The ad showed a woman at a supermarket checkout buying an unbranded water softener. A voiceover said: “A cheap water softener could sometimes turn out to be rather expensive.”
The ad ratcheted up the price to £638 as it totalled the cost of a new washing machine, water damage and breakdown costs and ended with the voiceover “Washing machines live longer with Calgon”.
Complainants said that the ad, created by Euro RSCG, was misleading because they did not believe that the cost of buying Calgon over the course of a lifetime of a washing machine would make the advertised savings.
Reckitt Benckiser said that the final till total of £639 could only be seen by freezing frames and that was not how the ad was intended to be viewed.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that although the till counter was running quickly viewers were likely to see a £600 plus figure and that comparative testing of the product over time was needed to substantiate Reckitt Benckiser’s claims.
A spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser says of the ruling: “Reckitt Benckiser is disappointed at the ASA ruling relating to our recent Calgon TV advertisement. There is very clear independent evidence that regular use of the product, particularly in hard water areas, has a significant cost saving impact. Calgon works to keep limescale under control helping prevent machine breakdown and heating elements clear & working efficiently; and softens the water – to protect & improve the feel of clothes and ensure less use of detergent.
“We remain confident therefore that the claims made in the advertisement are valid.”