ASA slams Colgate and GSK for dentist claimsToothpaste ads found to violate rules

04 January 2006

Watchdogs have criticised toothpaste adverts for implying that dentists had recommended products for sensitive teeth.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told industry giants Colgate Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to remove ads for Colgate Sensitive and Sensodyne respectively. The watchdog said they had broken rules which prohibit the use of dentists' recommendations for treatments, products, or ingredients.

The Colgate TV commercial showed a woman explaining that her dentist had suggested she try a 'sensitive' toothpaste for her teeth. At the same time, a tube of Colgate Sensitive toothpaste appeared on the screen.

Breach of ad rules

Colgate argued that the dentist had not directly endorsed or recommended a specific product. But the ASA ruled the advert implied that the dentist had recommended a particular form of treatment, which is a breach of advertising rules. It told Colgate to amend several commercials that made similar references to a dentist's recommendation.

GSK was rapped for two adverts which appeared during the same commercial break. The first, which appeared with GSK branding, showed a dentist recommending sensitive toothpaste in general, for people who suffer pain in their teeth when, for example, they eat something cold. Four commercials later there was an advert for the GSK toothpaste Sensodyne.

GSK said the first advert was a 'disease awareness campaign' and there was no evidence viewers would link the messages in both commercials. But the ASA ruled that the audience would connect the dentist's advice about sensitive toothpaste with the Sensodyne promotion.

Which? research found that sensitive toothpastes do work, but if you're experiencing pain you should visit your dentist to make sure it's not something serious.