Has the ASA lost its’ sense of humour with implied health claims?

In its’ recent ruling on Red Bull the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint that an advert promoting the ‘4pm Finish’; for workers to leave one hour early on Friday 14 September 2018, implied a relationship between the drink and health.  Specifically, that Red Bull could help increase mental focus, concentration and energy levels by reason of the line ‘…to leap every hurdle a hectic day brings’ alongside the Red Bull imagery. As these were not authorised claims under the EU health claims register according to Regulation 1924/2006 the ASA concluded the advert breached the Code. This was despite no specific images of the product being consumed and Red Bull separately producing a range of general tips and guidance from life coaches, professionals and others on how to manage time as part of the initiative.

In earlier rulings almost a year ago the ASA had found that, given the humorous, fantastical tone of the ads and the lack of any overt reference to a health benefit, that consumers were unlikely to understand the ad implied a relationship between a food, or ingredient and health. The ads in question referred to a robot giving up a chess match after his human opponent drank a can of Red Bull and a pair of animated smart phones complaining of being ignored since their users drank Red Bull and sought other activities of meeting ‘real’ friends and going jogging, with the tagline ‘vitalises body and mind’; all alongside the usual strapline ‘Red Bull gives you wiings’.

This most recent ruling shows a distinct hardening in the ASA’s approach to interpreting an implied health claim and therefore food advertisers should take particular care where any general or specific health claim may be implied in the context of advertising their particular food product.

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