A magazine ad and a website for Wisdom Clean Between Interdental Brushes:
a. A magazine ad seen in Dental Health in March 2016. Text stated “With such a superior design it’s no wonder they are recommended by 100% of dental professionals”. Small print at the bottom of the page stated “*Source: Wisdom poll of Dental Professional responses on Wisdom Clean Between interdental brushes October 2013 and 2014”.
b. A website www.wisdom-toothbrushes.com, seen in March 2016, featured text on the home page beside an image of the product which stated “Recommended by 100% of Dental Professionals*”.
TePe Oral Hygiene Products Ltd challenged whether the claim “recommended by 100% of dental professionals” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Wisdom Toothbrushes Ltd said that their interdental brushes were popular with dental professionals and their patients because they were wire free. They said that the claim of professional endorsement of the Wisdom Clean Between Interdental Brushes was based on the poll conducted in 2013/14 that was referred to in ad (a). They provided details of the poll. The sample was made up of UK dental professionals and their details were recorded at professional shows and exhibitions, where the participants were invited to complete a questionnaire online. They had a sample size of 46 respondents who were asked “Would you recommend this product to patients in practice?”. They provided the results of the poll, which showed that all 46 respondents had answered “Yes” to this question.
The advertiser said that they were active in engaging with the dental profession through the media and face to face through participation at professional dental shows such as the Dentistry Show, BDDHT and the Scottish Dental Show. They explained that these shows have provided a platform for them to explain and demonstrate the benefits for patient oral care from using the brushes and they continued to get positive feedback to their products from dental professionals. They said that examples of this were contained in the poll results and were an accurate representation of the views of dental professionals. They said millions of their brushes have been used on patients in practice and have been provided to them for home use on recommendation from their dental professional.
The advertiser said that the research they had conducted was a preference poll as opposed to a clinical study. They cited four examples of preference polls for beauty and skin care products that referred to whether products would be recommended by consumers or whether consumers agreed with particular statements and where the sample size was considerably smaller than the consumer universe. They explained that according to the General Dental Council report there were 107,052 dental professionals in the UK as of November 2015 and the sample size of 46 dental professionals in the Wisdom poll was significantly more representative than of those used in preference polls featured in other health and beauty ads.
The ASA noted that ad (a) included the source of the results and that ad (b) did not include any qualification to show that the claim was based on the Wisdom poll until one clicked through to the product page. The sample size was not included in either ad. We considered that, in each case, readers were likely to understand the claim “recommended by 100% of dental professionals” to mean that it was a product of choice for all dental professionals and was actively recommended by them, albeit that in the case of ad (a) it would have been more apparent that the claim was based on a poll of professionals.
The poll results consisted of the responses of 46 dental professionals who had been asked a number of questions, including “Would you recommend this product to patients in practice?”, all the respondents had answered “Yes” to this question. We noted the advertiser’s points about preference polls and perception tests cited in other ads and their small sample sizes. However, in this case an objective claim was made and, notwithstanding the relatively small number of respondents, that it wasn’t clear whether these were all of those polled or only those who had responded and the fact that the sample size wasn’t referred to in the ads, we would require it to be supported by robust evidence.
We considered the poll results. They showed that those responding to the question indicated that they said they would recommend the use of the brushes but this was not the claim that was made in the ad, which was that all dental professionals actively recommended the product. We noted that the poll results did not record whether they already did so or went on to do so. A number of the answers provided to the open ended questions featured in the poll indicated that some of the respondents had not used or recommended the products in their practices. We therefore did not consider that the poll supported the claim “recommended by 100% of dental professionals”.
We concluded that, because the claim implied that the product was actually recommended by 100% of dental professionals and the evidence provided did not show this to be the case, the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
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.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The claim must not appear again in its current form. We told Wisdom Toothbrushes Ltd to qualify the claims made in their advertising and ensure that they could provide robust substantiation for their claims.