also provided a letter from a university that stated that their technology significantly improved the emulsification and anti-redeposition performance of the detergent.
Procter & Gamble also provided an explanatory letter from the laboratory discussing the methodology of the tests carried out. The laboratory confirmed that their method had been accepted by the industry and was now used by an internationally acknowledged consumer organisation. They also demonstrated that they had run the test many times and the results of the test rarely deviated.
Clearcast responded that the substantiation for the campaign was reviewed by an independent consultant who identified that the formulation of the new product had changed from previous formulas and was different from other washing up liquids. They confirmed that Procter & Gamble had used an external testing laboratory to compare their product to competitor products. The competitor products were chosen for testing based on independent market research to ensure fairness. They said that the consultant verified the testing data and was satisfied that the results showed a significant increase in effectiveness when compared to the previous product as well as competitor products. They also stated that the conditions in the ads were equivalent to the testing parameters including the plastic pot, food stains and water hardness. They were satisfied that the ads presented a fair and accurate depiction of the product.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the ads that the new formula Fairy Liquid would perform better than its closest competitors, in terms of sales, in removing grease and staining, without leaving residue, and that the product would be able to produce similar results to those shown in the ads when used at home.
We first considered whether the three tests had been carried out against the next best-selling brands. Procter & Gamble had carried out the experiments against three branded competitors and two supermarket own brand products. Based on the figures that Procter & Gamble had provided, we considered that those products were, by market share, the next closest competitor products to the new formula Fairy Liquid.
We then considered the tests carried out by the laboratory. Procter & Gamble provided the methodology and results for the two shaking tests. The tests anonymised the samples and when performed, produced similar visual results to those shown in the ads. We noted Procter & Gamble’s comments that those tests were intended just to show the action in the ads. Although we considered that the shaking tests would not on their own constitute robust evidence to substantiate the effectiveness of the product, we considered that the tests did demonstrate that the action carried out in the ads was replicable.
The other test was carried out using a method devised by the laboratory. The test used a grease-based soil which was prepared according to the standard set out in Quality Assessment of the Cleaning Performance of Hand Dishwashing Detergents (2002) which we understood was the standard recommended by the EU framework for testing the performance of hand dishwashing detergents. The laboratory’s internal test method broadly resembled actions taken by consumers when washing dishes at home. At defined intervals crockery was immersed in a solution of water and detergent and then dried at room temperature. The tests used a standardised grease, soil, water, water temperature, humidity, amount of washing up liquid, repetitions and environmental conditions.
The technicians carrying out the test used anonymised samples and continued to stress each product until it had reached emulsification capacity. The tests were carried out twice for each product and the results showed that the new formula Fairy Liquid had a consistently better emulsification ability than the competitor products. Although we were provided with the full results for only that test, the laboratory had also provided evidence to show that they carried out the test multiple times with different products and that in each case the new formula Fairy Liquid was shown to provide the best results. We further noted that the results across all the tests carried out by the laboratory had very little deviation.
We considered that the methodology and results of the test were robust, and understood that the methodology used by the independent laboratory had been accepted by the industry as a whole.
We considered that the tests had been carried out against the next bestselling brands, that Procter & Gamble had demonstrated that the scene in the ads could be replicated, and that the evidence demonstrated that the new formula Fairy Liquid was better than the products it had been tested against in its ability to emulsify grease. We therefore concluded that the ads were not misleading.
We investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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), 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Exaggeration) and 3.33 (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors), but did not find it in breach.
We investigated ad (b) under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (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), 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) and 3.33 (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.