The gloves are off: GSK complaints lead to UK ad ban for Colgate

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Colgate-palmolive

The gloves are off: GSK complaints lead to UK ad ban for Colgate
A selection of TV, print and online adverts for Colgate Palmolive’s Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpastes have been banned in the UK following complaints, notably from rival oral care firm GlaxoSmithKline.

A press ad, a leaflet, a website and a TV ad from earlier this year for Colgate’s toothpaste were pulled up by GSK as ‘misleading’, and UK watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, agreed.

The ads all boasted of ‘Proven instant relief and superior lasting protection’ of the Colgate product which GSK argued could mislead the consumer and implied that the claim had been proved against other products on the market, such as its own products; which it had not.

Backed by evidence

Colgate argued that the claims made in the adverts were all backed up by evidence and that given the consumer’s purchasing decision was based on a product for increased sensitivity, they would understand the claims made.

The ASA noted that the evidence provided by Colgate showed that the product did provide instant relief when the product was directly applied to sensitive teeth and that it was reasonable of Colgate to assess the product in that way, as long as the basis for the claim was made clear in the ad.

“However, we considered that the claims that​ [the product] was the ‘most effective’ toothpaste and provided ‘superior’ lasting relief, pain relief and protection were strong, absolute claims that implied that ​[it] had been tested against all other sensitive toothpastes on the UK market, and would be interpreted by consumers in that way,”​ said ASA, who therefore upheld the complaint.

Claim issues

GSK also took issue with the comparison in the leaflet stating it implied that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief was the only sensitive toothpaste that worked by sealing the channels to the nerves; a claim it disputes stating its Sensodyne Rapid Relief toothpaste worked in the same way.

Colgate’s response was that the text in the ad made clear that Colgate was being compared with potassium toothpaste variants rather than traditional potassium-based toothpastes, such as Sensodyne, as the Colgate product’s main active ingredient is arginine.

However, ASA considered that consumers were unlikely to be aware of the different sensitive toothpaste technologies or ingredients on the market, and were also unlikely to understand from the text alone that the comparisons did not include all sensitive toothpastes on the market.

“In that context, we considered that consumers were therefore likely to understand that CSPR was the only sensitive toothpaste that worked by blocking channels to the nerve, and that other sensitive toothpastes worked by numbing the nerve. Because we understood that was not the case, we concluded this was misleading,”​ said ASA.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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