Dr* T has posted some ASA judgements on the Bad Science forums. One of these relates to an Equazen ad that was headed, in chalk written on a blackboard, “PAY ATTENTION!”. The adjudication is here: ASA. Some angry nerd complained that “the ad was misleading because it implied the product could improve all children’s school performance”, whereas the only decent studies into fatty acids and schoolchildren has been conducted in specific groups and the results may not be generalisable to the wider public. I think the ASA may be populated by angry nerds too – they themselves
challenged whether the ad, in particular the headline claim, “PAY ATTENTION!”, in combination with the claim “Independently tested” and references to published studies that had been carried out on children with ADHD, implied the product could treat the symptoms of ADHD, a serious medical condition, and could therefore discourage essential treatment.
Apparently, Equazen explained that the phrase “PAY ATTENTION” was intended to catch the attention of readers as they scanned the publication in which the ad featured. Did they really use the phrase in order to make people pay attention to their ads? How very literal. If I had read that ad, I have to admit that I would have thought I was supposed to assume that the pills have something to do with paying attention in the classroom. My mind must be quite convoluted in comparison with the straightforward, literal minds in the advertising department at Equazen.
Above, I mentioned “decent studies”. There was, of course, a trial (sorry, ‘initiative’) into the effects of fatty acids on school performance conducted by Durham County Council not so long ago and you have probably read all about it on the Bad Science blog. Suffice to say, it told us absolutely nothing about the effects of fatty acids on school performance.
One thing I found interesting was that Equazen claimed in their defence that “they were committed to ensuring compliance with advertising Codes of practice and added that this ad had been approved for publication by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB)” – which is funny, because PAGB is a trade association (“PAGB is the UK trade association for manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines and food supplements”) and Equazen may have been better off checking with CAP instead. Indeed, the ASA advice was to check future ads with the CAP Copy Advice team. The reason I find this funny is because this is another minor example of the consistent failure of AltMed individuals, firms, and associations to regulate themselves effectively. [See http://www.quackometer.net/blog/labels/regulation.html and http://dcscience.net/?cat=48 for more on AltMed self-regulation]
EDIT: Ah, I see the magnificent Holford Watch have also posted on this now.