ASA Adjudication on Guthy-Renker UK Ltd
Guthy-Renker UK Ltd
12 Gough Square
18 July 2012
Internet (on own site), Television
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A teleshopping ad and a website, for a blemish treatment, viewed in August 2011:
a. The teleshopping ad featured an American singer, who endorsed the product.
b. The Proactiv website included testimonials from several other American celebrities.
The complainant challenged whether the testimonials and endorsements in ads (a) and (b) were misleading, because she believed the celebrities were likely to have used the American formulation of Proactiv, which contained an active ingredient that was not present in the UK formulation.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Guthy-Renker UK Ltd (GRUK) said each of the celebrities featured had been sent the UK formulations of various Proactiv Solution products for their use. They said they held talent agreements with each of the celebrities, in which they agreed to give testimonials about the products GRUK had sent them. They said many of the Proactiv Solution products had only one formulation that was used in the US and the UK but using different brand names and packaging. They said the products were designed to treat spots and blemishes and although different formulations were used due to different regulatory requirements, their purpose was the same. They said it was therefore not surprising that the celebrities had still been happy with the result, having used more than one formulation.
They said they believed they held adequate documentary evidence to support their advertising claims at the time the ads appeared, in the form of extremely detailed talent agreements. The agreements required that the celebrities provide descriptions of their own experiences of using the products and of the benefits of such use in their day to day lives, and that any such endorsements would be factually accurate and representative of their honest opinions. They submitted a letter from Guthy-Renker LLC, confirming that the company had talent agreements in place with the celebrities concerned, that the celebrities had been sent the UK formulations of various Proactiv products and that they had agreed to give testimonials about the products under the terms of their agreements. They also submitted the talent agreements. They said that it was extremely difficult to reach celebrities and their management to obtain signed statements because of their busy schedules, which often involved different time zones. However, they also submitted signed statements from five of the celebrities, which said they had received, and used, the UK formulations of Proactiv products. GRUK said they would submit other statements as soon as they were able to obtain them.
In relation to ad (a), Clearcast said they had requested and received assurances that the testimonials were true representations of the celebrities' experiences with the product. They said the ad had been approved on the understanding that signed testimonials could be produced if required. They provided copies of the assurances they had received.
THIS ADJUDICATION, DUE TO HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED ON 7 DECEMBER 2011, HAS BEEN SUBJECT TO AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW. AFTER CONSIDERATION BY THE INDEPENDENT REVIEWER, THE ADJUDICATION REMAINS UNCHANGED.
The ASA noted the letter GRUK submitted, which stated that the celebrities had been sent the UK formulations of various Proactiv Solution products, and that the talent agreements stated that the celebrities agreed to give an endorsement of the product that reflected their experiences of using the product and the benefits of such use in their day to day lives. The agreements also stated that any such statement would be factually accurate and would represent the celebrity's honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences. We noted the veracity of the testimonials was not being challenged, but only whether they were relevant to the Proactiv products available to the UK audience at which the ads were targeted. We also noted the statements GRUK submitted from five of the seven celebrities that appeared in the ads. The signed statements confirmed that the celebrities had received various Proactiv products, including those that Guthy-Renker had advised them incorporated the UK formulations, and that they had provided truthful endorsements related to their use of the products. Each of the statements said the celebrities had used the UK Proactiv products for "several weeks": during 2008; in two instances during 2009; and in two instances during 2010.
We noted ad (a) included a voice-over that stated that the singer, "... doesn't play nice with zits, she uses Proactiv", that the singer stated, "I really love the refining mask, I use that at night" and that she regularly shared the secret now she had clearer skin. It also included on-screen text that stated "I'M NOT POLITE, I'M PROACTIV". Similarly, we noted the testimonials in ad (b) referred to continued use. They included text such as "Since I started using Proactiv I've seen a massive change in my face and confidence ...", "My relationship with Proactiv is the longest one I've ever had ... It travels with me wherever I go ...", "I started breaking out when I was 14 ... Proactiv has been part of my daily skincare routine since because it consistently works for me", "I decided to give Proactiv a chance, and my experience was really positive. It's really nice to wake up with great skin on the morning of a big match", "... I use Proactiv so my face doesn't get like that ... With Proactiv I don't have to worry", "... even though my skin's clear now I still use Proactiv every day ...".
We noted the testimonial provided by one of the celebrities in ad (b) referred to using Proactiv only in the past tense but that it also stated that her skin was now "smooth, even glowing" as a result of using the product and "I don't have to think about my skin, it doesn't enter the equation anymore". Nevertheless, we noted the signed statement from that celebrity indicated that she had used the UK formulation of the product for "several weeks during 2009". We considered, however, the ad when it was viewed in August 2011 was likely to be interpreted as suggesting the celebrity's skin continued to benefit from using the product. We considered the overall impression of the ads was that the celebrities were continued and regular users of Proactiv and noted the same endorsement claims were included on the US Proactiv website. We noted the signed statements, which related to only five of the seven testimonials, said the celebrities had each used the UK formulation of the product for a period of only several weeks, between one and three years before the ads appeared. We noted the ads were targeted at a UK audience and that the UK Proactiv products had a different active ingredient to the US version. In that context, we therefore considered the claims of continued use had not been substantiated. We concluded that the ads were misleading.
Ad (a) breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising) and 3.45 (Endorsements and testimonials). Ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising) and 3.46 (Endorsements and testimonials).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told GRUK to ensure endorsements and testimonials in future ads related to the product being advertised.