Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Not upheld.
A TV ad and claims on www.iams.co.uk, for dry cat food:
a. The TV ad 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." Accompanying on-screen text stated "With dry food always give your cat plenty of water."
b. The website contained an embedded copy of the TV ad. Text beside the video stated "Wet food is ~80% water, I prefer my food not swimming in it".
Mars Pet Care challenged whether the claim:
1. "Don't get me wrong I like water; I just prefer to drink mine", in ad (a), misleadingly implied that feeding cats a diet of dry food and drinking water was healthier than other diets; and
2. "Wet food is ~80% water. I prefer my food not swimming in it", in ad (b), misleadingly exaggerated the extent to which moisture was evident in wet foods, and thereby unfairly denigrated Mars Pet Care.
1. Procter & Gamble believed the tone of the ad made clear that the claim was commercial puffery which reflected the views of the cat shown in the ad. They said that when cats switched from a canned food diet to a dry food diet, they drank more water without compensating for the difference in the water content of the food. They said that led to the urine becoming more concentrated for cats fed a dry food diet, but argued the urine of cats fed on such a diet fell within the normal range. They said they could not find any published research which showed that cats fed only on a dry diet would not drink enough water to meet their needs. Whilst they acknowledged that increased water intake may help prevent urinary tract diseases, they argued there was no scientific evidence to suggest that healthy cats fed a wet diet obtained a significant benefit to urinary tract health when compared to cats fed a dry food diet.
Clearcast believed the ad did not imply that a diet of dry food would ensure a healthier cat. They pointed out that the ad included a footnote which made clear that cats fed dry food must have an adequate supply of fresh water.
2. Procter & Gamble said that it was a statement of fact that the majority of wet cat food sold in the UK had a moisture content of approximately 80%. They believed the claim was commercial puffery or a mere preference of the cat. They did not agree with the complainant's assertion that consumers would interpret the claim to mean that wet food pouches contained morsels of food which sat separately within a liquid. They therefore believed the ad did not denigrate any wet food provider, including themselves.
1. Not upheld
The ASA noted the ad made clear that wet food contained significantly more water than dry food and that the footnote made clear that a dry food diet must be supplemented by plenty of water. We also noted the ad referred to the featured cat's preference for one diet, as opposed to another. Whilst we acknowledged that the complainant was concerned that the cat's stated preference for consuming fluid by drinking water implied that that was a healthier way for cats to manage their fluid intake, we considered consumers were likely to understand that, although communicated by the cat character, the claim was the subjective opinion of the advertiser, rather than implying one diet was healthier than another.
On that basis, we concluded the ad was not misleading on this point.
On this point, we investigated ad (a) 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) 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. (Comparisons) but did not find it in breach.
2. Not upheld
We noted the complainant's concerns that the claim denigrated their products, because they believed it implied that wet food pouches contained morsels of food which sat separately within a liquid, whereas they argued the moisture within their wet food pouches was either incorporated entirely within the food or formed part of the gravy. However, we considered the average consumer would understand that the moisture within wet food pouches was incorporated entirely within the food or formed part of the gravy. In that context, we considered consumers would not be misled by the claim.
On this point, we investigated ad (b) 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) 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. and 3.42 (Comparisons) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.