Danone finds ASA ruling bifidus to digestivum

The advertising watchdog has banned Danone’s recent TV advert for its product Actimel due to claims made in the commercial that the popular yoghurt drink does anything other than nothing at all.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) decided the advert was in breach of the rules because all available evidence shows that, despite high levels of good bacteria, drinking yoghurt makes no difference to anything whatsoever.

A spokesman for the ASA said yesterday: “It was a difficult decision because Danone made a compelling and emotive argument to back up their case. The diagram with the arrow curling around the inside of a stomach describing how good bacteria can cure bifidus irregularis made a really strong argument in their favour. At that point we were about to let it pass, but then someone mentioned that “bifidus irregularis” is a pseudo-Latin term which, when translated, means “nothing whatsoever”. Once we were armed with that knowledge we were easily able to determine that it was misleading, because, whilst the advert technically says it cures bifidus irregularis (nothing whatsoever), the arrow quite clearly shows the good bacteria aiding digestion. It was this juxtaposition which led us to our decision to apply the ban and impose the maximum possible fine upon Danone.”

Peter Ian, a spokesman for Danone, said the company was “very disappointed” at the ASA’s ruling, and that he had never experienced any problems with digestion since he began drinking Actimel: “When I started working at Danone I used to get bifidus irregularis all the time. Although there were never any physical symptoms or pain associated with the disease, it played on my mind constantly. Luckily, Danone had just developed Actimel soon after I arrived, and all staff members were encouraged to drink it regularly. Sure enough, after only a week the bifidus irregularis had completely cleared up. I felt like a new person and I was thankful they had caught it before it developed into bifidus digestivum, which is far more serious.

“Sufferers of bifidus digestivum often experience mild discomfort for a short time after eating and will need to drink Actimel two or three times a day for at least a fortnight before their symptoms begin to subside, otherwise they run the risk of contracting the potentially uncomfortable bifidus actiregularis. If bifidus actiregularis is left untreated over a period of time then it may well lead to a disease we have provisionally entitled bifidus vulgaris. Despite the advertising setback, we at Danone are continuing with production of a slightly more expensive yoghurt drink called Actimel+ which is hoped will alleviate this condition.”

Actimel+ is on course for general release before the end of this year.

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