Beauty-product makers taken to task for exaggeration in ads

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2007, 12:00am

Twenty per cent of beauty product advertisements in Shanghai contravene mainland law, mainly by exaggerating the effectiveness of the products, the Shanghai Industry and Commerce Bureau said yesterday.

The bureau said 19.13 per cent of cosmetic advertisements in the city last month had content problems, making the rate of false claims a 'prominent' concern, second only to advertisements for medical products.

An official at the bureau's advertisement monitoring department confirmed yesterday it had told media outlets to stop distributing the rule-breaking ads and planned legal action against some brands.

Among the beauty product advertisements on the official blacklist are those for Unilever's new Clear shampoo, which claim that 'dandruff will not return'.

The promotion of P&G's Olay series, 'recommended by 95 per cent of female users', has also come under attack from the bureau.

The claims of advertising irregularities are just the latest to beset the industry. In 2005, authorities in Zhejiang sued P&G on charges of false advertising for its Pantene shampoo.

Unilever China's public relations manager Wu Liang said her company had been notified about the problems and had held talks with the bureau.

'We are positively communicating with the government. We have conducted experiments to support the effects mentioned in our ads. I think the authority needs some time to understand the results of our experiments,' Ms Wu said. 'Some creative ideas [in advertisement] are subjective. What's more, the sentences, including some adjectives, are subjective, to some extent.'

A P&G representative in Guangzhou was not aware of the claims.

Fudan University advertising professor Yu Zhenwei said it was unreasonable to cite just a few sentences from the advertisements as evidence that they broke the law.

'I think before the authorities decide whether an ad involves false claims, they should ask advice from marketing and consumer experts. Our consumers are not so naive as to get motivated to buy products by just hearing one or two sentences from the ads,' Professor Yu said.