Homemark Aragan Secret Nail Treatment : ARB Ruling

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Posted 30 November 2020

A complaint was laid with the Advertising Regulatory Board against the claims being made for this product.

Complainant: Dr Harris Steinman
Advertiser: Homemark (Pty) Ltd
Consumer/Competitor: Consumer
File reference: 1075 – Homemark Aragan Secret Nail Treatment  – Dr Harris Steinman
Outcome: Upheld
Date: 24 November 2020

The Directorate of the Advertising Regulatory Board has been called on to consider a complaint by Dr Harris Steinman against Homemark’s television commercial promoting its “Aragan Secret Nail Treatment” product. The Complainant saw the commercial on M-Net at 21:10 on 23 September 2020.

Description of the Advertising

The commercial opens with various images of severely damaged and discoloured fingernails and toenails, while the voice-over states:

Ingrown, thick, flaky, brittle, what a nightmare or worse, of embarrassing deformed nails destroying your sanity. Morocco’s best kept secret; Aragan Secret Nail Treatment, is your answer to beautiful and moisturised nails. The legendary Argan Oil, harvested exclusively in Morocco is a key ingredient in this powerful treatment. It’s easy, quick and safe to use …”

During this, images are shown of people applying the product to their toenails and fingernails, and an animation shows a drop being applied to a badly damaged nail, which starts repairing itself as the liquid is brushed over the nail with a small brush.

At the end, the product packaging is also shown, which reflects a “Before” and “After

image of a severely damaged nail having been restored to normal.

Complaint

The Complainant noted that this product has been ruled against on prior occasions,  and that the Advertiser’s continued deception was unbelievable.

He explained that a 2017 report published in an alternative medicine journal (Alternative Medicine Review) reviewed the health benefits of Argan oil. It found no evidence for benefit to any nail condition, including nail fungus (which is depicted in the commercial but not explicitly referred to by the voice-over).

Another review, which published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology also did not validate the contested claims. The article concluded: “This review shows that a lack of clinical data constitutes a serious weakness in our knowledge about argan oil, therefore it is difficult to correlate the reported pharmacological activities to any potential clinical relevance”.

Finally, a 2014 review which focussed on the cosmetic benefits of Aragan Oil reported no evidence for efficacy, while two further studies noted that this oil may cause eczema.

As such, the Advertiser cannot make the type of claims communicated in this commercial. These claims are unsubstantiated, disadvantageous to consumers, and bring advertising into disrepute. 

Response

The Advertiser noted that it was not a member of the ARB and that it would not engage in any correspondence with the ARB.

Application of the Code of Advertising Practice

The Complainant identified Clause 4.1 of Section II (Substantiation) as relevant to this dispute.

Decision

Having considered all the material before it, the Directorate of the ARB issues the following finding.

Jurisdiction

The Advertiser submitted that it was not a member of the ARB and that it would not engage in correspondence with the ARB. The ARB’s Memorandum of Incorporation of the ARB states:

“3.3 The Company has no jurisdiction over any person or entity who is not a member and may not, in the absence of a submission to its jurisdiction, require non-members to participate in its processes, issue any instruction, order or ruling against the non-member or sanction it. However, the Company may consider and issue a ruling to its members (which is not binding on non-members) regarding any advertisement regardless of by whom it is published to determine, on behalf of its members, whether its members should accept any advertisement before it is published or should withdraw any advertisement if it has been published”.

In other words, if you are not a member and do not submit to the jurisdiction of the ARB, the ARB will consider and rule on your advertising for the guidance of its members.

The ARB will rule on whatever is before it when making a decision for the guidance of its members. This ruling will be binding only on ARB members and on broadcasters in terms of the Electronic Communications Act.

The ARB will therefore proceed to consider this matter for the guidance of its members.

Merits

The Complainant outlined various reports dealing with Aragan Oil and its purported efficacy in repairing, treating, or restoring damaged nails, or nails suffering from the various conditions listed in the commercial. He submitted that the consensus showed that this oil had no effect, and could even cause eczema in some users.

Clause 4.1 of Section II expects advertisers to hold independent substantiation for all claims which are capable of objective verification.

It should be noted that the commercial makes no overt reference to fungus, and while the Complainant alleged that the visuals suggest efficacy against fungus, the Directorate was unable to determine which visuals contained such a reference. However, in    Homemark

Aragon Oil – Dr Harris Steinman (13 March 2019), the Directorate ruled against claims that this product was capable of treating fungus and eczema. It is therefore not necessary to consider the product’s efficacy against fungus at this time.

The commercial expressly ties this product’s efficacy with the repair or treatment of “Ingrown, thick, flaky, brittle deformed” nails through direct reference to such conditions by the voice-over, and images of such nail conditions appearing on-screen, often accompanied by bold, red lettering referencing these conditions.

The animation also depicts a severely damaged nail being restored to normal once the product is applied. 

As such, a reasonable person would interpret the commercial to suggest that this product is able to treat and repair damaged nails, ingrown nails, thick nails, flaky nails and brittle or deformed nails. Such claims are capable of substantiation in accordance with Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

The Advertiser opted not to respond to the complaint and has not submitted any evidence in support of its claims.  

Given the absence of any substantiation, the Directorate has no option but to find that the claims communicated in this commercial are unsubstantiated and in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

Sanctions

Members of the ARB and broadcasters are advised not to accept advertising from the Advertiser for its Aragan Secret Nail Treatment claiming to treat or repair “Ingrown, thick, flaky, brittle deformed” nails.

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