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Product: Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (Stage 1 - Infant Formula)
Advertiser: McCabes Pharmacy
Medium: Internet (Social Media)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 8.30, 8.31, 8.32
Advertising on McCabe’s Pharmacy Facebook page invited viewers to:
“Shop online at McCabes Pharmacy and enjoy FREE delivery on orders over €38!
The above message was accompanied by three different brands of Stage 1 Infant Formula. Each brand had the price indicated underneath the product and viewers were invited to “Shop Now”.
The complainant said that Stage 1 Infant Formula was not permitted to be advertised in the interest of protecting breast feeding.
The advertisers offered their assurance that they uphold the highest ethical standards and would never actively promote the use of infant formula in any of their advertising communications.
They said the screen shots provided demonstrated an unfortunate error in their Dynamic Product Facebook Advertisements (DPA). When the advertisers became aware that the advertising in question was being published, they contacted their digital advertising agency to get to the source of the problem and to have the advertising removed immediately. A copy of this correspondence was provided to the Executive of the ASAI.
The advertisers’ said their initial understanding of Facebook DPA’s was incorrect insofar as they had considered that the Advertising Polices in place would automatically flag and reject any products that went against advertising guidelines. They had instructed their digital marketing agency to remove all products containing the keywords "baby" and "formula" from their DPA product feed and they assumed this had been effective until they received the complaint and realised that the products featured had escaped the filters that had been set. The filters were then updated to include the word ‘milk’ as a filter term and the advertisers said they were confident that images such as those complained of would no longer feature in their feed.
The advertisers reiterated that they had never actively advertised baby/infant formula, and that what had happened in this case had been an unfortunate set of errors. They offered their apologies for what had happened and said they were actively monitoring their advertising feed to ensure that similar did not happen again in the future.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted the Code requirement that infant formula is not permitted to be advertised to the general public. The Committee noted the explanation in relation to the series of errors that had occurred in this case and the remedial actions that had been taken. Nevertheless, infant formula had been advertised to the general public and a breach of Section 8.31 of the Code had occurred.
The Complaints Committee reminded advertisers that there was an onus on them to ensure that correct filters were in place when adverting their products on social media platforms to ensure that infant formula products were not advertised to the general public.
As correct filters were now in place, which were being actively monitored, no further action was required in this case.