The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has found that an advert about Vicks First Defence Nasal spray was misleading and therefore breached a number of aspects of the advertising code.
A poster advert for Vicks First Defence nasal spray, seen in a London Underground train in October 2019, featured an illustration of a large handkerchief, on which the headline stated:
“EPITAPH FOR A COLD #2”.
Text underneath stated:
“HERE LIES YOUR COLD, IT NEVER GREW OLD, BECAUSE IT WAS STOPPED BEFORE IT TOOK HOLD”.
The right-hand side featured an image of the nasal spray and its packaging, which featured the claims:
“HELPS STOP A COLD IN ITS TRACKS” and in smaller text:
“USE AT THE 1ST SIGNS”.
Underneath the nasal spray and box were the claims:
“BLOCK THE VIRUS” and “HELP STOP THE COLD”.
Smaller text underneath stated:
“TRAPS, NEUTRALISES AND REMOVES THE COLD VIRUS WHEN USED AT THE FIRST SIGNS OF A COLD”.
Three complainants, who believed that the advert implied that the nasal spray could prevent or treat a cold, challenged whether it was misleading and could be substantiated.
The ASA concluded that the advert was misleading and therefore breached the Code. The advert breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ASA has said that the advert must not appear again in its current form. They told Procter & Gamble (Health & Beauty Care) Ltd that any future claims in their advertising for Vicks First Defence Nasal spray should not state or imply that it could be used for the complete elimination of cold symptoms unless they held sufficient evidence to support that claim.
Commenting on the ruling the ASA said:
“Having considered the body of evidence provided, we considered that the overall impression that consumers were likely to take from the ad, that is, that Vicks First Defence Nasal spray could eliminate cold symptoms completely if used when they first emerged, had not been substantiated.”