November 9, 2018

ASA holds that anti-fluoride ad unjustifiably played on fear

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has released its decision in relation to seven complaints it received against an advertisement by Fluoride Free New Zealand. The advertisement carried a photo of a young child drinking a glass of water, with the heading 'Fluoride is a Neurotoxin that Reduces Children's IQ'.

The ASA found that this ad unjustifiably played on fear, by creating the impression that it is dangerous for children to drink water in New Zealand. In the ASA's view, this implication was not adequately supported by the evidence provided by the advertiser, with the resulting effect that the ad was socially irresponsible.

However the ad was not found to be misleading, and was found to fall within the appropriate bounds of advocacy advertising. At the relevant time, this required the advertisement to clearly identify the advertiser, and required opinion to be clearly distinguishable from factual statements. The ASA felt this ad was clearly an advocacy position, and that as FFNZ's name and logo appeared on the ad, this code was not breached.

It is interesting to note that the codes have recently been revised, and that from 1 November any factual statements in advocacy advertisements will also require substantiation. It will be interesting to see how the ASA approaches that requirement in cases such as this, where while the advertiser can provide some substantiation that it considers to be reliable and compelling, the majority of the scientific community considers that such claims cannot be substantiated.

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