Dutch bakers objected to an ad for Zonnatura wholemeal bread which said “You find a lot of things in bread these days,” none of which of course were in Zonnatura. The bakers told the Dutch ASA the ad was half-baked and spread fear on the Lowlands about bread additives. Willem Leppink of Ploum Lodder Princen reports from Rotterdam.
Who: Dutch Advertising Code Committee (DACC) and Zonnatura
When: 13 November 2009
Law stated as at: 31 December 2009
The Dutch Advertising Code Committee (DACC), the Netherlands equivalent of the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, has upheld a complaint lodged by the Dutch Bakery Institute (DBI) against a radio commercial from food brand Zonnatura for its wholemeal bread. According to the DACC the commercial was misleading and aroused feelings of fear. Zonnatura was advised to refrain from advertising in this manner in the future.
The commercial had the following script:
“When I say bread, then you probably do not think of yeast accelerators or preservatives. Yes, you may not know it, but you find a lot of things in bread these days. This is why there is now Zonnatura wholemeal bread. This is bread as they used to make it. The whole wheat grain, and even grounded on stone.”
The commercial went on to claim that the new product, unlike other bread, contained neither preservatives nor “yeast accelerators”. Zonnatura Wholemeal would therefore be 100% natural. The DACC considered that “yeast accelerators”, a marketing invention, do not exist. Therefore use of this term was misleading. Also the suggestion that by definition Dutch bread would contain preservatives was considered to be misleading.
The commercial also suggested that the grain was grounded on stone in a traditional manner. Zonnatura was not able to substantiate this claim.
According to the DACC:
No proper information was give in the radio commercial about one of the main characteristics of wholemeal bread, namely the advantages as mentioned in Article 8.2 b of the Dutch Advertising Code (DAC) (which implements article 6.1.b of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive and deals with the need to give non-misleading information about the “main characteristics of the product.”).
As a result of this, the DACC considered that the average consumer was caused to take a decision that he would not have taken otherwise. The DACC agreed with the DBI that the aforementioned statements about “bread” in general have a negative effect, so the consumer will wrongly believe that Zonnatura’s wholemeal bread is healthier or otherwise better than ordinary bread. For this reason, the expression was misleading and therefore unfair.
The DACC also considered that referring to industrial additives used in foods would normally not only negatively affect the consumer’s opinion about the food, but may also arouse feelings of fear, a specific violation of the Dutch Advertising Code.
Why this matters:
The current economic situation often lures advertisers to market their products aggressively to the detriment of the other products. Although this might not always be comparative advertising as a specific competitor cannot be identified, advertisers should be aware that even in such cases the advertising can be unfair vis-à-vis the rest of the industry. It is also tempting to make use of the consumer’s fears or concerns, even if these fears may not be justified, but making such use is not without risk. The decision also shows that also in self-regulation the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive is being applied.