ASA bans Colgate ad for claiming sensitive toothpaste 'instantly repairs'

The Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has banned a Colgate-Palmolive TV ad for misleadingly claiming that Colgate Sensitive Repair and Prevent toothpaste could "repair teeth instantly."

Six individuals made complaints to the ad watchdog, challenging whether the repair claim was misleading.

The TV ad for Colgate Sensitive Repair and Prevent toothpaste was created by VML (now VMLY&R) and aired in August of this year. Opening in black and white tones, it shows a line of individuals stood on a conveyor belt while they robotically brush their teeth, facing into space.

The voiceover asks the viewer: "Are you on autopilot when it comes to sensitive teeth, using a toothpaste that just numbs the pain?"

The scene then brightens with colour and jumps to a sterilely clean bathroom. "Switch to Colgate Sensitive Repair and Prevent," the voiceover dictates, "it repairs teeth instantly and helps strengthen gums, preventing sensitivity."

The claim "repairs teeth instantly" is meshed together with an animated tooth, that shows how the repair is made.

At the bottom of the ad, the on-screen text reads: "Apply directly with a finger for one minute. Use twice a day" and "Potential prevention of sensitivity refers to potential recession by helping reduce gum inflammation".

Colgate-Palmolive claims that the Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste is a CE-marked medical device.

It said that: "The claim was made for sensitivity toothpaste and believed that it was clear from the context of the ad that the claim referred to repairing of teeth in order to relieve pain caused by sensitivity and that this was emphasised further by the on-screen text."

Colgate-Palmolive uses an arginine and calcium formula, which it assures delivers a surface coating which acts as a reparative layer on the enamel surface. Thus, it said this repaired enamel by filling microscopic cracks and imperfections in enamel caused by common acidic foods and drinks.

The toothpaste brand provided four clinical studies and CE certification documents in support of the claim.

Clearcast said that although it had concerns about the initial script, it approved the claim on the basis on the on-screen text.

Despite this, the ASA decided to ban the ad because it made out the toothpaste could restore sensitive teeth to a healthy condition by way of immediately treating the underlying cause of sensitivity. It, therefore "implied that the product had a restorative effect on sensitive teeth and that was not the case"

Although each of the four studies demonstrated significant reductions in dentin hypersensitivity after direct application of the toothpaste, the ASA concluded that the claim “repairs teeth instantly” was misleading and had not been substantiated.

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