Nurofen Advert Banned For 'Misleading' Customers About Targeting Back Pain

ASA said Nurofen Joint and Back doesn't specifically target back pain, like their advert suggested.

29/06/2016 11:02 | Updated 29 June 2016

A Nurofen TV advert has been banned by the UK's advertising watchdog for misleading customers by telling them their pills specifically target back pain. 

There were 18 complaints made about the advert, which aired earlier this April.

After considering the complaints and Nurofen manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser's response, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the advert was "misleading" and banned it from appearing again.

It's not the first time Reckitt Benckiser has come under fire for "misleading" customers with product advertising. Last year an Australian court fined the company thousands for "misleading customers" over its pain-specific products.

Luke MacGregor / Reuters

The advert, which has now been banned, showed a woman with back pain who took Nurofen Joint And Back.

After taking the product, an anatomical image showed the painkiller moving down her body and targeting her back, while on-screen text said: "Also indicated for other aches and pains."

The woman then went about daily life, minus the discomfort. Meanwhile an anatomical image of her back showed the Nurofen symbol indicating where the pain relief was acting. 

The voice-over then claimed: "Just a single dose of Nurofen Joint And Back provides you with constant targeted pain relief for up to 8 hours."

After the advert aired, 18 people complained about the advert and challenged whether it misleadingly implied that the product specifically targeted joint and back pain.

In response to the complaints, Reckitt Benckiser said the main objective of the advert was "to communicate that Nurofen Joint And Back provided pain relief for backache".

They said that while the ad showed an example of the pain that Nurofen Joint And Back could be used to treat, it did not state or imply that the product specifically targeted back pain. 

They believed the images accurately reflected the absorption and distribution method of the product and avoided any impression that the product immediately and specifically targeted back pain.


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The ASA ruled that the advert was "misleading".

They said the advert featured "a woman suffering from back pain which was relieved when she took Nurofen Joint And Back".

"As the woman took the product, we considered that the Nurofen symbol appeared to move down her digestive tract and to the source of pain, where it remained, pulsing, as she went about her usual daily activities," said ASA.

It acknowledged that the advert voice-over stated that the drug "provides you with constant targeted pain relief", but considered that, in the context of an ad focused on the alleviation of back pain, and given the product name, viewers were likely to believe Nurofen Joint And Back was specifically designed to relieve back and joint pain - rather than pain generally.

It wrote: "Because the ad implied the product had a special mechanism which meant it specifically targeted back and joint pain, and was especially effective at relieving those sources of pain, when that was not the case, we concluded that it was misleading."

Reckitt Benckiser told The Press Association that it was "disappointed" with the ruling.

"Nurofen pain-specific products were introduced to provide easy navigation of pain-relief options for consumers experiencing a specific type of pain, particularly within the grocery environment where pharmacy support isn’t available," a spokesperson said.

"Research has shown that nine in 10 people search for products to treat specific symptoms, such as joint and back pain, and seven in 10 say pain-specific packs help them decide which product is best for their needs."

It's not the first time the manufacturer has come under fire for "misleading" customers.

In December last year, the Advertising Standards Authority confirmed it was investigating complaints about a TV advert for Nurofen Express. 

The watchdog examined whether the advert was misleading because it implied that the product directly targeted muscles in the head.

Following an investigation, ASA forced Reckitt Benckiser to remove the TV advert, The Guardian reported

In April this year, an Australian court fined Reckitt Benckiser roughly £890,000 for "misleading customers" over its pain-specific products.

The Australian Federal Court ruled that Nurofen tablets advertised to combat specific areas of discomfort, such as period pain, back ache or migraines, were actually identical and ordered Reckitt Benckiser to pay a fine for breaching consumer laws.

At the time, Reckitt Benckiser told the BBC it "did not intend to mislead consumers".

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