Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Why you should not believe a word in adverts

Last month, I blogged about the highly misleading advert for Dettol, which claims "Dettol protects: fact", and my response from the Advertising Standards Authority to my complaint about the advert. It appeared that the ASA had misunderstood my complaint, and thought I was doubting Dettol's ability to kill bacteria on kitchen surfaces (which I don't). Rather, I was complaining that the advert was claiming that using Dettol can protect against infection, which is not at all the same thing as killing bacteria. I emailed the ASA to explain why their original response missed the point and asked them to take another look at it.

I have now had a further response, which frankly beggars belief. If anyone were in any doubt that the ASA (which, let's remember, is funded by the advertising industry) is simply there to act on behalf of advertisers and let them get away with any ridiculous claims they like, no matter how far removed from the truth they are, then I think this response should remove any such doubt.

They are now stating that they do not believe the advert includes any specific claim to protect against disease. To quote from the letter:  "The advertiser does not appear to make specific claims about the products [sic] efficacy against diseases and we do not consider viewers are likely to be detrimentally misled by the content of [sic] and claims made."

What on earth do they think "Dettol protects" is claiming, if not claiming to protecting against disease? Do they think that the advert is claiming that Dettol protects against burglary? Perhaps we are supposed to think it protects against evil spirits? Or maybe a zombie apocalypse?

If anyone has any suggestion for what "Dettol protects" could reasonably mean if it doesn't mean "Dettol protects against disease", I would love to hear it.

When the ASA takes such a plainly ridiculous position as this to avoid having to investigate one of their mates in the advertising industry, the only conclusion we can reasonably draw is that anything we see in an advert in the UK has no guarantee of credibility whatsoever.

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