The Authority received nine complaints from viewers challenging whether the on-screen text in P&G’s TV ad for Oral B Pro Expert Toothpaste "1 in 2 has gum problems" was misleading because it contradicted the accompanying voice over which stated: “one in two adults might have gum problems and not even know it."
However; on looking into the matter, the ASA found that the voice-over carried more weight than the on-screen text as far as the viewer impact was concerned and that in this context the visual text would be seen merely as a bullet point to accompany the more detailed voice-over where the claim was softened somewhat.
"We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising). 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.10 (Qualification) but did not find it in breach."
A closer look at the ad in question
P&G's ad featured a woman standing alongside a screen, which contained the text "Dr Uchenna Okoye, Dentist" whereby she then states, "I've seen a lot of teeth that look great, until I look at the gum line. The problem is if you have plaque along the gum line, it can lead to gum problems, in fact one in two adults might have gum problems and not even know it."
"That's why I recommend Oral B Pro-Expert Premium Gum Protection toothpaste. It helps reduce plaque at the gum line and it's even been clinically proven to reduce it in just four weeks," she concludes.
On being contacted by the Authority, the personal care company said that Ms Okoye's statement was correct and referred to the fact that individuals may not be aware of their gum problems and that this statement was not misleading and did not contradict the claim that one in two adults had gum problems.
P&G research substantiates claims
P&G officials then provided copies of clinical studies which they believed substantiated the claim that "1 in 2 adults have gum problems". They also said the Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 reported that "a reasonable sized minority of dentate adults (17%) had healthy periodontal issues", and therefore believed it was fair to conclude from this that the remaining 83% had some kind of gum problem.
The brand also stated that it believed the claim was supported by the Epidemiology and Risk Factors of Periodontal Disease study which stated that prevalence of gingivitis (gum problems) was greater than 50%.
The periodontal diseases in Europe report discussed that the occurrence of gingivitis was found in 80% of people examined and that a small proportion of these exhibited severe wide-spread periodontitis; mild gingivitis was common and most adults (more than one in two) demonstrated some loss of probing attachment.