Sanofi and a popular Instagram blogger have been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Agency for advertising sleep medicine to their 30,000 followers.
In this case, thismamalife's Instagram account contained the following message, with an image of the blogger in bed smiling, next to a packet of Phenergan Night Time tablets:
"[AD] Sleep. Who needs more of it? I'm really lucky in that I don't actually need a lot of sleep to get by and manage to cram all sorts into my evening, being the night owl I am. Every now and again though, daily life can get a bit overwhelming and I often find it's my sleep that ends up suffering. I end up going to bed even later than I usually do and am not able to fall asleep. The worry of not sleeping then adds to it all and I end up a complete and utter zombie!! Last time this happened I tried out Phenergan Night Time, which really helped. It is a pharmacy only, short term solution to insomnia for adults which works by inducing a sleepy effect thanks to its active ingredient, promethazine hydrochloride, helping you to sleep through the night. Do you guys fall asleep easily or are you night time over thinkers like me? #AD #sleep".
How Was the Code Breached?
The ASA ruled that Sanofi's Phenergan Night Time was an over-the-counter medicine and the wording showed that it was being endorsed. This was seen as a breach of rule 12.18 of the CAP Code, which states that marketers must not use health professionals or celebrities to endorse medicines.
The next question was whether thismamalife was a celebrity. She described herself as a "family blogger" and had about 30,000 Instagram followers, regularly producing content across social media relating to her position as a parent. Although Sanofi had made the argument that she had a relatively few number of followers compared to some other celebrities (David Beckham had 55 million and Stephen Fry about 360,000), she still had the attention of a significant number of people. She was therefore deemed to be a celebrity for the purposes of the CAP Code.
The ASA ordered Sanofi not to run the advert again.
People in pharma often think about the ABPI Code of Practice prohibiting advertising prescription medicines to the public. However, they also need to bear in mind breaching the CAP Code through the use of social media influencers and celebrities as this case shows.