TV and press ads featured Heston Blumenthal proclaiming the wonders of pork from “outdoor bred” Norfolk pigs courtesy of Waitrose. Complainants to the Advertising Standards Authority challenged whether the pigs enjoyed as much fresh air as claimed, but what exactly does “outdoor bred” mean? asks Omar Bucchioni.
Who: ASA and Waitrose Ltd
When: October 2010
Law stated as at: 1 December 2010
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated two TV ads and a press ad for the Waitrose supermarket chain
The TV ads starred chefs Heston Blumenthal and Delia Smith. Both later showed Heston Blumenthal with pigs that wandered outdoors in a field, while a farmer fed them. A caption on-screen stated “Breeding sows, Norfolk”.
Heston Blumenthal then went on to discuss the benefits of pork from “outdoor bred” pigs.
Five complainants challenged whether the ads misleadingly implied that Waitrose’s pork came from pigs that spent the duration of their lives outdoors. It was claimed that this was not the case as the pigs were born outdoors but werereared indoors after several weeks.
What Waitrose had to say
Waitrose said that “outdoor bred” was a standard term that had become widely used in recent years. Its meaning covered the situation here, where the pigs were born in fields, where they were kept until weaning, and then moved indoors, into light and airy sheds with straw. Waitrose said that farrowing crates (stalls for sows feeding young) were not used.
Waitrose said that “outdoor reared” has a different industry-standard meaning which means that pigs were reared for approximately half their lives in fields.
Waitrose says that it was mindful of using the correct term and believed that outdoor bred was an accurate and not misleading description.
What the ASA had to say
The ASA upheld the complaints:
On the “outdoor bred” issue the ASA considered that the average viewer was unlikely to know its particular meaning.
In the context of the TV ads that showed pigs outdoors and referred to “happy” pigs and pigs that got … plenty of fresh air … “, the ASA considered that viewers were likely to understand “outdoor bred” to mean that the pigs that were used to produce the product spent the duration of their lives outdoors. Because that was not the case, the ASA decided that the ads were misleading and breached the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1.1 (Misleading advertising).
In the context of the press ad, the ASA considered that, without any explanation of its meaning, readers were likely to understand “outdoor bred” to mean that the pigs used to produce the product spent the duration of their lives outdoors. Because that was not the case, the ASA decided that the ad was misleading and breached the CAP Code (Edition 11) clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).
Why this matters:
Advertisers must be wary of using terms which, though they may be understood and interpreted in a certain way in a particular industry, may not be similarly understood by the average viewer or reader.
The case is reported on the ASA website.