A television advert for Colgate-Palmolive has come to the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) attention after receiving claims that it is falsely depicting itself as being backed by the nursing profession.
The dental care and toiletries giant was pulled up for a TV and VOD ad for its Colgate toothpaste, which depicts a nurse at work saying; "As a nurse I keep people healthy by fighting bacteria" accompanied by an on-screen text stating ‘representation of nurse.’
The ad then features the nurse visiting her dentist, adding; "So I was shocked when my dentist showed me all the bacteria in my mouth, the cause of most dental problems. He recommended I switch to Colgate Total, and wow! The bacteria was [sic] practically gone.”
Proceeding scenes feature a male voice-over stating; "No other toothpaste provides superior anti-bacterial protection and protects your mouth from these eight dental problems.”
According to the ASA, seven complainants challenged whether, by featuring a nurse at work and a reference to fighting bacteria, the ads misleadingly implied the product was endorsed by members of the nursing profession.
From Colgate-Palmolive’s point of view, the overall impression of the ad was clearly fictitious, featuring an actress cast as a nurse informing viewers that even a nurse, who was likely to deal with bacteria on a day-to-day basis, might not be aware of the levels of bacteria in the mouth.
“The ad included a disclaimer that stated ‘representation of nurse’ and told the story of a fictitious nurse visiting her dentist and his recommendation to use the product.”
Furthermore, the cosmetics player says the nurse appeared as an individual and consumer and only made references to herself, not on behalf of any other members of the nursing profession.
Meanwhile, Clearcast says the ad featured an everyday consumer who happened to be a nurse, and that the ‘representation of a nurse’ disclaimer was included to clarify that it was an actress playing a nurse and giving her personal rather than professional opinion.
ASA: Claims are upheld
Acccording to the ASA, the TV ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 11.8 (Medicines, medical devices, treatment and health) while the VOD ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials).
It noted that Colgate said the actress made references only to her own experience of using the product, and not on behalf of any other members of the nursing profession.
The ASA also highlights that the nurse was shown in non-uniform clothing for the scene in which she visited her dentist, but was otherwise shown in a nurses' uniform and in a clinical environment. We also noted the actress stated "As a nurse I keep people healthy by fighting bacteria."
"We acknowledged the ad included on-screen text during the first scene that stated "Representation of a nurse" but did not consider that this took away from the overall impression that the product was endorsed by members of the nursing profession and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading."
The Association concludes that; "The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Colgate not to imply that products were endorsed by healthcare professionals in future, unless that was the case."