Five complaints were made regarding the TV ad, press ad, and website claims; three were upheld and the ASA states that the ad must not appear in its current form.
The complaints made by the Anglo-Dutch firm that the ASA agreed with and said had to be removed were:
- claims the product "[eliminates] odour-causing bacteria, whilst respecting your skin's natural bacteria" in the press ad and "[works] against odour causing bacteria whilst respecting your skin's natural bacteria" on the website were misleading, for the same reason;
- the claims that the product could "eliminate" or "work against" one type of bacteria, namely "odour causing bacteria" and leave "natural bacteria" were misleading and could be substantiated, for the same reason; and
- the claims that "If [bacterial diversity] is disrupted it can affect your skin's health" in the TV ad and that when underarm bacteria is affected "your skin can be left vulnerable" in the press ad were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that a reduction in the levels of bacteria following an application of deodorant would not cause the skin to become vulnerable.
ASA told Colgate-Palmolive to ensure future advertising for Sanex did not misleadingly imply the product could eradicate all types of odour-causing bacteria, and only targeted odour-causing bacteria.
There were also issues with claims that the specific types of bacteria it did eliminate were not ‘natural’, and that antiperspirants generally had a negative impact on the skin's health.
Colgate provided a number of studies to back up their claims and while the ASA accepted these, they stated that some claims would still have to be amended.
This data did provide enough evidence to see off two other Unilever challenges:
- the claim that the product "[fights] odour causing bacteria and [leaves] a beneficial mix of bacteria" in ad the TV ad was misleading because they understood that odour causing bacteria was itself a part of skin's natural bacterial flora, rather than a separate entity;
- the claims in the TV ad that the product could "fight" one type of bacteria, namely "odour causing bacteria", and leave "a beneficial mix of bacteria" were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that the product contained the ingredient aluminium chlorohydrate (ACH), which fought all forms of bacteria.
For this, the ASA took expert advice and considered consumers would understand the claims to mean that the product fought odour-causing types of bacteria, leaving a "beneficial mix of bacteria" on the skin, and deemed this was not misleading.