Procter & Gamble has been rapped by the ASA for making “misleading” comparative claims between its Always Discreet Ultimate Day incontinence pads and Tena Discreet Maxi pads in a TV ad.
The TV ad, seen on 1 July 2023, depicts two women practising yoga and discussing concerns about incontinence pads.
The two women are then shown chatting in the changing room. One says: “Don’t compromise your practice just because of a bulky pad, wear Always Discreet like me.” The other replies: “Will this deal with my leaks?”
The first woman says, “Hold on, watch this”, as a close-up shot of a glass of water being poured over the Always Discreet pad is shown.
On-screen text reads: ‘Waiting time 20s. 95% of 146 women agree it protects and is discreet. Always Discreet Ultimate Day Pads vs Maxi Pad from the leading brand. For verification email email@example.com.’
The second woman is then shown looking shocked and asks: “Wow, where does it go?” as the water is absorbed by the pad.
The first woman responds, “Who cares? It protects, and it’s so much thinner” as two incontinence pads appear side-by-side on screen.
The incontinence pad labelled ‘leading brand’ appears thicker than the incontinence pad labelled ‘Always Discreet’.
Two issues raised by Essity, which owns market-leading incontinence pad brand Tena, were investigated by the watchdog.
Firstly, the watchdog challenged whether the basis of comparison was misleading because it did not compare the Always Discreet pad with the most appropriate product from the leading brand.
Secondly, it investigated whether the placement of the on-screen text misleadingly implied 95% of women surveyed preferred the Always Discreet pad to the maxi pad from the leading brand.
Essity argued that its thinner Tena Discreet Extra pad was a more suitable product for comparison to Always Discreet Ultimate Day than the Maxi pad depicted in the ad.
P&G countered that Tena Discreet Maxi pads had been chosen for consumer testing and the on-screen comparison because they had a similar absorbency to Always Discreet Ultimate Day.
What’s more, it said it did not agree that viewers would read the on-screen text and understand that ‘Always Discreet Ultimate Day Pads vs Maxi Pad from the leading brand’ related to the prior statement ‘95% of 146 women agree it protects and is discreet.’
P&G argued the reference to the leading brand was included so that viewers would understand the visual comparison of the two products included in the next frame.
The ASA upheld both complaints made by Essity.
It pointed out that the featured Always Discreet pad had an absorbency capacity of 242.63g, while the featured Tena pad had an absorbency capacity of 453.11g, when tested using the Rothwell method for continence care.
The Tena Discreet Extra pad, meanwhile, had a closer absorbency capacity to the Always pad, at 278.33g.
“In addition, we understood that the Tena pad was much thinner than the other Tena pad featured in the ad,” said the ASA.
“Had the ad compared the product with the most similar absorbency, the difference in thickness would have been substantially different.
“Because the basis of comparison between the two pads in the ad was established against the absorption capability of the pad and its thickness, we considered the most appropriate competitor product had not been featured in the ad, and therefore, because viewers would assume the comparison was against the nearest equivalent product, we concluded the basis of the comparison was misleading,” it said.
The ASA ruled that the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (misleading advertising) and must not be broadcast in its current form.
A spokesman for Essity said: “We are pleased with the two rulings made by the ASA.
“As the leading incontinence brand globally, Tena is committed to clear and transparent communication that builds consumer education and confidence in the incontinence category.
“Millions of people experience incontinence, and for some it can be a challenging time in their life, therefore it is vital consumers are able to make purchase decisions based on accurate and reliable information.”
The Grocer has approached Procter & Gamble for comment.