The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) was stressed out over implied claims made by The Maya Group for its Orbeez Body Spa.
The product consists of an inflatable lounge chair that users cover with Orbeez pellets—small, superabsorbent pellets that swell to more than 100 times their original size when soaked in water—and features a “soothing vibration.” In a television commercial, two girls are shown sitting at a desk looking exasperated and stressed out, while a voiceover asks, “Feeling stressed out?”
In the next segment, the girls are smiling and lying in a pool of Orbeez pellets, after which they are shown sitting in Orbeez Body Spa chairs, covered with pellets, next to a serene pool and waterfall that suggests a spa-like environment. The voiceover states, “Orbeez Body Spa will melt your stress away.”
The commercial ends with a shot of the product packaging and an image of the Spa chair brimming with Orbeez pellets.
CARU expressed concern that the commercial failed to accurately depict the number of pellets that are included with the initial purchase of the chair and that the commercial was misleading because it did not disclose the need for an air pump to fill the product. Most importantly, CARU questioned whether the advertiser could substantiate the implied claim that the chair will reduce stress.
Emphasizing that advertisers “have special responsibilities when advertising to children,” the decision said the implied claim implicated CARU’s Guidelines, Part I, subsection (a) on Deception, which states: “1. The ‘net impression’ of the entire advertisement, considering, among other things, the express and implied claims, any material omissions, and the overall format, must not be misleading to the children to whom it is directed. 2. Whether an advertisement leaves a misleading impression should be determined by assessing how reasonable children in the intended audience would interpret the message, taking into account their level of experience, sophistication, and maturity; limits on their cognitive abilities; and their ability to evaluate advertising claims.”
Looking to the overall net impression to determine what reasonable takeaway messages were conveyed to the child audience, CARU determined that the statement “Orbeez Body Spa will melt your stress away” implied, both aurally and visually, that the product would reduce stress. The Maya Group, however, failed to provide substantiation for the implied claim.
The self-regulatory body concluded that the advertising “does not comply with [CARU’s] guidelines” and recommended that the advertiser discontinue the implied claim.
As for the depiction of the number of pellets, CARU examined the product and found that it “came with a significant number of pellets as was reflected in the commercial,” and the depiction of pellets was therefore not excessive or misleading with regard to the amount included in an initial purchase.
Finally, Maya explained that the Spa chair does not require an air pump for inflation and that Maya staff inflate the product without a pump when they attend a trade show. Satisfied with the advertiser’s assurances, CARU said additional disclosures were unnecessary.
In the Advertiser’s Statement, Maya said it agreed to discontinue the stress-reduction claim in future airing of the commercial.
Why it matters: The CARU decision reminds advertisers that they are responsible for all reasonable interpretations of their claims, not just the ones they intended to convey, and reiterates that children are more vulnerable to advertising messages. In addition to the standards applied to ads directed to adults (that advertising be truthful, accurate, and not deceptive), child-directed ads must also be appropriate for the audience.