Ad description

A TV ad for Nurofen, seen 24 July 2017, showed four brief clips that contrasted ‘good’ and ‘bad’ versions of the same experience, during which a voice-over stated, “Sometimes the choice is obvious. When it comes to headache relief choose Nurofen”. Small on-screen text stated “Nurofen 200mg tablet. Contains ibuprofen. For pain relief …”. The fourth clip showed two drawers being opened: one contained a pack of paracetamol and the other contained a pack of Nurofen, which was picked up out of the drawer. The small on-screen text changed to “Blocks enzymes that cause pain. *400mg ibuprofen vs 1000mg paracetamol. **Refers to absorption. Contains ibuprofen”. The voice-over then stated, “It acts at the source of pain…” as a graphic showed a tablet of Nurofen against a background of a network of blue nerves, approaching a red nerve, and the nerve turning blue. The voice-over continued, “… and provides faster and more effective headache relief than standard paracetamol”. The ad showed a pack of Nurofen tablets and large on-screen text which stated “PROVIDES FASTER, MORE EFFECTIVE HEADACHE RELIEF THAN STANDARD PARACETAMOL*”. The voice-over concluded, “And for even faster relief, choose Nurofen Express” as the ad showed a pack of Nurofen Express and large on-screen text which stated “2X FASTER THAN STANDARD NUROFEN TABLETS**”.


The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the product specifically targeted headache pain.


RB UK Commercial Ltd t/a Nurofen (RB UK) said a primary objective of the ad was to ensure that consumers were able to understand the mode of action of ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Nurofen, and how it operated in delivering pain relief. They believed it was important for consumers making a decision about medication to understand differences in how the medicines operated. Nurofen worked at the source of pain, by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis which caused pain; that process was illustrated by the graphics in the ad and by the on-screen text “Blocks enzymes that cause pain”. Enzymes were present across the body, not just at the site of pain, and the ad therefore did not refer to enzymes which caused headaches, to be clear as to the non-specific mode of action. They said that headache relief was referenced in the ad as an example of how the product could be used, rather than as an inference that it specifically treated headaches.

They highlighted that the graphics in the ad did not show the head or neck, or the product moving towards the head. Rather it showed only a general, non-specific graphic of a nerve, which was used to illustrate clearly to consumers that ibuprofen acted at the source of pain at the cellular level. The absence of any specific body parts from the graphics was intended to avoid any implication that the product targeted a specific site in the body. The claim “For pain relief” was also intended to be clear that Nurofen was suitable for pain relief generally, rather than specifically targeting headache pain.

RB UK said they specifically had not used the words “targets pain” or “target”, because they wanted to avoid the possibility that consumers might interpret such phrasing to mean that the product could specifically target headache pain. Similarly, the names of the products advertised were “Nurofen” and “Nurofen Express” and therefore did not suggest targeting of specific types of pain.

RB UK said the reference to headache relief was made in the context of comparing the effectiveness and speed of action of ibuprofen over paracetamol, illustrated by the ‘choices’ between faster/slower and more/less effective equipment and the voice-over statements “Sometimes the choice is obvious. When it comes to headache relief, choose Nurofen” and “Provides faster and more effective headache relief than standard paracetamol”.

They felt the references to the use of Nurofen for headache relief, in comparison with paracetamol, were balanced with several statements, graphics and visuals indicating that Nurofen was for pain relief generally and acted at the source of the pain wherever it occurred.

RB UK said they had taken advice from CAP in relation to non-broadcast copy with the same concept, and that the ad had received approval from the industry body PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain), having gone through their copy clearance process. They provided a statement from PAGB which highlighted the same points raised by RB UK. PAGB also noted that the Marketing Authorisation for the advertised products included headache relief as a therapeutic indication, and that they understood the MHRA accepted that advertisers may choose to reference a specific indication in their advertising.

Clearcast said that when clearing the ad, the script was thoroughly reviewed, including by a medical consultant. They were confident that the ad did not mislead or exaggerate the benefits of the product.

Clearcast highlighted that the visuals did not show anyone with a headache and the graphics did not show the product targeting a specific area of the body, only showing how the product worked with on-screen text which explained how it blocked enzymes that cause pain. The pack shot showed text which stated “TARGETED PAIN RELIEF”, but there was no mention of headache relief, and other on-screen text displayed during the ad stated “For pain relief”. They considered all those elements contributed to communicating to the viewer that the product was a general pain reliever. They noted the voice-over mentioned headache pain, but said that was relevant to the claim as the purpose of the ad was to communicate the benefit of the product compared to paracetamol.


Not upheld

The ad began with clips showing contrasting scenarios (a man in a duck-shaped dinghy being overtaken by a speedboat; eggs being whisked by hand and by electric whisk; cooked sausages on a barbeque and uncooked sausages on a disposable barbeque). Those clips were accompanied by the voice-over which stated, “Sometimes the choice is obvious …”, before the final ‘choice’ of paracetamol and Nurofen was shown and the voice-over referenced choosing Nurofen for headache relief, because it acted more quickly and effectively than paracetamol. In that context the ASA considered consumers would understand the key message of the ad to be about choice, and specifically about choosing Nurofen over paracetamol for headache relief because it was more effective.

While the ad specifically referenced headache relief, we noted the voice-over also stated “It acts at the source of pain” while graphics showed Nurofen acting on non-specific nerves, and the ad featured the on-screen text “For pain relief” and “Blocks enzymes that cause pain” and did not feature product names that referenced specific types of pain or areas of the body. We considered consumers would therefore understand that the product was for pain relief generally and that headache relief had been referenced as an example of the type of pain relief it could provide, rather than that the product was specifically for headaches or that it directly targeted them. We therefore concluded the ad was not misleading.

We investigated under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation), and 3.12 (Exaggeration), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.


3.1     3.12     3.9    

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