Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Wild Cosmetics Ltd (Wild Cosmetics or Wild)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 17 May 2023
Law stated as at: 9 June 2023
The ASA has ordered a natural deodorant brand, Wild Cosmetics , to remove a misleading ad titled “Wild Natural deodorant – Sustainable & 100% Effective“.
The ad featured a model applying a series of spray-on deodorants while appearing itchy and uncomfortable. The model was then seen applying the Wild Cosmetics product, with a voice-over explaining that Wild’s deodorant allows you to “smell fresh all day long“, whereas traditional deodorants can block the body from releasing “sweat and toxins” which may result in rashes and body odour. The ad also had a caption stating “No Aluminium or other harsh chemicals”.
A page on the website for Wild Cosmetics featured further information on aluminium salts. The website stated that aluminium salts were contained in many mainstream deodorants and were “not the safest option“. The website suggested that “there are various studies linking aluminium salts to some undesirable side effects on health” and that while further research is required “it may not be worth the risk“.
An individual who had viewed the ad, made a complaint to the ASA that Wild Cosmetics had made the following misleading claims:
- most deodorants prevented the body from expelling harmful toxins, worsened body odour, and were linked to health problems like rashes or itchiness, and
- antiperspirants containing aluminium salts were potentially harmful to users, including by interfering with hormone balances in the endocrine system.
The ASA upheld both of these complaints.
When reaching its decision, the ASA considered how viewers would interpret the ad. Viewers would be likely to understand that competing products clogged users’ pores by preventing the release of sweat, resulting in rashes or itchiness and body odour. Wild Cosmetics would need to hold robust scientific evidence to support this claim and to prove that its own advertised product was safer than the competitors’ one.
Secondly, Wild’s website would be likely to suggest to consumers that health concerns surrounding aluminium salts were supported by a significant body of preliminary research. As Wild Cosmetics encouraged viewers to choose its own advertised product, which did not contain aluminium salts, over competitors’ products that did, it would again need robust scientific evidence to substantiate this claim.
While Wild Cosmetics did provide evidence to support its claims, it was not considered sufficient by the ASA. The ASA determined that Wild Cosmetics was in breach of The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing rules 3.1, 3.7 and 3.33 (Misleading Advertising). Wild was not allowed to use the ad again in its original form and would need to ensure that future ads did not feature any misleading claims on its own or any competitors’ deodorants.
Why this matters: This ruling serves as a warning for advertisers to consider how consumers may interpret their ads and to take care when advertising products. Advertisers must ensure that their ads are not likely to be misleading to consumers about the advertised product (or for the products of any competitors used for comparison). Advertisers must also ensure that any claims that they make are fully substantiated and hold documentary evidence to support these claims.