COMPLAINT UPHELD: Wyeth's SMA Baby Know How information at four weeks

Update 28 November 2012: The Advertising Standards Authority has told Pfizer/Wyeth not to repeat this promotional strategy. The ASA ruling states:

"The ad must not appear again in its current form.  We told [the company] not to produce marketing communications for infant formula except in a scientific publication or, for the purposes of trade before the retail stage, a publication of which the intended readers were not the general public."
 
Full details on the Baby Milk Action website at:
http://info.babymilkaction.org/pressrelease/pressrelease28nov12

Violation report: The email attached to this posting was received by a new mother on 22 May 2012 when her child was just four weeks old. She says she is unaware of how she came to be on Wyeth's email list (having signed up only to Bounty and Emma's Diary). She also received emails from Wyeth during her pregnancy. 

Wyeth is also actively attempting to sign mothers up to its SMA branded Baby Know How marketing strategy. An SMA-branded roadshow is due to start in June 2012. 

This email asks, "How is feeding going?" and prominently features the SMA formula brand.

It then plants seeds of doubt about breastfeeding:

"If you’re breastfeeding, do you sometimes wonder if your baby is getting enough milk?"

Although purporting to offer supportive advice, it highlights negatives:

"Feeling sore? .... If the pain continues or your nipples start to crack or bleed...."

Wyeth suggests people contact their midwife or public health nurse, "or call the SMA Careline". The SMA formula logo appears again alongside and dominates the associated websites (the careline number has not been included in the detail below).

The email also contains an advertisement for SMA infant formula, suggesting it contains "a new fat blend closer to that of breast milk".

The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations (2007) (see The Law section of this site) prohibit the advertising of infant formula:

"21.—(1) No person shall advertise infant formula." 

Clicking on the links in the email leads to an SMA-branded website, where the full range of formulas is promoted.

Wyeth makes the SMA logo a prominent part of this marketing strategy, which promotes the formulas. The Guidance Notes that accompany the Regulations 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."

As is obvious from the packshot in the advertisement, Wyeth ignores this provision, making the SMA brand name dominate the label, being in font approximately five times larger than the "infant formula" or "follow-on formula" text.

Seeking direct and indirect contact with pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children is prohibited by Article 5.5 of the International Code, which states: 

"Marketing personnel, in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children."

Baby Milk Action has contacted Nestlé and Pfizer (current and past owners of Wyeth) regarding its SMA Baby Know How marketing strategies. It has called on Nestlé to conduct a review of all Wyeth's strategies to bring them into line with the International Code and Resolutions.

The marketing strategy was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority on 29 May 2012. It was reported to Trading Standards on 6 June 2012 (there was a delay as the home authority for Wyeth has changed).

A pdf of Wyeth's promotional email is attached.

Baby Milk Action wrote to both Nestlé and Pfizer about the SMA Baby Know How marketing strategy on 25 May 2012. No reply has been received from Nestlé. Pfizer responded on 31 May 2012:

Dear Mr Brady

Thank you for your email of 25th May. In response to your communication, SMA Nutrition is part of Pfizer.  All proposed activities related to the promotion of SMA products comply with local regulations.

Kind regards,

Pfizer Press office