ASA feels Procter and Gamble’s Collar

Some viewers, including a doctor, complained about Olay Regenerist’s TV adverts.  This product is one of many that use pentapeptides as anti-wrinkle agents.  Another well known one is the famous Boots Serum that had women clearing the shelves in the stores a few years back.

Lots of actives are used in face creams.  It is depressing how few of them have any evidence to support their use at all.  I have reviewed the ways anti-wrinkle creams work before. Interestingly, pentapeptides actually do have some supporting data.  The best study was reported in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science.  Although it wasn’t really of clinical trial standard, it was a sound study and I for one accept its conclusions.  It has to be said though, that although the results were believable and statistically significant, they weren’t actually all that great.  In plain english – the pentapeptides reduced wrinkles enough for the reduction to be measured.  The actual size of the reduction was fairly modest.

A statistically significant result can be pretty small if your measurements are very precise.

I am sure the scientists at P&G understood this very well.  I know some of them and they are very good scientists.  But I can’t help wondering if the marketing people at P&G didn’t understand it.  I wonder if the conversation went something like this:

Marketing guy: So does this stuff really work then?

Scientist: Yes, there is clear evidence that it has a statistically significant effect on wrinkles.

Marketing guy:  Wow!  Not just evidence, it is statistically significant!  That sounds brilliant! We must get this in the advert!

By the time it got to your telly screen after a few script rewrites the story had been distorted so much that it provoked complaints.  The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) got involved.  They decided the evidence P&G had didn’t justify the claims and the advert got pulled.  This may not sound like a big sanction, but companies spend a lot of money on adverts – much more than they spend on developing the products in the first place.  P&G won’t feel they got off lightly.

My opinion is that the industry in general, P&G is no better and no worse than the others, does itself no favours by hyping its products to the sky.  In the end, when people use them they will notice whether or not they work.  I am convinced that using a face cream regularly will make your skin look better than if you didn’t.  I even believe that pentapeptides are probably on balance worth using, so long as you realise that they aren’t going to take years off your appearance on their own.  But they don’t work miracles and giving the impression that they do just blows your credibility.  All you marketing guys out there, just calm down and give the public the facts.  They are worth it.

This is the product that was being advertised. I think it is a good product – just remember that it doesn’t work miracles and a lot of the price you pay is used to make the adverts.

And this one I believe has more of the pentapeptide.

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