An advert for insurer Bupa has been banned for implying that cancer patients have a higher chance of survival if they receive private health care.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 25 complaints about the television and video-on-demand ad that said: "Growing up my family always had Bupa health insurance. It probably saved my life."
The voiceover went on: "At 27 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Straight away a specialist Bupa team were there for me ... That was seven years ago and Bupa's still here for me today."
A clip from the Bupa advert
On-screen text stated: "Specialist support teams. Access to latest proven drugs and treatments. Supporting you through your treatment."
The complainants objected that the ad was misleading because it implied that there was a higher chance of survival for cancer patients who received private healthcare.
Bupa said the ad made no such implication, and was based instead on a customer's testimonial of their personal experience of the insurer's support following their diagnosis.
The ad clearance agency Clearcast said it believed that the campaign did not exaggerate the effectiveness of Bupa's treatment services because it did not address the likelihood of success or the rate of recovery for Bupa's cancer patients.
The ASA acknowledged that the ad was based on a customer's testimonial and noted that it did not explicitly state that Bupa's patients had a higher chance of surviving cancer.
But it said the references to the benefits of Bupa's services were made in conjunction with the customer's "very prominent" claim that "it probably saved my life".
The ASA said: "They suggested that Bupa's services for cancer patients were superior in those respects to those offered by the NHS or other providers, and that cancer patients who received private healthcare through Bupa consequentially had a better chance of survival."
It concluded that the ad "implied that there was a higher chance of survival for cancer patients who received treatment through the advertiser and because that was not the case, the ad was likely to mislead consumers".
It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: "We told Bupa that their future advertising must not state or suggest that there is a higher chance of survival for patients who received private healthcare unless they held evidence to support the claim."