A TV ad for cat food featured a cat sitting between a packet of Iams dry cat food and a packet labelled "WET FOOD POUCH". The cat gestured towards the wet food packet and a voice-over stated, "Recently I learnt that water makes up 80% of cat food like this. That's a lot of water. Don't get me wrong I like water; I just prefer to drink mine. On the other hand, I mean paw, Iams contains only 8% water and gram for gram more high quality nutrition to help me stay as fit as a fiddle." On-screen text stated "With dry food always give your cat plenty of water".
Nine viewers, including a veterinary surgeon, challenged whether the ad was misleading because it implied that cats did not need water in their food and preferred to drink water. They believed the presentation of the ad could mislead pet owners into feeding their cat an unhealthy diet.
Procter & Gamble UK (P&G) said it was universally accepted that cats should be provided with constant access to drinking water, irrespective of the diets they were fed on, in order that they may self-regulate their water intake. They pointed out that the cat in the ad stated, "Recently I learnt that water makes up 80% of cat food like this", whilst indicating the wet food pouches. They said the leading brands of wet cat food sold in the UK were typically made up of 80–82% moisture and provided evidence in support of this. P&G also confirmed that their dry cat food contained 8% water, as claimed in the ad. They said the ad did not claim that cats did not require water in their diet and pointed out that the cat in the ad stated, "Now don't get me wrong I like water …" and also that on-screen text stated, "With dry food always give your cat plenty of drinking water".
The ad stated, "Now don't get me wrong, I like water, I just prefer to drink mine". P&G said that even if this were not understood as puffery, as they intended, or as the individual preference of the cat in the ad, the ad still only referred to a preference. They maintained that a preference did not exclude other sources of water intake. They acknowledged that cats fed on dry food would also need an alternative source of water because dry food alone will not provide enough. This is why on-screen text stated, "With dry food always give your cat plenty of drinking water".
P&G stated that Iams dry cat food contained "gram for gram more high quality nutrition" versus wet cat food, as claimed in the ad. They said that because the dry food contained less moisture, there was more room per gram of weight for nutrients. They supplied a table showing that Iams dry cat food contained a higher percentage of nutrients than leading brands of wet cat food.
P&G maintained that there was no robust published research indicating that healthy cats fed only on a dry diet would not drink enough water to meet their needs, if water was readily available. They also asserted that there was no published evidence to suggest that dry cat food caused disease. They said that Iams dry cat food was a complete and balanced food that provided all the nutrients that a healthy cat required and was formulated with the assistance of their in-house veterinary surgeons. They said that all their diets met or exceeded the nutritional requirements for cats as established by the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) Nutritional Guidelines. They stated that FEDIAF's guidelines were reviewed by members of an independent Scientific Advisory Board who would not have approved the guidelines if it was not possible to feed a cat exclusively on a dry food diet.
Clearcast said the script had been seen by their veterinary consultant, who was satisfied with it. They said the claim, "I like water, I just prefer to drink mine", made it clear that water was important for cats. They also said the on-screen text made it clear that cats fed on dry food should be provided with an adequate supply of water. They said they were keen to emphasise that providing access to drinking water at all times was recommended for cats, irrespective of the diet they were on.
The ASA noted that nine viewers objected to the ad. We noted several of the complainants said the ad was misleading because they understood that cats naturally had a low thirst drive and derived most of their moisture from food. Several complainants said that the ad's reference to other sources of water implied that it was sufficient to provide a cat with access to drinking water to meet its moisture needs. They believed the ad was misleading because they understood that this was not sufficient, due to the low thirst drive of cats. We noted these objections and the references some complainants had made to veterinary opinion, as expressed in newspaper columns and on various websites. However, we also noted that P&G stated that no robust scientific evidence had been published to indicate that a dry food diet caused health problems in cats and referred to a published veterinary article in support of this view. Furthermore we noted that the response submitted by P&G confirmed that their diets were in line with FEDIAF guidelines.
We noted that in the ad the cat stated, "Recently I learnt that water makes up 80% of cat food like this. That's a lot of water. Don't get me wrong I like water; I just prefer to drink mine. On the other hand, I mean paw, Iams contains only 8% water and gram for gram more high quality nutrition to help me stay as fit as a fiddle." We also noted that on-screen text stated, "With dry food always give your cat plenty of water". We considered that the overall impression of these claims was that Iams dry cat food contained less water compared to wet cat food and therefore contained more high quality nutrients, per gram of food. We did not consider that the ad implied that cats did not need drinking water, and noted that on-screen text emphasised that cats should always be provided with access to drinking water.
Because we did not consider that the ad implied drinking water was not important to cats and we understood that the available scientific evidence indicated no causative link between a dry food diet and health problems, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (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 3.38 3.38 Advertisements that include comparisons with unidentifiable competitors must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, consumers. The elements of the comparison must not be selected to give the advertiser an unrepresentative advantage. (Other comparisons) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.