Often product names include a claim about the product. Often these are health and weight loss claims, or objective claims about the product. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code will apply to claims which appear in product or company names in the same way as it does to the rest of the ad. Marketers should avoid making any claims in their product or company name, unless the claim is an acceptable clam which can be made about the product.
- Health claims in names for bard products.
For bards, all product and brand names must comply with the Regulations and Section 15 of the Code. A health claim for a bard should only be made if the claim is “authorised” and listed on the GB NHC Register (15.1). Similarly, nutrition claims are only permissible if they appear on the Nutrition claims section of the Register. Ads must conform with the conditions set out in the GB NHC Register for both health and nutrition claims.
If a product name states or implies a health or nutrition claim, it must be accompanied by a relevant authorised health or nutrition claim from the GB NHC Register. If there are no relevant authorised claims on the Register it could potentially mean the product name is making an unauthorised health claim. In 2018 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered that the product name claim “carb blocker” was a health claim. Because this claim was not accompanied by an authorised health claim which was on the EU Register it breached the Code (Protein World Ltd, 21 March 2018).
Some exemptions for bard products previously applied. For example, registered trademarks or brand names that existed before 1 January 2005 did not have to comply with this requirement until January 2022. (Vitabiotics Ltd, 26 March 2014). However, because this period has passed, trademarked product names are now likely to be treated in the same way as non-trademarked product names. Marketers who previously relied on the exemption are advised to obtain legal advice on the use of the product name in advertising going forward.
- Book and publication titles
Advertising rules state that “Claims for the content of non-fiction publications should not exaggerate the value, accuracy, scientific validity or practical usefulness of the product. Marketers must ensure that claims that have not been independently substantiated but are based merely on the content of a publication do not mislead consumers”. If the title of a book or publication constitutes an objective claim, it may be featured in advertising providing the title is put in inverted commas and the first reference to it is followed immediately by the author’s name. A claim such as “How to cure depression by drinking tea” would normally be unacceptable because not only does it target sufferers of a serious medical condition (contrary to Rule 12.2), it is also unlikely that the advertisers would be able to substantiate it. But, if that claim forms the title of the book, it would be acceptable to state “”How to cure depression by drinking tea” by John Smith” provided the accompanying copy conveys the content of the book in discursive terms, for example “the author discusses depression and examines the validity of various treatments”. (see Book and publications)
- Responsibility, harm and offence
When promoting products or services, marketers must ensure that the name of the product or service is not irresponsible. The ASA has upheld a complaint about an ad that featured a book called “SIX WEEKS TO OMG, GET SKINNIER THAN ALL YOUR FRIENDS” on the grounds that it could encourage vulnerable individuals to engage in competitive dieting or unhealthy eating habits. (Michael Joseph Ltd, 3 October 2012).
Ads must not cause harm, or serious or widespread offence, and marketers should be conscious of this when advertising any product. Advertisers may need to consider context, medium and audience when advertising some products, such as those which include swearing in the name, to ensure that they are targeted appropriately.
See Offence: general
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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