Posted 16 November 2012
Dr de Lange lodged a consumer complaint against a Supashape print advertisement promoting Diet Whey Meal Replacement. The advertisement appeared in the June edition of Fitness magazine. The complainant submitted that, among other, that the advertisement was in contravention of Appendix E, or that it does not inform the consumer that the product is only effective when used as part of or in conjunction with a kilojoule restricted diet, that the substantiation for the efficacy claims does not relate to the product at issue, and that the advertising is attempting to mislead people by using scientific footnotes and references, and omitting the fact that the trial relied on was an exercise-induced trial.
The ASA asked the company to submit proof that their product works. They were unable to.
| Supashape / R De Lange / 20613|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Rudi De Lange Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Supashape (Pty) Ltd Respondent
Dr de Lange lodged a consumer complaint against a Supashape print advertisement promoting Diet Whey Meal Replacement. The advertisement appeared in the June edition of Fitness magazine.
The advertisement has an image of a model wearing white underwear, and promotes the product as “THE ULTIMATE HIGH-PROTEIN DIET SHAKE WITH A KEY INGREDIENT THAT WAS SHOWN IN CLINICAL TRIALS HELP TEST SUBJECTS LOSE 25X MORE ABDOMINAL FAT”.
The copy states:
“Consuming small, frequent, low-fat, high-protein meals has proven itself time and time again to be an effective approach to building a lean, toned body. With our lifestyles, we don’t always have the time to prepare all our meals for the day. Supashape makes dieting a little easier with its convenient, ultra-smooth, nutrient dense, creamy shakes. Diet Whey Meal Replacement helps enhance muscle tone with 25g of high biological value protein, derived primarily from whey protein isolates, concentrates and hydrolysates, whilst low GI oatmeal and fibre provide sustained energy throughout your busy day. Diet Whey Meal Replacement also includes energy boosting, fat-burning ingredients like L-carnetine and green tea extract as well as vitamins, minerals, pre-biotics and essential fatty acids for optimum health, vitality and metabolic support so you can sculpt that figure you so deeply desire”.
It lists a reference to an article titled “Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults”.
In essence, the complainant submitted that the advertisement is in contravention of the provisions of Appendix E by virtue of the fact that it makes claims that are prohibited by this appendix, or because it does not inform the consumer that the product is only effective when used as part of or in conjunction with a kilojoule restricted diet.
In addition, the article cited in substantiation for the efficacy claims does not relate to the product at issue, but rather to the effect of a green tea extract. The complainant attempted to obtain evidence for the efficacy claims by contacting the respondent, but the respondent was unable to supply any evidence. He added that the respondent was unable to confirm that the ingredients would not contra-indicate each other. The complainant also took issue with the fact that the advertising is attempting to mislead people by using scientific footnotes and references, and omitting the fact that the trial relied on was an exercise-induced trial. The claimed “25X MORE ABDOMINAL FAT” exaggerates the reality, and the complainant pointed out that in the actual study, the experimental group did not lose significant weight, and there was no significant difference between their waist circumferences and those of the control group.
The complainant added that the model is deliberately used to create an expectation that by using this product, one is likely to achieve a similar-looking body, with virtually no body-fat. There is no mention that the model used is actually a body builder who follows a regimented exercise plan.
RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant identified the following clauses of the Code as relevant:
• Clause 4.1 of Section I – Substantiation
• Clause 4.2.1 of Section II – Misleading claims
• Clause 4.2.5 of Section II – Statistics and scientific information
• Clause 4.2.6 of Section II – Headlines
• Clause 2.2 of Appendix E – Diet plans
• Clause 2.3 of Appendix E – Aids to dieting: General
The respondent briefly commented on the complaint and its interaction with the complainant, but also submitted that the campaign involving the advertisement in question ended in the May-June 2012 issue of Fitness magazine.
It has taken cognisance of the points raised by the complainant, and will discuss them with the marketing team when future campaigns are planned to attempt to avoid any similar complaints in future.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, that undertaking may, at the discretion of the ASA, be accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
The respondent’s confirmation that it has withdrawn the advertisement and its undertaking to take the concerns raised on-board when creating new advertising appears to address the complainants’ concerns insofar as this particular complaint is concerned. There is, accordingly, no need for the Directorate to consider the merits of the matter at this time.
The undertaking is accepted on condition that the claims objected to are not used again in their current format in future.
The respondent’s attention is also specifically drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which requires advertisers to remove advertising from any media in which they appear irrespective of whether or not the complainant specifically referred to such media.