Cipla Medpro and hair loss – “does it work”?

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Posted 12th August 2011

Can Cipla Medpro’s product make your hair grow back (or prevent further loss) as claimed in the TV advert shown during rugby and using the celebrity endorsement of  Toks van der Linde? The advert stated: “Act now! And stop further hair loss.” It then shows Mr Toks van der Linde, . . . 

Seems like the evidence to support the advert was inadequate with the ASA ruling against Cipla.

Cipla / JP Heyns / 17904
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Mr JP Heyns Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Cipla Medpro (Pty) Ltd Respondent
http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5674

12 Aug 2011

Mr Heyns lodged a consumer complaint against a Cipla “squeezeback” television commercial which aired during Super 15 rugby matches on DSTV.

The commercial is one that shrinks the screen and moves the match to an upper right corner of the screen to make room for the commercial along the bottom and the left of the screen. It shows three heads on the left panel downwards showing a bolding head from the front, the top and the back. It has the caption “Act now! And stop further hair loss.” It then shows Mr Toks van der Linde, the Cipla logo and a caption “Ask your doctor about the Cipla medicine”, and also gives the Cipla webside address.

COMPLAINT
In essence the complainant submitted that the commercial is misleading as Mr Toks van der Linde was never bald. The complainant also submitted that as far as he knows no treatment can give you all your hair back.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the Clause 4.2.1 of Section II (Misleading claims) was taken into consideration.

RESPONSE
The respondent submitted that Mr Toks van der Linde is a well-known public figure. The complainant has correctly stated that Mr van der Linde has never been bald and everyone who is familiar with him will also be aware of this fact. The respondent also submitted that Mr van der Linde is demonstrating early signs of male pattern baldness of which other examples (which are clearly not Mr van der Linde) are given in the commercial.

The commercial does not encourage people to use the product to bring their hair back, but to prevent further hair loss. It is a tongue-in-cheek message of what Mr van der Linde could look like if he does not take steps to prevent further hair loss. There is no intention to mislead people to believe that by using the respondent’s products they will re-grow the hair they have lost.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

There are two questions before the Directorate. First, the question of whether Mr van der Linde is used in such a manner as to suggest that he was bald and then recovered. Secondly whether the commercial generally suggests that the products referred to will cause hair that was lost to grow again.

Does the commercial suggest that Mr van der Linde was bald?

The squeezeback does not have a sound as it plays during the match. The viewer can only rely on the visuals to understand or interpret the commercial. The commercial shows the three headshots from different angles, all with visibly waning hair. It then has another shot of Mr van der Linde shown from the front with largely a full set of hair.

The nature of using a celebrity endorsement is to either suggest that the product advertised is used by the celebrity or to suggest that the celebrity believes in the product. The use of the pictures in succession as they were in the squeezeback followed by the visual of Mr Toks van der Linde, lends itself to the interpretation of “before” and “after” photos. The only other communication in the commercial is caption “Act now! And stop further hair loss.” and that consumers should enquire from their doctors regarding Cipla medicines.

The reasonable interpretation of this visual is that the head shots from the different angles are those of Mr van der Linde. There is no disclaimer to suggest different. The fact that consumers who are familiar with Mr van der Linde will recognise that it is not his head only further illustrates the fact that the visuals as they are aired on the commercial are misleading or at the very least confusing, especially to viewers who are not familiar with Mr van der Merwe.

Given this, it is the Directorates view that the advertising is misleading and in breach of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II.

Does the commercial suggest that the products can grow hair that was already lost?

The respondent submitted that the commercial has a caption that clearly states “Act now! And stop further hair loss” (their emphasis). The respondent pointed out that the commercial is communicating the preventative measures that one should take to stop further hair loss, and not that it will grow hair that was already lost.

The commercial is presented in the same manner that “Before and after” advertising is presented. First the picture of the undesirable condition is shown, and then the picture of the desirable picture is shown. This presentation communicates that the viewer with the undesirable condition depicted should aspire to the desirable condition depicted. In this case the desirable condition is that of Mr Toks van der Linde, which does not show signs of hair loss.

The statement “…stop further hair loss” cannot be looked at in isolation. The advertising has to be looked at as a whole. From this perspective, the commercial at the very least gives confusing communications regarding the offer being made by the commercial. The caption communicates prevention, while the “before and after” visuals communicates repair, or re-growth.

By virtue of the fact that there appear to be at least two different interpretations, both reasonable and understandable, but one (re-growth) incorrect, the squeezeback commercial is at best ambiguous, as such likely to confuse a hypothetical reasonable person.

In light of the above, the respondent’s squeezeback commercial is likely to mislead people and is therefore in contravention of clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.

Based on the above, the respondent is required to:

Withdraw the squeezeback commercial;

Action the withdrawal of the squeezeback commercial with immediate effect upon receipt of this ruling;

Ensure that the squeezeback commercial is withdrawn within the deadlines stipulated in Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and

Not use the squeezeback commercial in the current format again in the future.

The complaint is upheld

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