Ad description

A TV ad for Vanish Gold for whites featured a man laying out a large number of grey T-shirts. The voice-over stated, "Over time whites can turn grey. Well, new Vanish Gold for Whites could be about to change that. Let's put it to the test." The man was then shown adding the powder to a basin and soaking one of the grey T-shirts. He was then shown removing it and the voice-over stated, "Made quite a difference". Text at the bottom of the screen stated "6 hours soaking 100% polyester T shirts" and the test T-shirt was then compared to three other T-shirts and shown to be whiter than those. The voice-over then stated, "Not one … Or two … but three shades whiter. That is whiteness … On a remarkable scale" as a large number of white T-shirts were used to create an image of a polar bear against a background of the grey T-shirts. A product shot was shown and large on-screen text stated "THREE SHADES WHITER WHITES" whilst the voice-over stated, "Three shades whiter whites. New Vanish Gold for Whites".


The complainant, who believed that few T-shirts were 100% polyester and that they would generally be made from cotton, challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied the product would have the same effect on non-polyester clothes and therefore exaggerated its efficacy.


RB UK Commercial Ltd t/a Vanish said that Vanish Gold was a stain remover which could maintain whiteness or recover whiteness in laundry. They said the purpose of the ad was to highlight how the product could recover whiteness, and that the shirts used in the demonstration happened to be 100% polyester. For that reason Clearcast had asked them to provide data relating to the specific items shown in the ad. They had therefore provided evidence relating to 100% polyester T-shirts and added on-screen text clarifying that was the material used in the test. They said that during product development they had also tested socks made of a cotton blend (75% cotton, 22% polyamide and 3% elastane) and that also showed a three shade whiteness recovery. They said this had been submitted to Clearcast but withdrawn because socks were not shown in the ad. They provided details of the testing which was carried out on the socks and T-shirts.

RB UK said they did not hold data in relation to 100% cotton material which had been treated with the product by soaking as shown in the ad. However, they had carried out similar testing on 100% cotton, as well as a polyester/cotton blend and polyamide, where the product was used in the washing machine. They submitted a summary of the results of that testing, which showed results for after one, five and ten washes. The results showed that at least three shades were recovered for all materials after one, five and ten washes. They said they had not provided this to Clearcast as part of the clearance process because the ad focused on soaking garments, rather than using the product in the washing machine.

Clearcast said their consultant had considered the testing on the polyester T-shirts and had been satisfied that the ad was acceptable. The testing was on 100% polyester T-shirts and they had therefore requested this qualification was included in the ad. Because the ad specified the material used they did not believe viewers would expect the product to necessarily work as well on other materials. They provided a copy of the claim support document provided by RB UK for the ad.


Not upheld

The ASA considered that viewers would understand from the ad that the product would whiten greyed clothes by three shades. Whilst the ad was intended to make this claim specifically in relation to 100% polyester T-shirts, we considered consumers would view this as an example of the product in use, but expect it to have an equivalent effect on other non-polyester clothes. We therefore considered the evidence on that basis.

We were provided with the whiteness recovery tests undertaken on 100% polyester T-shirts (as shown in the ad) and 75% cotton sports socks. We considered that these materials were most likely to be relevant to a whiteness recovery product. The Clearcast consultant had seen the T-Shirt test data and we noted that RB UK had provided them with further data in response to their questions. They were satisfied that the test supported the three shades whiter claim in relation to the polyester T-shirts. We saw the same level of test data in relation to the 75% cotton socks, including the full results. These showed that average shade recovery was three shades and the standard deviation was small. We were satisfied that the methodology was appropriate and that the results demonstrated the product would have the same effect on non-polyester clothes. We also considered that, although the washing machine tests did not relate to the method of use promoted in the ad, they were supporting evidence that equivalent whiteness recovery effects would be seen in 100% cotton garments. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.

We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules  3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  and  3.2 3.2 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.
 (Misleadingness),  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),  3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.  (Qualification) and  3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service.  (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


3.1     3.10     3.12     3.2     3.9    

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