Persil advert banned: why has it been taken off TV, what was complaint, what has standards agency said?

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The Unilever advert has been banned by the ASA after accusations of misleading the public

A Unilever advert for Persil has been removed from TV by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Persil is a German brand of laundry detergent which is manufactured and marketed around the United Kingdom by Unilever.

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The ASA ban on the persil advert comes as part of a clampdown  on ‘greenwashing’. But why was the Persil advert banned and what is the meaning of greenwashing?

Persil was first introduced to the public in 1907 (Getty Images)Persil was first introduced to the public in 1907 (Getty Images)
Persil was first introduced to the public in 1907 (Getty Images) | Getty Images

What did the Persil advert show?

The television advert for Persil showed children picking litter up on the beach. A voiceover for the advert says: “For real change we all need to roll up our sleeves and get dirty.”

During the advert the text on the screen states that Persil bottles are made up of 50% recycled plastic. The voiceover then goes on to say that Persil is tougher on stains and kinder to the planet.

What was the complaint?

A complaint was sent to the ASA which challenged the claims that Persil washing liquid was environmentally friendly and whether Unilever could provide evidence to support this claim.

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Why was the advert banned from TV?

The complaint was upheld by the ASA who issued the following statement: “Although we acknowledged Persil were undertaking actions to reduce the environmental impact of their products, we had not seen evidence or analysis to demonstrate the overall environmental impact of the featured detergent over their full-life cycles, compared with Persil’s own previous products or other products, in support of the claim kinder to our planet.”

How has Unilever responded to the claims?

A Unilever spokesperson has stated it is extremely disappointed with the outcome of the ASA complaint.

Unilever UK said the ad began with a message that action was needed to influence change and reduce the impact on the environment and then showed how Persil continually improved their products to be kinder to the planet.

Unilever said: “ We are committed to making on-going improvements to all our products to make them more sustainable and will continue to look at how we can share this with our shoppers.”

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The full ASA ruling on Unilever is available on the ASA website.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is defined as the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information on how a company’s products or services are more environmentally sustainable.

It is used as a method of capitalising on the increasing demand for more environmentally friendly products.

The term greenwashing is a play on the term ‘whitewashing’ where misleading information is used to disguise bad behaviour.

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