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Scotts fails in challenge of Westland Safelawn ad

Published: 3 October 2017 - Fiona Garcia
A still from the Lawnsafe advert challenged by Scotts
A still from the Lawnsafe advert challenged by Scotts

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company filed a complaint about Westland Horticulture’s viral ad promoting its Safelawn product, questioning whether its claim that lawncare item was “safe for children and pets” was misleading.

The complaint was raised with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last month over a YouTube ad and a website, www.gardenhealth.com, advertising SafeLawn, Westland’s natural lawn feed product, seen in April 2017.

The complainant, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (which now trades as The Scotts Company (UK) Ltd following its acquisition by PE firm Exponent last month), questioned whether the text that appeared on the website, stating that the product is ‘safe for children and pets’ but adding that ‘it is good practice to store out of reach in a dry, frost-free place’, could be viewed as misleading.

Scotts also challenged a voice over on the You Tube ad, which stated “the safer way to feed your lawn” and on-screen text which read, “Safety compared to lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contain pesticides”, again suggesting the claims were misleading and could not be substantiated.

However, the ASA did not uphold the challenges and said it was satisfied that Westland could substantiate its claims.  

In response to Scotts’ challenge, Westland said the raw ingredients in Safelawn were natural and the product did not contain pesticides. The company also said it had tests carried out on the product by an independent testing facility to assess the hazard for three potential exposure routes: skin irritation, eye irritation and mammalian toxicity; that testing conformed to the European Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (the CLP).

Westland added that “desktop studies such as this were standard practice in the industry” and said the testing concluded that the product “posed a very low hazard for all three potential exposure routes and that was further supported when compared against other products with matching use patterns, which clearly presented significantly greater hazards under identical exposure.”

Explaining its decision not to uphold Scotts’ complaint about the ad and website, the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claims; ‘Safe to use around children and pets’, ‘Safe for children & pets’ and ‘This product is safe for children and pets…’ to mean that using the product as directed would not cause harm to people or animals. 

Claims about Lawnsafe on Westland
Claims about Lawnsafe on Westland's website gardenhealth.com were also brought into question by the rival lawncare and garden products company

“We considered that, as consumers were likely to use the product on their lawns, the advertiser needed to provide evidence that demonstrated the product would not cause physiological harm to children or animals, if children or animals came into contact with it on lawns applied with the product.”

The ASA also said it believed that consumers would understand the comparison “the safer way to feed your lawn” and “Safety compared to lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contain pesticides” to mean that the product was safer to use than lawn weed & moss killer fertilisers that contained pesticides, when used as directed.

The organisation concluded that it “considered the testing, undertaken by an independent testing facility in line with the CPL and standard toxicity testing for comparable pesticide containing products, was sufficiently robust as that reflected in the manner in which children or animals may come into contact with the product when used as directed.”

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