Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A paid-for Facebook post for wet wipe company WaterWipes, seen in February 2022, stated "WaterWipes are purer than cotton and water, containing only two ingredients, 99.9% purified water and a drop of fruit extract. Making them the world's purest wipes ...".
1. Kimberly-Clark Ltd challenged whether the claim “world’s purest wipes” was misleading and could be substantiated.
2. The ASA challenged whether the claim “world’s purest wipes” was verifiable.
1. WaterWipes UC said the claim “World’s Purest Baby Wipe” was a registered EU trademark which had passed through the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) examination process, including publication for opposition by competitors. They said that the word “pure” was typically used to describe something that was extremely or very pure or that displayed the greatest extent of purity when compared to other things in the same group and explained that the product comprised 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract.
They had commissioned a third-party review of their global competitors and said that, generally speaking, those brands contained more than two ingredients, with the average product containing 12 ingredients, and provided a copy of the resulting report. They also provided a copy of an internal report that contained further substantiation. The report was based on information from the Mintel Global New Product Development Database and included data from 86 countries. They explained that 98 countries, which had “developing” economies or economies in “transition”, had been excluded because there was no reliable data about baby wipes available in those countries. They further explained that in those cases cross border commerce and e-commerce likely meant that products available in those countries were the same as those captured in the Mintel database. They said the water in their product underwent a seven-stage purification process, where each stage provided a discrete level of purification, and that information about the ingredients of the wipes was publicly available.
2. WaterWipes said the ad contained no outward comparison to named competitor brands and that the ad’s statement that the product contained 99.9% water was the principal verification information for the claim “world’s purest wipes”. They believed that as the ad did not name any competitors it did not constitute a direct comparison with identifiable competitors. They added that the Facebook post featured a link labelled “LEARN MORE”, through which consumers could find out more about the product.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “world’s purest wipes”, in the context of the ad, to mean that the wipes were the purest compared to other wipes that had been manufactured for the same purpose because they contained only two ingredients, and consisted primarily of water. We considered the claim would be understood as a comparison against the whole, global market for the product.
We assessed the evidence provided by WaterWipes. The third-party review featured ingredients lists for the products manufactured by WaterWipes’ competitors in the UK, USA, and Germany. The internally produced review had used the Mintel Global New Product Development database to analyse baby wipes launched between February 2012 and February 2022 in 83 countries. The report found that of the 3,622 baby wipes analysed, there were seven other products besides WaterWipes that contained only two ingredients. The report also found that WaterWipes was the sole product that contained 99.9% water. We noted, however, that the database only monitored products in 86 countries, and the report had only examined 83 countries. We considered that while both of the reviews took some countries into account, they had not included WaterWipes’ competitors in every country. We therefore considered they were not sufficient evidence for the claim.
Because we considered the evidence was not adequate to substantiate the claim “world’s purest wipes”, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications 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 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We considered that the claim “world’s purest wipes” would be understood as a comparison between WaterWipes and all of their global competitors, and that it was a comparison with identifiable competitors.The CAP Code required comparisons with identifiable competitors to be verifiable. That meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor, including one that could be identified by implication, needed to include, or direct a consumer to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claim was accurate, or ask someone suitably qualified to do so.
The ad did not provide any information to ensure consumers or competitors were able to check the comparative claim, nor did it include an adequate signpost to information that formed the basis of the comparison. For that reason, we did not consider that the ad allowed consumers or competitors to verify the comparison and therefore concluded that the claim breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told WaterWipes UC to ensure they held adequate evidence to substantiate comparative claims in future, and to ensure claims with identifiable competitors were verifiable.