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Consumer, Food & Retail Insights

| 3 minutes read

ASA Rulings - 21 February 2024

Below we discuss a green claim with a thumbs up from the ASA, apps which purport to give an ADHD diagnosis, and a traffic-stopping OnlyFans ad. 

Absolute or qualified green claim?

What was complained about? A Google ad for a vehicle manufacturer stated “New All-Electric Explorer... Zero-emissions driving. Fast charging. Driver Assistance Tech”, the element "Zero-emissions driving" was challenged as being misleading in respect of the vehicle's environmental impact. The ASA challenged the ad on the basis that it could be interpreted as an absolute claim (so covered emissions throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle i.e. its manufacture, use and disposal, rather than the vehicle solely when driven).

What was the ruling? Not Upheld. The ASA noted that “Zero-emissions driving” was immediately followed by references to “Fast charging” and “Driver Assistance Tech”, which placed the claim in the context of some of the specific features of the car, which included its emissions while being driven, its charging capability and technical function. Therefore, it was unlikely to be understood as a comment on the vehicle’s overall life-cycle emissions and was held unlikely to mislead.

What are the ramifications? It is interesting that the advertiser was challenged based on the ASA’s own ‘Active Ad Monitoring’ system and not a complaint, particularly as the ad was eventually held to be compliant. This suggests that the ASA has programmed its AI to cast a wide net for potentially non-compliant advertising. In any event, the ruling serves as a reminder to either: (i) clearly limit the scope of claims that are being made; or (ii) if an absolute claim us being made to take into account the full lifecycle, (and in both cases to be able to substantiate this).


No MHRA? We’ll take it away - ASA assesses ADHD app ads 

What was complained about? Two ads relating to ADHD were investigated. The first invited users to take a test to discover their “ADHD type” and the other also claimed to include a programme to manage ADHD symptoms featuring various activities such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that users could participate in. 

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ASA considered both ads implied that they could diagnose ADHD by including wording that invited users to take a test. As neither products were registered with the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a medical device, no medical claims could be made for the products. The ASA considered the claims made were medical claims as the Impulse Brain Training app’s test results could be interpreted as a diagnosis, and the Happyo ad claimed to manage or reduce certain symptoms of ADHD, and so both ads breached the Code. Similarly, because the ads implied that the apps could diagnose ADHD in the absence of a qualified medical professional, the ASA considered that they discouraged consumers from seeking essential treatment for a condition for which medical supervision should be sought.

What are the ramifications? Any ads that feature medical or medicinal claims or indications can only be made for a medical products which are appropriately certified. This includes ads which purport to diagnose, treat, prevent, monitor, or alleviate any medical condition. It is likely that the ASA will continue to investigate similar apps due to the current popularity of discussions around ADHD and health related topics such as mental health, particularly on social media. 


Outdoor Media Advertising - promoting your business or causing widespread offence?

What was complained about? A poster featuring an image of top half of a model and influencer Rebecca Louise wearing a red bra top, straps and buckles. The image was accompanying by text displaying her OnlyFans and Instagram usernames. The complainant challenged whether the ad was appropriate for display in an untargeted medium.

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ad was overtly sexual as it portrayed Ms Louise in a push up bra made of shiny red material and featuring buckles, her mouth was slightly open and her eyes were looking directly at the camera. The ASA considered that this expression, in combination with the pose, was provocative. The impression was further reinforced by the accompanying text “RebeccaLouisex95” which (intentionally or not) included the word “sex”. The ad was displayed as a poster in London close to a main road, which as an untargeted medium was likely to be seen by a number of people including under -18s. The ad breached CAP Code 1.3 ( Responsible Advertising) and 4.1 (Harm and Offence).

What are the ramifications? Overtly sexualised imagery is likely to be considered by the ASA as having the potential to cause serious or widespread offence if positioned in an untargeted medium. Even if advertisers are careful (as here) in the positioning of ads away from schools, explicitly sexual imagery is prohibited in outdoor or untargeted media, and should instead be placed in a medium in which children are unlikely to see them (as long as such ads comply with the other rules around sexualised advertising - for further discussion of this see our blog post Sexual imagery in advertising: where do you draw the line? ).


green claims, advertising, ads, zero emissions, medical, social media, consumer goods, consumer goods food and retail