STOPPED: Boots, the retailer, advertises ‘essential’ formula to ‘new mums’.

Update 27 February 2013: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has raised this with Boots, which says it has withdrawn the advertisement and will not repeat it - so the ASA will take no further action (details below).

Violation details: On 9th January 2013 an advertisement by Boots appearing on Facebook (left), was reported.
 
With the bold statement ‘Are you a new mum?’, the advert’s target audience is clearly mothers with young babies; babies who, if not breastfed, require infant formula (not follow-on milk). The advert also promotes the SMA brand of formula and states : "Let Boots help give you a helping hand with great deals on baby essentials. Click now!"
 
It is idealising - and inaccurate - to describe formula as a "baby essential".
 
Advertising of infant formula is illegal under the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) (see the "Law" section). In an attempt to exploit a loophole in the law, the actual packshot shown is SMA 2, which is a follow-on milk, although it is the SMA brand, used across the range, which is prominent. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which companies should also abide by in the UK, is clear that no breastmilk substitutes (infant formula and follow-on formula) should be advertised or promoted.
 
The law in the UK is very clear in that there must be no risk of confusion between infant formula and follow-on formula:
 
19. Infant formula and follow-on formula shall be labelled in such a way that it enables consumers to make a clear distinction between such products so as to avoid any risk of confusion between infant formula and follow on formula.
 
This is enforced and clarified by paragraph 22 regarding the restrictions on advertising follow-on formula, which states that:
 
22. No person shall advertise follow-on formula where the advertisement contravenes or fails to comply with the provisions of regulation 18(2) or 19 (see above).
 
The Guidance Notes, issued to assist with the interpretation of the Law, state that in order to achieve compliance, formula advertising should not:
 
feature text or images which relate to pregnancy (e.g. pregnancy test kits) or the feeding or care of infants under six months (point 48) 
 
neither should they: 
 
focus on carers emotions in relation to the feeding or care of infants under six months. (point 48)
 
The advertisement by Boots contravenes this, as a ‘new mum’ implies someone caring for a ‘new’ baby, and therefore one which is under 6 months of age.
 
Additionally, by offering to ‘give you a helping hand with great deals’ this is directly targeting the ‘emotions’ of a new mother.
 
For these reasons this advertisement breaks the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007). Baby Milk Action has contacted Boots, the Advertising Standards Authority and (via Citizens Advice) Trading Standards.
 
The ASA contacted Baby Milk Action on 14 February 2013 to say:
 
We have now received a response from Boots UK Ltd. They have explained that the ad is no longer appearing and given their assurance that they will ensure staff are fully trained to understand the rules surrounding the advertising of infant and follow-on formula. We consider that this will resolve the complaint without referring the matter to the ASA Council, and will consequently be closing our file.
 
The ASA indicated that information about this decision would appear on the ASA website on 27 February 2013. The screenshot below shows the "naming and shaming" of Boots in a list of 46 "informally resolved cases" - though the lack of detail, absence of publicity for the fact the rules have been broken and zero fines mean there is little disincentive from companies being repeat offenders, as some are.
 
 
A similar promotional banner was photographed in a Boots store during the week of 14 January 2013 (shown below).
 
 
This does not contain the text targeting news mothers, but this time highlights a price promotion alongside the SMA packshot. The manufacturers of SMA (Wyeth, now owned by Nestlé), makes the brand the focus of the packaging by ignoring the provisions of the Guidance Notes that accompany the Regulations and state:
 
"51. the specific terms ‘infant formula’ and ‘follow-on formula’ should be clearly featured on the packaging, in a font size no smaller than the brand name."
 
The SMA brand name dominates the label and the advertising, being in font approximately five times larger than the "follow-on formula" text. This means the advertisement promotes the full range of SMA products, including infant formula.