Media

ASA bans two Oatly TV ads over misleading environmental claims


The Advertising Standards Authority has banned two Oatly TV ads, a paid-for Twitter post and two newspaper ads after 109 complainants challenged claims made by the firm. Four have been upheld by the watchdog.

The TV ads were aimed at encouraging middle-aged men to make the switch to plant-based milk. Both used the slogan “Need help talking to Dad about milk?” – a pointedly humorous approach.

Developed by Oatly’s in-house creative team, the first focused on a father sneaking cows’ milk into the house, only for his son to find him. The second shows a conversation between two young people, one of whom was struggling to convince his dad to give up cows’ milk.

The claim viewers took issue with was on-screen text that read: “Oatly generates 73% less CO2e vs milk, calculated from grower to grocer.” Viewers argued that it was misleading and unsubstantiated.

In response to the complaints, Oatly said it wanted to showcase its Barista Edition product, and had commissioned CarbonCloud to calculate the emissions of Oatly Barista Edition oat drink and British whole cow’s milk; the latter was the most comparable dairy product.

The substitute dairy brand added that it would amend the claim to clarify that it referred only to Oatly Barista Edition oat drink and British whole cow’s milk.

Ultimately, the ASA ruled that the ads had breached ​​the UK Code because consumers would assume that all Oatly drinks would produce 73% less CO2e compared with types of cows’ milk, when there was evidence to support only the one comparison.

The ASA demanded that the ads must not appear again in the forms complained about. The claim also appears to have been removed from online versions and the ads are also no longer available on Oatly’s website.

The complaints took further issue with paid-for Twitter and Facebook posts, which included the claim: “The dairy and meat industries emit more CO2e than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc., combined.”

The ASA found that Oatly had not assessed the equivalent life cycles of each industry. Whereas the full life cycle of the meat and dairy industry had been assessed, only the emissions coming directly from using the vehicle had been included in the transport industry assessment.

Further claims in press ads were also ruled to be misleading with only one complaint not being upheld. The claim “If everyone in the world adopted a vegan diet, it would reduce food’s annual greenhouse emissions by 6.6bn metric tons (a 49% reduction)” was found to be substantiated.

A spokesperson for Oatly said: “It’s clear that we could have been more specific in the way we described some of the scientific data. For example, we made a claim stating that ‘Oatly generates 73% less CO2e VS cows milk’. We should have been more specific and said: ‘Oatly Barista Edition oat drink generates 73% less CO2e vs. whole milk, calculated from grower to grocer’.

“We’re a science-based company and take pride in being precise, but we could have been clearer. We talk about these things a lot, because we want to make it easy for people to make an informed switch from dairy to oat drink.”

Oatly recently debuted its 2022 campaign.



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