The ASA launched an investigation after a single complainant challenged whether the advert breached British Committees of Advertising Practice (BCAP) health claim rules.
The advert, which was broadcast during the London Olympics in 2012, featured an animated Yakult bottle skipping, walking a tightrope, and pole vaulting.
“At Yakult, we appreciate the importance of regular exercise routines,” said a voiceover.
“We know how important it is to keep life in balance; and to overcome life’s obstacles. Just like Yakult’s unique bacteria that are scientifically proven to reach the gut alive. Today millions of people around the world drink Yakult every day,” the voiceover added.
The complainant challenged whether the claim that Yakult’s “unique bacteria are scientifically proven to reach the gut alive” could be substantiated, and whether the advert implied a general health claim.
The ASA dismissed the first complaint, accepting evidence provided by Yakult, but upheld the second – ordering that the “ad must not be broadcast again.”
No “relevant, authorised health claim”
“The complainant challenged whether the general presentation of the ad implied that the product had health benefits,” said the ASA decision.
“We noted that non-specific health claims for food products, whether they were stated or implied, must be accompanied with a specific health claim, authorised on the EU Register of health and nutrition claims for foods.”
The ASA considered Yakult’s defence that the advert was broadcast during the London Olympics, but did not think that the Olympic reference was “particularly explicit.”
“And even if the reference had been explicit, it did not remove the implication that there was a relationship between the product and health," the ASA added. "Because we considered that the ad implied general benefits of Yakult to overall good health and the ad did not contain a relevant, authorised health claim, we concluded that it breached the Code.”
No “intention to mislead consumers”
In a statement sent to DairyReporter.com, Yakult denied that the Clearcast-approved advert was designed to purposely mislead consumers.
“Yakult takes its responsibility to comply with advertising regulations seriously. It was never, nor has it ever been, the company’s intention to mislead consumers. The advert in question was designed to convey generic lifestyle comments and specific factual information about Yakult, presented in a light-hearted context with visuals reflecting 2012’s sporting theme.”
“However, due to the single complaint received by the ASA and their subsequent ruling, Yakult will no longer broadcast this advertisement,” the statement added.