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Pedigree TV ad banned

COMPLAINTS AGAINST a TV advertisement by Mars Petcare for its Pedigree Joint Care Plus dog food, have been upheld by the Advertising Standards Association, (ASA).

The offending advert depicts an old dog struggling down some steps whilst a puppy runs off ahead. Four viewers challenged whether the ad had exaggerated the likely benefits of the product for dogs with joint problems and could exploit vulnerable viewers... A separate complaint from rival manufacturer Burns Pet Nutrition challenged whether the ad implied that the product provided a medicinal benefit by treating or curing joint stiffness.

As part of its defence Mars presented details of two trials it had carried out on dogs using Joint Care Plus. The company said the trials showed that, after six weeks of taking the product once a day, 72% of the dogs had demonstrated improved mobility. It said that the trials and customer feedback substantiated that a number of dogs had experienced improved mobility.

Mars said it had agreed the wording ‘helps ease joint stiffness’ for on-pack use with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and asserted that the ad was merely intended to reflect that claim.

The ASA says it contacted the VMD. The VMD confirmed that it had agreed with Mars that it considered the claim ‘ease stiff joints’ was not medicinal by presentation, unless there was an implication elsewhere in the ad that the stiffness was symptomatic of an adverse condition or the 'easing' was some form of pain relief.

The VMD said, in its view, the dramatic difference in the mobility of the dog in the ad before and after eating Joint Care Plus implied that the product would have a medicinal effect by either relief of discomfort or correction of joint damage. But it had not requested withdrawal of the ad because it was intended to run for only a short time and Mars had agreed to take into account the VMD’s view in future ads.

Banning the ad, the ASA concluded that the ad 'misleadingly implied the product could provide a medicinal benefit to those dogs suffering from joint damage and discomfort, by treating or curing their condition,' and therefore exaggerated the likely benefits of the product for dogs with joint problems.. 'and could exploit vulnerable viewers.