ASA clamps down on ‘organic’ advertising claims
An advertisement for ‘Philip Martin’, a subsidiary hair care line of UK based cosmetic company, Candy Harbour came to the ASA’s attention after readers challenged whether its ‘organic’ amongst other claims were of a misleading nature.
The Agency's website outlines the specific text that sparked the debate; “Philip Martin’s Italian Organic Lifestyle organic based colour - get it in your head our choice is to be pure, no comprise, natural products of biological derivation, no petrochemicals no formaldehyde no nickel".
The complainant had particular grievance with 'organic based colour' and 'Italian organic lifestyle' as they felt that those descriptions implied that the products were organic; 'no petrochemicals' because they believed the product may contain Paratoluenediamines (PTDs); and finally, 'no formaldehyde' and 'no nickel' were thought to be misleading as they were ultimately impling that competitors’ products contained these chemicals.
In response to the complaints, Candy Harbour says the wording ‘Organic Based Colour’ and ‘Italian Organic Lifestyle’ were used to communicate the philosophy of the Philip Martin line and were widely used across all of the company's corporate materials.
They further stated that the message they sought to communicate to their target market was that the products and the colour in particular were based around natural, organic ingredients.
According to the ASA, the company then provided a list of ingredients for the hair dye line, along with documents from a French company which certified individual ingredients within some of the brands cosmetic products as ‘organic’ and/or ‘natural’.
The documents stated that Philip Martin's did not use PTDs in their products and that the claim that the hair dye products contained 'no petrochemicals' was therefore valid.
ASA: Claims are upheld
On looking into the provided documentation, the ASA confirmed that the hair dye products composition lists detailed the chemical name of each of the ingredients, however it noticed that the ingredients varied depending on the concentration of the product - resulting in some of the chemicals being present in instances and not in others.
"We noted Candy Harbour had not specifically demonstrated which concentrations were relevant to products sold by Philip Martin’s and therefore had not demonstrated which of the listed ingredients were present in the hair dye products. Candy Harbour did not specifically identify any of the substances in the hair dye ingredient list as 'organic' and noted some of the ingredients appeared to be chemically derived."
On this point the agency ruled that the ad had in fact breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation) and should therefore "not appear again in its current form, we told Candy Harbour not to make claims unless they held robust evidence to substantiate them.”