Ad descriptionA post on thismamalife’s Instagram account, seen in February 2019, featured an image of the blogger in bed smiling. In the background of the image was a packet of Phenergan Night Time tablets. The caption stated “[AD] Sleep. Who needs more of it? I'm really lucky in that I don't actually need a lot of sleep to get by and manage to cram all sorts into my evening, being the night owl I am. Every now and again though, daily life can get a bit overwhelming and I often find it's my sleep that ends up suffering. I end up going to bed even later than I usually do and am not able to fall asleep. The worry of not sleeping then adds to it all and I end up a complete and utter zombie!! Last time this happened I tried out Phenergan Night Time, which really helped. It is a pharmacy only, short term solution to insomnia for adults which works by inducing a sleepy effect thanks to its active ingredient, promethazine hydrochloride, helping you to sleep through the night. Do you guys fall asleep easily or are you night time over thinkers like me? #AD #sleep”.
IssueThe ASA challenged whether the ad used a celebrity to endorse a medicine.
ResponseSanofi said that ThisMamaLife (Instagram) had a small and niche following which was unlikely to influence a medicinal decision taken by a consumer. They said that they did not believe the blogger constituted a celebrity. They highlighted that she had 32,000 followers (April 2019) which was comparatively less than recognised celebrities on Instagram such as Stephen Fry (359,000 followers), David Beckham (55million followers). Sanofi said that the decision to partner with the blogger was checked with the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB- the consumer healthcare UK trade association) prior to working with the individual. They also provided a copy of a brief to the PAGB which outlined their proposed partnership with bloggers. ThisMamaLife said that she was willing to amend the post in line with ASA requirements.
Rule 12.18 of the CAP Code stated that marketers must not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse medicines. We assessed whether the blogger, ThisMamaLife (Instagram), was a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code and whether she had endorsed a medicine.
We noted that Phenergan Night Time tablets was an over the counter medicine, used to treat short-term insomnia in adults and as a short-term sedative for children aged 16 years and above. We were, therefore, satisfied that the product was a medicine. The ad featured an image of ThisMamaLife sitting next to a packet of Phenergan tablets. The ad also included a caption which detailed ThisMamaLife’s positive experience using the medicine. We considered that consumers would understand the ad to mean that ThisMamaLife had used and recommended the product. On that basis, we considered that ThisMamaLife has endorsed the medicine.
We noted that ThisMamaLife described herself as a “family blogger/vlogger” and had approximately 30,000 followers on Instagram. She regularly produced content across different social media platforms relating to her experiences as a parent. Her Instagram feed featured over 1000 posts that included recommendations on different products.
We noted Sanofi’s argument regarding the comparatively low number of followers ThisMamaLife had in contrast to notable celebrities. However, we considered that over 30,000 followers indicated that she had the attention of a significant number of people. Given that she was popular with, and had the attention of a large audience, we considered that ThisMamaLife was a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code.
Because we considered that ThisMamaLife was a celebrity for the purpose of the CAP Code, and as she had endorsed a medicine, we concluded that the ad had breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.18 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again. We told Sanofi to ensure that they did not use celebrities including social influencers to endorse medicines in future.