Ad Watchdog Challenged by SmithKline Beecham

21 December 2000

London’s High Court yesterday heard a scathing denunciation of an independent expert whose advice had allegedly “infected” the judgement of the Advertising Standards Authority when considering an advertising claim made by SmithKine Beecham soft drink brand, Ribena Toothkind.

Following the opinion given by dental specialist Dr Steve Creanor, the claim that Toothkind “does not encourage tooth decay” was banned by the ASA.

SKB was not best pleased by this decision, having spent some £19 million on the development of a new Ribena sub-brand, Toothkind, following a storm of public criticism about the effect of Ribena on children’s teeth. The company is now seeking a judicial review of the ASA’s ruling – the first to be heard since the recent creation of an independent appeals system.

SKB counsel, David Pannick QC, argued that the ASA had paid insufficient regard to the backing of Ribena Toothkind by the British Dental Association's panel of distinguished scientists, as well as other experts from Leeds University who found the product posed "no significant risk" to tooth enamel.

But, said SKB’s counsel, Creanor, a senior lecturer in oral sciences at Glasgow University dental school, had already been critical in print of a Ribena Toothkind poster depicting bottles of product as bristles on a toothbrush. Dr Creanor claimed the image was "inappropriate" and failed to convey the message that the British Dental Association would have wanted.

Charles Flint QC, for the ASA, countered that Creanor had expressed a view about the advertising that any responsible expert might take and that two of the four experts of the BDA's panel had been given research grants by SKB.

Creanor's remarks, he said, were "preliminary only, a matter of first impression and did not preclude him from fairly judging the evidence. The ASA was entitled to take the view that the BDA had not approved the blanket claim that the product did not encourage tooth decay."

The verdict is expected early in the new year.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)