A television advert for Ceva Animal Health, promoting its plug-in diffuser Adaptil, has been banned for being ‘misleading’.
The ad began with a dog that seemed happy and playful around its owner but anxious when left alone. Adaptil was then shown plugged into the wall and the dog appeared more playful and less anxious. Text reading ‘Behavioural therapy may be required. Ask your vet for advice’ appeared at the end.
The complainant challenged whether the ad’s claims regarding the alleviation of anxiety and improved behaviour were misleading and could be substantiated.
Ceva Animal Health provided a number of studies assessing the use of collars, sprays and diffusers that, it said, showed that Adaptil had anxiety-reducing properties. It said that Adaptil was proven to help adult dogs cope in challenging or worrying situations, helping to promote learning and ensured puppies became well-behaved, confident and resilient dogs, thereby reducing the likelihood of anxiety related behaviour problems developing in later life.
Advertising approval agency Clearcast, which gave the go-ahead for the ad to be broadcast in December 2017, said it had received details of peer-reviewed studies regarding the role of dog appeasing pheromones, the product’s main ingredient, in reducing stress among dogs. The details were evaluated by its veterinary consultant, who said they were acceptable.
Clearcast concluded that it was confident that the role of Adaptil in reducing stress in dogs was well established.
The Advertising Standards Authority said, however, that it considered that consumers would understand from the ad that the Adaptil diffuser could treat anxiety and behavioural issues in dogs caused by separation from their owners and that, once the device was plugged in, owners would begin to see results with no further training or instruction necessary. Although on-screen text at the bottom of the ad stated that behaviour therapy may be required and to ask a vet for advice, it considered this did not override the overall impression that Adaptil alone treated anxiety and behavioural issues.
The ASA also reviewed all the studies submitted by Ceva.
Some of them were open, uncontrolled studies, assessing the effect of a DAP diffuser on behavioural or fear responses in dogs but the ASA ruled that none of the studies assessed the separation of dogs from their owners, as was depicted in the ad, and a number of the studies required that owners used a CD-based desensitisation programme alongside the DAP, which ‘did not reflect’ the use of Adaptil in the ad.
The ASA concluded that, because the advertiser had not submitted ‘sufficient evidence’ to support its efficacy claims regarding behavioural and anxiety-related issues associated with owner separation, the ad’s claims were likely to mislead.