Colgate challenges ‘misleading’ Sensodyne toothpaste advert


The consumer goods giant takes on GlaxoSmithKline over claims about Sensodyne True White on the brand’s website

Tooth whitening claims by oral care brand Sensodyne have come under scrutiny by the UK advertising watchdog ASA.

The GlaxoSmithKline-owned brand ran claims about the ability of its True White toothpaste to whiten teeth on its website

One claim stated: “Now you can have sensitive tooth care and whiter teeth*”, with the asterisked qualification “*With twice daily brushing” underneath.

Meanwhile, another said: “Breakthrough. Sensitive tooth care and stain removal in an ultra-low abrasion formulation.”

Further text added: “Sensodyne True White is 10 x less abrasive than many everyday whitening toothpastes.”

Challenged by Colgate-Palmolive

But rival consumer goods company Colgate-Palmolive challenged whether the claims that the toothpaste was effective at whitening teeth were misleading, as it understood that its whitening effect was not greater than that of standard non-whitening toothpastes.

Despite GlaxoSmithKline submitting supportive evidence, the ASA upheld the complaint.

ASA stated: “We considered that consumers would infer that the toothpaste was able to whiten teeth to a perceptibly greater extent than ordinary Sensodyne toothpastes that were not marketed as whitening toothpastes would be able to.”

After reviewing the studies supplied, the ASA added: “None of the studies compared the toothpaste to a non-whitening Sensodyne toothpaste, meaning that no evidence was provided to show that this toothpaste was more effective at whitening than other Sensodyne toothpastes that were not marketed as whitening toothpastes.”

Overall, it ruled in Colgate-Palmolive’s favour, concluding: “Because consumers were likely to understand from the ad that Sensodyne True White was particularly effective at whitening, when we had not seen evidence that it had a perceptibly greater whitening effect than Sensodyne non-whitening toothpastes, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

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