ASA Adjudication on Philips Electronics UK Ltd
Philips Electronics UK Ltd
Guildford Business Park
1 August 2012
Catalogue, Leaflet, Television
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Seven issues were investigated, of which six were Upheld and one was Not Upheld
Three ads, for the Philips Airfryer:
(a) One ad was a leaflet obtained at a trade show by the complainant on 8 June 2011.
(b) Another ad appeared in the Spring/Summer 2011 Argos catalogue.
(c) The third was a TV ad that showed chips being prepared and served.
Bird & Bird, on behalf of their client Groupe SEB UK Ltd, a competitor, challenged whether the following claims were likely to mislead:
1. "Best tasting chips, without the oil" in ads (a) and (b);
2. "The star shaped element provides optimal air circulation for perfect, healthy cooking without the need for oil" in ad (a);
3. "Two thirds of consumers prefer crispy chips from the Philips airfryer" in ad (a) and (b);
4. "Health". Followed by a list of fat percentage content in fresh chips cooked with different appliances" in ad (a);
5. "63% of Belgian consumers prefer crispy chips from the Philips Airfryer to those cooked with a standard fryer!" in ad (a); and
6. "Time - Preparation time for fresh chips", and the comparisons between the airfryer and other cooking methods in the table shown under that heading, specifically the "other leading competitor" in ad (a).
Four members of the public challenged whether the following claims in ad (c) were misleading:
7. "Just with air", and "Just add air", when on-screen text in the ad stated, "For fresh chips add 1/2 tablespoon of oil".
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Philips Electronics UK Ltd (Philips) believed that the "best tasting" element of the claim would not be interpreted as an absolute superlative claim and that it should be regarded as advertising puffery. They stated, nevertheless, that it was substantiated by research commissioned by Philips in June 2010 in which 308 adult consumers in France blind taste-tested chips prepared in the Airfryer compared with those prepared in the Tefal Actifry. They stated that a statistically significant (55.19%) percentage of those tested said they preferred the taste of the chips prepared in the Philips Airfryer. With regard to the element of the claim "without the oil", they believed that the statement was supported by the footnote which stated "For fresh chips, use half a tablespoon of olive oil for extra flavour. Frozen chips are usually pre-cooked in oil". They believed this text did not contradict the primary claim and that it simply provided additional information in relation to cooking chips from fresh. They believed the ad did not focus primarily on fresh chips and so this qualification only related to a fraction of the chips that would be prepared in the Airfryer.
They stated that consumers would view the claim as a whole and believed they would not infer from it that chips from the Airfryer would be better than any other chips, but rather that they were the best given the low-fat method of cooking. They stated that further research carried out in Belgium influenced this claim where 311 adults blind-tasted chips cooked in the Airfryer and those cooked in a deep fat fryer and that the results demonstrated parity in taste preference between the two methods of cooking.
2. They said that the claim "The star shaped element provides optimal air circulation for perfect, healthy cooking without the need for oil" simply explained that the shape of the element was designed to optimise the process and was explained on the same page of the ad as the heading "how does the Airfryer work?". They stated that the text was intended to explain that cooking was achieved by a combination of fast circulating hot air and a grill element and that this distinguished it from conventional deep-fryer devices that required large amounts of oil. They also stated that the "without the need for oil" element of the claim was factually accurate given the range of foods that could be cooked in the Airfryer (including frozen chips) without oil.
3. They said the claim "Two thirds of consumers prefer crispy chips from the Philips Airfryer" from ads (a) and (b) was supported by research carried out on 619 adult consumers in France and Belgium who blind taste-tested chips prepared in the Airfryer compared to those prepared in the Tefal Actifry (France) and a conventional deep fryer (Belgium). They stated that a statistically significant (65.58%, France; 63.34%, Belgium) number of tasters preferred the crispiness of chips prepared in the Airfryer compared to the other methods. They believed the claim had therefore been substantiated.
4. They said that the fat percentages set out in ad (a) were based on a report commissioned by Philips and carried out by a testing institute. They stated that the test compared fresh chips cooked in the Airfryer, the Tefal Actifry, oven chips and chips cooked in a conventional deep fryer and that the fat content was determined according to a recognised standard. They stated that the test itself used potatoes from the same batch. They explained that for each appliance, samples were tested from three consecutive batches, compared at two-thirds of the advertised appliance maximum quantity (or the best results instructions, as appropriate) and that the amount of oil that was added corresponded with the manufacturer's instructions. They stated that the figures detailed in the ad were an accurate representation of the results of those tests. They stated that the amounts of potatoes and oil differed in each case because either the manufacturer's own instructions were different or that, when the product was three-quarters filled, the size of the product was different resulting in different amounts of potato to fill it and different quantities of oil to make the chips.
5. They stated that the claim "63% of Belgian consumers prefer chips from the Philips airfryer" was substantiated by blind taste-testing research that had been carried out on 311 adult consumers. They stated that the test subjects were asked to compare the crispiness of chips cooked in the Airfryer with those cooked in a conventional fryer and that a statistically significant (63.34%) number said they preferred the crispiness of the chips prepared in the Airfryer.
6. With regard to the reference to the preparation times of the various methods of cooking chips, they said the ad clearly displayed named sources, graphical representations and summaries to provide consumers with all the material information required to make an informed decision in relation to the product, including the sources of the preparation times being referred to. They stated that these were taken from the products own instruction manuals and that heating up times were not included in any of the comparisons. They stated that the preparation times did not include the time spent preparing the potatoes (in order to produce fresh chips) because this was dependent on the user and not the product itself and therefore would not be expected by a consumer to be included.
7. They said the Airfryer was a product that made use of patented and revolutionary technology. They stated that the unique combination of fast circulating hot air and a grill element allowed frying a variety of food in a fast and easy way. They believed that since the frying was only done with air, it provided food with less fat content and created less smell than traditional frying.
Clearcast said the agency had provided written assurances from the advertiser that the Airfryer worked without oil and would cook chips without any oil added to the potato. They stated that the advertiser had elected to include the text "For fresh chips add 1/2 tablespoon of oil" which they felt would ensure that viewers were in no way mislead to believe that without the oil you could achieve quite the same level of visual finish. They stated that the on-screen text was only a serving suggestion and not an instructional necessity and that it qualified, rather than contradicted the claim.
The ASA considered that, within the context of an ad for a household cooking product, consumers would understand "best tasting chips without the oil" to be a comparative taste claim against the various traditional methods of home-cooking chips and therefore as a claim that the product produced comparatively better tasting chips than all other traditional home-methods, including deep frying and oven chips, despite not using oil. We noted the results of taste tests carried out in Belgium and France and noted whilst 55.19% of French consumers preferred the taste of chips cooked in the Airfryer compared to that of its competitor, Belgian test results showed a general preference for chips prepared in a deep fryer (compared to the Airfryer). We understood that fresh chips could be cooked in the Airfryer without the need for any oil but that for optimum results, it was necessary to add half a tablespoon of oil. We also understood that although no additional oil was necessary for frozen/oven chips and the ad included the text "frozen chips already pre-cooked in oil", consumers would not consider these chips to be cooked without oil as it would be the oil content of the chip, not the point at which oil was added, that advised them whether the chips were cooked with, or without, oil. We considered that, whilst it did not directly contradict the headline claim, the small print "For fresh chips, use half a tablespoon of olive oil for extra flavour" provided consumers with ambiguous information about whether oil (or additional oil) was necessary in order to create home cooked chips from fresh or frozen that met their expectations. We therefore considered that the claim "Best tasting chips, without the oil" was ambiguous and misleading.
On this point the ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.96 (Qualification) 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
2. Not upheld
We understood that the majority of foods that were cooked in the product did not need the addition of any oil and that the method of frying was achieved through air circulation. Whilst the product recommended that the half a teaspoon of oil be added for taste when preparing fresh chips, we considered that ad (a) made clear that the product cooked many other items without any additional oil being necessary for optimum results. We therefore considered that the claim had been substantiated and the ad was not misleading.
On this point ad we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.9 (Qualification) but did not find it in breach.
We understood that blind taste-tests resulted in the majority of those asked (when the product was compared against the Actifry in France, and a deep fryer in Belgium) stating that they preferred the crispiness of chips prepared in the Airfryer. We noted ad (a) referred to those tests and provided further information to indicate the source of the claims. However, we noted the claim appeared under the section of the ad entitled "taste", and considered that the wording of the claim was ambiguous because, without viewing the full results of taste tests, consumers could interpret the text as a claim that consumers (referred to in the ad) had an overall preference, and/or a preference to taste, for crispy chips cooked in the Airfryer, as opposed to the crispiness (texture) of those chips.
Furthermore, we noted ad (b) included the text "Compared to other leading brands" and considered that this did not make clear that participants in the taste tests had been asked about their preference for the crispiness of the chips prepared in the product compared to a direct competitor and a deep fryer and that the these tests were carried out on consumers living in France and Belgium. We considered that the ads (a) and (b) had not clearly qualified the claim "Two thirds of consumers prefer crispy chips from the Philips Airfryer" and concluded that those ads were therefore misleading.
On this point ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We understood the fat content comparison had been carried out by an independent test centre and that, where it believed specific optimum cooking instructions were not available, it had filled the cooking compartment to three-quarters of its capacity with fresh potato and added a corresponding amount of oil based on what it believed to be the correct ratio according to the manufacturer's instructions. We noted the volume of the products being compared differed and that this therefore resulted in different quantities of potato and oil being used in the test. We also noted that although more chips and oil were used in one of the products being tested, because it had a larger volume cooking compartment, the comparison with the other products was likely to be fair, provided the quantity of oil used had been calculated based on each manufacturer’s instructions. We understood that the amount of oil recommended was based on liquid volume and had been converted by the institute to weight. We understood both Philips and Group SEB (the complainant) agreed that one Actifry measuring spoon was recommended for use for making chips from 1 kg of fresh potato in the Actifry product. We understood that, when the ratio had been moved down to 650 g, the testing institute believed this resulted in 9.75 g oil (rounded up to 10 g) and SEB believed this should have been 8.37 g and that the difference in the amount of oil used was as a result of a disagreement over the weight of oil and the capacity of the cup-measurement. We noted SEB's product instructions stated that the measuring spoon maximum capacity (which was clearly marked on the spoon) was 14 ml and that SEB believed this was accurate. We noted the independent testing carried out by Philips had not included the volume of the spoon to the capacity marking but that it believed it weighed 15 g. We concluded that, because the amount of oil added did not clearly correspond with the instructions from the competitor's product, Philips had not demonstrated that the amount of oil added was directly comparative for the purposes of testing and that they had therefore not shown that the fat content comparison was fair. We therefore concluded that the fat percentage comparison had not been substantiated and that the ad was misleading.
On this point ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We understood that in a blind taste-test carried out in Belgium, consumers had been asked to compare their preference for the crispiness of chips prepared in the Airfryer to those prepared in a standard fryer and that 63% reported that they preferred the crispiness of those chips prepared in the Airfryer. We noted ad (a) included a small graph to indicate the percentage difference in preference which was headed "Preferred crispy chips in Belgium and France". However, we noted the graph appeared in the "taste" section of the leaflet and considered that the wording was ambiguous because consumers could interpret it as a claim that Belgian consumers had a general preference and/or a taste preference for the chips prepared in the Actifry when evidence did not demonstrate that this was the case. We therefore concluded that the claim "63% of Belgian consumers prefer crispy chips from the Philips Airfryer!" was misleading.
On this point ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We considered that the claim "preparation time" differed from "cooking time" and considered that without further information, consumers would understand a claim for "preparation time" to mean that heating up times had been included. However, we noted ad (a) included the claim "Preheat Airfryer to required temperature for a few minutes" and considered that in this instance, the ad made sufficiently clear that the "preparation time" being referred related to cooking times. We noted Philips' comments that the cooking times that were the subject of the claim were based on the manufacturer's own instructions and that these were referenced in ad (a). We understood that average cooking times were likely to depend on the amount of fresh potato that was being used and that Philips had referred to the cooking time of Actifry as 30 minutes which had been based on the instruction manual for that product which reported a cooking time of between 24 and 45 minutes for fresh chips in general. We noted the manual broke down the cooking times depending on quantity of potato and noted the 30 minutes stated in the ad related to the time frame of 28–30 minutes which was listed as the necessary cooking time for 500 g of fresh chips with the dimensions 13 mm x 13 mm. We noted the cooking time for the same quantity of chips were not included in the Philips manual but that 500 g of chips were included in the cooking time of 16–18 minutes for between 300 and 800 g of chips. However, we further noted this calculation was based on chips of 8 mm x 8 mm which was a smaller size of chip used for the basis of the cooking times for the Actifry product. Whilst we understood that the evidence from the manuals suggested that cooking times for fresh chips made in the Airfryer were quicker than those made in the Actifry, we considered that in order to make a direct comparison against specific cooking times as opposed to the range of times and chip sizes stated in the manuals, Philips would need to provide evidence to demonstrate that it had tested the speed at which the products had cooked the exact same quantities and sizes of chips in each product. If this information was not available we considered that the ad should have included the range of cooking times and chip quantities for each product (based on manufacturer’s own instructions) along with the size of chips being referred to in each case. Because Philips had not supplied sufficient information to demonstrate that the cooking times stated in the ad were accurate and a fair comparison, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
On this point ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) 3.9 (Qualification), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 3.33 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We noted the voice-over made several claims including "for fabulous chips - just add air" and "Philips has created a whole new way to make great tasting chips - just with air". We also noted the first part of the ad focused primarily on making chips and noted Clearcast believed that the ad showed fresh chips being made and that the advertiser believed the ad featured frozen chips. We considered that it was unclear from the ad whether fresh or frozen chips were featured and that viewers' understanding of the claims relating to the oil was dependent on this. We noted the ad included the text "For fresh chips add 1/2 tablespoon of oil" and whilst we noted comments that this was intended to be a serving suggestion to achieve the optimum results, we considered that if viewers considered the chips featured in the ad were fresh, they would be likely to be confused by the claims "for fabulous chips - just add air" and "Philips has created a whole new way to make great tasting chips - just with air" about whether or not oil was needed to achieve results from fresh potato that were likely to meet their expectation of home-made chips. We considered that if viewers understood the featured chips were frozen chips they would understand "for fabulous chips - just add air" that no additional oil was necessary. However, we considered that in this context, the claim "Philips has created a whole new way to make great tasting chips - just with air" was likely to mislead as it suggested that chips could be made without any oil, when we understood that frozen chips were pre-cooked in oil. We therefore concluded the ad was ambiguous and misleading.
On this point ad (c) breached BCAP Code rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.12 (Exaggeration).
Ads (a), (b) and (c) should not appear again in their current form.