Survey underlines need for copywriters

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ASA study draws attention to copywriters

The Advertising Standards Authority has published a new study into marketing practices, which highlights the need for accurate copywriting.

In its role as the UK's independent ad regulator, ASA investigated the proportion of recent ads in the health and beauty sector that complied with advertising codes. The Health and Beauty Products and Therapies Advertisements Survey 2009 looked at 396 non-broadcast ads, spanning online marketing, newspapers, magazines, direct mailings, circulars and posters.

It found that 5.5 per cent of all non-broadcast ads failed to comply with the Committee Advertising Practice (CAP) code. However, if online ads are considered in isolation, the non-compliance rate jumps to 9.2 per cent. Among the breaches recorded, some advertisers were found to have made exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of products, while others made misleading, unauthorised and irresponsible medical claims.These misjudgements might have been avoided if advertisers had employed an accurate copywriting service.

Manchester copywriting adjudication

This week, ASA released its adjudication on an example of commercial copywriting in Manchester relating to the health and beauty sector. Larsen Health Care Limited, trading as Bury Family Chiropractic, was found to have breached the CAP code on two separate issues in a regional press ad. Firstly, it was decided that the description of one of the organisation's chiropractors as "Dr Mark Larsen" was likely to mislead because he did not hold a general medical qualification.

Meanwhile, the following text was also critiqued:

"Facilitating the correct working of the nervous system can not only ease back problems but can also help improve your general health. People with conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent colds, asthma or colic in infants often find improvement."

It was decided that consumers were likely to interpret the claim to mean that chiropractic practice could improve these conditions. However, this text was deemed misleading due to a lack of robust scientific evidence. As a result of these breaches, ASA declared that the ad must not appear again in its current form.