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March 10, 2015

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P&G hit with US$962,660 fine for exaggeration in commercial

US giant Procter & Gamble was fined a whooping 6.03 million yuan (US$962,660) for a commercial that hugely exaggerated the effect of its product.

Local regulator slapped the multinational giant with China’s biggest fine so far for the TV commercial that exaggerated the whitening effect of its tooth paste brand Crest. The company had roped in popular Taiwanese hostess Dee Hsu to promote the “double-effects whitening tooth paste.”

The whitening effect highlighted in the TV commercial was over-processed with a computer software and did not reveal the actual effect of the tooth paste, Miao Jun, director of the advertisement department of the Shanghai Administration of Industry and Commerce told Xinhua News Agency yesterday.

The huge penalty was decided after taking its advertisement cost into account as stipulated in China’s Advertisement Law, Miao said.

In the 30-second-long advertisement, the product’s promoter Dee Hsu claimed the tooth paste whitened her teeth within a day that enabled her to accept an assignment — a grinning cover picture for a magazine. “The magical MICA whitening particle in the tooth paste really made my teeth white with luster,” Hsu claims in the commercial.

“Tooth paste can hardly whiten tooth apart from its cleaning, anti-acid and anti-allergic effects,” a source involved in the tooth paste industry said.

The manufacturers must also show an evaluation report of the advertised effects as per industry regulation.

Miao said some background pictures could be processed with software in the commercials, but the advertised products could not be processed to exaggerate its actual effects. “The advertisers, for instance, can process the blue sky and white cloud in an automobile commercial, but could not be used for effects of cosmetics and daily commodities,” Miao said.

Other world renowned brands including L’Occitane and Clinique have been fined for fake commercial promotions by China’s commerce regulator in 2014.

Advertisers usually use computer graphics to exaggerate effects, create the effects that does not exist or use the effects of other products, Xinhua said.

“Consumers have no capability to evaluate the truth of these fake commercials,” Miao said. Most consumers have also been accustomed to these exaggerated advertisements, he added.

Jin Dinghai, deputy dean of the Humanities and Communication College at the Shanghai Normal University, told Xinhua that it was quite common in China for advertisers to use beautiful models and exaggerate the effects of commodities like shampoo, tooth paste and cosmetics. “There are loopholes in China’s laws on what defines a fake commercial promotion which the advertisers take advantage off,” Jin said.

In Crest’s case, Hsu was not punished because she did not know the commercial was fake, Miao said.

If the brand promoters, usually celebrities, know the truth but still conceal it in commercials, they can face legal punishment. “Celebrities can not use their popularity to promote fake advertisements,” Jin said.


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