ASA faces reform after 4-year Red Bull energy claims inquiry

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is facing reform of its complaints procedure after taking almost four years to decide that an ad campaign for Red Bull contained false claims about the energy-giving properties of the drink.

In what is believed to be the ASA’s longest-running investigation, the Red Bull Company submitted more than 20 studies, trying to prove its claims that the drink improves concentration, reaction time and endurance.

The ASA is carrying out a review of its adjudication procedure. A spokeswoman for the ASA says that while the Red Bull case was “peculiar”, it may lead the authority to put a time limit on the submission of evidence by an advertiser. Red Bull was free to repeat the claims while the investigation was continuing, although the company did not repeat the campaign.

Most of the studies submitted by The Red Bull Company used doses of caffeine equivalent to the contents of four cans of Red Bull or more to back up the assertions.

The ASA decided that while later trials were based on the contents of one can of the energy drink, the advertisers had not proved that Red Bull would improve endurance, concentration or reaction time when the ads appeared in national and trade press.

The company was ordered to refer all future ads for Red Bull to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

The Red Bull Company says the ads in question were created by London agency The Large, Smith & Walford Partnership and ran in 1997. They have been replaced by the “Red Bull Gives You Wings” campaign created by Frankfurt-based agency Kaftner and Partner.

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