Completely free-range pork? Pigs might fly, according to the ASA. Waitrose is the only major supermarket never to have its advertising fall foul of the Advertising Codes until its recent high-profile celebrity-endorsed advertising campaign which has been dealt a rather embarrassing blow. The £10m campaign fronted by Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal, aims to reinforce Waitrose’s brand image as a supermarket priding itself on the provenance and traceability of its produce. These ads have also been accompanied by recipes and a new range of products. However, a recent ASA adjudication held that two TV ads and one press ad concerning Waitrose’s pork products were misleading and in breach of rule 5.11 of the BCAP Code and rule 7.1 of the CAP Code. The first TV ad showed Heston outdoors with some pigs saying “in my opinion, some of the best tasting pork comes from British pigs that have been outdoor bred, just like these pigs”. The ad then features a conversation between Heston and a pig farmer concerning the effect “plenty of fresh air, cereal-based diet and of course a comfortable bed” has on the meat’s flavour. The second TV ad stated “Waitrose essential pork comes from pigs that are outdoor bred.” The print ad stated “All essential Waitrose pork and bacon comes from British outdoor bred pigs…”. However, it emerged that these pigs, whilst technically bred in fields, were reared indoors after only a few weeks. Waitrose argued that there was a clear difference between an animal being “outdoor bred” and “outdoor reared”. The ASA said this was confusing to consumers, and the ads have been banned from appearing again in their current form.

Other supermarkets have received complaints in a similar vein, but have managed to save their bacon. A Sainsbury’s TV ad earlier this year featuring Jamie Oliver was challenged for claims that Sainsbury’s pork sausages were made from 100% British pork, a possible interpretation being that there were no other ingredients. The ASA held, however, that the majority of viewers would appreciate that sausages are made from ingredients other than meat and would view the statement as a reference to the origin of the meat only. Likewise, Tesco recently received a complaint for a print ad which stated that their Finest range beef was sourced from “long established, family-run British farms”. Competitor Morrison’s challenged the ad on the grounds that it implied that Tesco employed their own butchers as they “are fussy when it comes to Finest beef” and that Tesco cut meat for their customers in-store. The ASA decided, on a factual assessment of the relationship between Tesco, its butchers and the famers in question, that had been no breach of the CAP Code.

Advertisers and agencies are advised to check all claims made in their advertisements. Under the advertising codes, all claims must be capable of substantiation with factual evidence. If in doubt, seek professional advice. See our AdGuide on the updated advertising codes for more information on making claims in advertising.