The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed a competitor’s complaint alleging that Unilever UK Ltd.’s commercial for its pyramid-shaped teabags “exaggerated the capability and performance of the advertised product.” Tata Global Beverages reportedly argued that (i) the visual demonstration used in a TV commercial for PG Tips tea was misleading, (ii) Unilever’s claim that “the tea has more room to move freeing the great fresh taste” could not be substantiated, and (iii) “the comparison with a round teabag denigrated [ ] Tata’s brand ‘Tetley’ because they believed that they were an identifiable competitor and that the ad portrayed the brand in a negative light.”
According to ASA, Unilever not only countered that the visual demonstration in question “imitated consumer behavior when making tea,” but noted that the claims reflected the results of product testing and mathematical modeling supplied to ASA for review. Denying that the ad made a direct comparison to Tetley, the company apparently targeted round teabags because this design currently reflects 30.8 percent of the market. In addition, Clearcast—the non-governmental organization that approves TV advertising in the United Kingdom—concurred that Unilever “had evidence to show that the tea moved more freely” and “did not believe the ad denigrated the Tetley brand[ ] for the reasons outlined by Unilever.”
Concluding that the commercial did not exaggerate the performance of PG Tips’ pyramid-shaped teabag, ASA specifically held that consumers “would interpret the visual demonstration to be a representation of a simple consumer experiment and would not interpret it as a representation of a detailed scientific test.” In addition, the agency ruled that “consumers would not immediately identify a round teabag as being a Tetley teabag,” and declined to find the ad in violation of the U.K. Code of Broadcast Advertising.
In a related development, ASA also dismissed a complaint against Greene King Brewing and Retailing Ltd. for its use of puppets in a TV ad for Old Speckled Hen beer. Although “Henry the Fox” had been the voice of the beer brand since 1994, the complaint challenged whether the ad was irresponsible for featuring a fox puppet and a man in a white rabbit costume because these characters might appeal to children. Rejecting the allegations, ASA agreed with Greene King Brewing that the commercial’s “intelligent, highbrow humor and dry wit” was clearly intended to engage adult audiences only.
“The ASA acknowledged that talking puppets were often used in programs and films that were targeted towards children,” states the ruling. “However, we considered that, in this instance, the fox character’s behavior, dress and appearance were aimed towards adults. We noted that the voice of the fox clearly sounded like an older man, and that the character’s language and deadpan delivery were unlikely to appeal to children.”