Portman and ASA censure Bayer over Alka Seltzer washroom ads

Healthcare and chemicals group Bayer has clashed with alcohol industry watchdog the Portman Group over “irresponsible” advertising for Bayer’s Alka XS Go pain relief tablets.

The group said a washroom ad, created by Abbott Mead Vickers. BBDO, for the tablets encouraged excessive drinking and an unhealthy lifestyle. The complaint was also upheld this week by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The ad, part of a large-scale TV, radio and poster campaign, showed a photo of a muscular man lifting a dumbbell with the word “sad” printed across the photograph. The strapline, which appeared next to a picture of the Alka XS Go box, read: “Go out, have a laugh, be alright”.

The ad formed part of a &£1.4m campaign, launched in December, to promote the tablets, which contain caffeine and painkillers. Bayer is trying to fight back against the growing demand for energy drinks such as Berocca, which are encroaching on its market.

The ASA rejected arguments from Bayer that the ad was ironic and made comments about lifestyles which did not appeal to the target market.

Bayer also tried to argue that its research showed that only a small percentage of people believe the ad refers to alcohol consumption, thinking it is instead about living a relaxed lifestyle.


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